How To Keep Your Chickens Laying Through The Winter

How To Keep Your Chickens Laying Through The Winter

Today we’re going to talk about keeping your hens laying through winter.

And since mine have started to drop off in production, this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

There’s many reasons why a hen can drop off production in the winter, and we’re going to look at reasons why that happens, both biological and environmental, and what you can do about it.

Some people like to give their hens the winter off, or let nature do its thing and go with the flow as their hens naturally drop egg production in the winter. Personally, I like to be eating omelets year round, so I try to keep my chickens producing eggs in the winter.

Why do chickens stop laying in the winter?

The biggest reason hens stop laying in the winter is because the days get shorter, and so there’s less light. Egg production is triggered by light, specifically by the pituitary gland and the amount of light that is affecting the pituitary gland. And since shorter days mean less light, it triggers the pituitary gland to stop producing the hormones that command egg production.

Chickens need about fourteen hours of light per day to keep laying eggs. Now this isn’t to say every hen needs fourteen hours, and we’ve even bred chickens that will keep laying throughout shorter days, such as Production Reds. But generally speaking, most chickens need fourteen hours or so of light in order to lay eggs consistently.

From an evolutionary stand point, more energy is needed to keep a hen alive during the winter. And chicks are less likely to survive in the winter because chicks have a harder time maintaining their own body temperature until they feather out. So there’s less evolutionary value in producing eggs during the winter. So from that angle, it makes sense why hens don’t lay in the winter!

Now for people this stinks, obviously, because we have to work to keep egg production up, or just simply go without eggs.

How can I keep my hens laying?

There are several things you can do to keep your hens laying through the winter. The main thing is adding light. In order to keep your hens laying throughout the winter you have to supplement the light that your chickens get with artificial light. In our coop, we use battery powered lamps.

If you’re lucky enough to have electric lights in your coop, you can use those, or you can also use solar energy. That’s a great option if you are off grid. We’re looking at getting solar panels for our coop this winter, but for now we’re just using battery powered lanterns.

One thing to keep in mind is you need to use a strong light.  When we first started putting lamps in the coop, the lamps just didn’t emit enough light and so it was useless. Obviously, you don’t need to blind your hens, but just using  a small LED flashlight, in my experience, doesn’t work. So we use battery operated lanterns, which shed enough light to keep egg production up, but not so much that it’s overwhelming for my hens.

I advise you to skip infrared heat lamps. That’s the red light bulbs. In my opinion, the risks are way too high. Those heat lamps get really, really, really hot! And all it takes is a hen knocking it down (and chickens are great at getting into trouble) and you might lose your whole flock to a fire.

Putting a light in your coop is the top way to keep your hens laying throughout winter. But let’s talk about some other things you can do that are really just as important.

Molting

So the next thing we’re going to talk about is molting. If you don’t know what molting is, when hens molt they’re losing one set of feathers and replacing them with new ones. This could take a couple months, and while hens are molting they aren’t producing eggs.

Now when a hen molts, her body naturally puts all of its energy into producing new feathers, hence the drop in egg production. This generally happens in the fall and in early winter after your hen’s first year. Usually when she’s about eighteen months old, although I have had them molt at younger ages.

Now there’s really nothing you can or should do to speed up molting. I know in factory farms with chickens, they try to speed it up. But you really shouldn’t be doing anything to speed it up. It’s a natural process. But one thing that you can do that might help is to feed your hens extra protein, so her body can redirect extra energy into producing eggs.

So if you have a hen that’s molting, you can try a 22% commercial feed, or something with a lot of protein in it. Try things such as mealworms, black soldier fly larvae, or wheat fodder. If you like to feed eggs to your chickens, eggs are another protein supplement you can give a molting hen.

I supplement molting hens with my Fluffiest Feathers Ever Chicken Supplement. It’s packed full of protein and nutrients to help your hens have the fluffiest feathers ever! You can find it in the store here: Fluffiest Feathers Ever Chicken Supplement

 

Make sure your hens have enough to eat

The third thing that you can do in the winter to keep your hens laying eggs is to make sure they get enough to eat, especially if your hens are used to foraging.

During the cooler weather, foraging obviously gets harder, and as the weather turns cooler, chickens start using more nutrients and energy from whatever they’re eating to keep warm. So if they get too cold, they’re going to take all the energy and put it to keeping warm instead of producing eggs.

So it’s really important in cool weather to make sure that your chickens are getting enough to eat. And if your hens will be cooped up all winter, or if there is a lot of snow and they don’t want to leave their coop, you’ll need to watch how much they’re eating and increase what you’re offering so that they have enough energy to make eggs.

And when I give this advice, I’m assuming that you’re also providing a supplementary light to promote egg production because the bottom line is that without the supplementary light, most chickens won’t lay. But making sure that they have enough to eat is also very important.

You can simply feed more of your hens regular ration or supplement with mealworms, if you don’t already feed them. If it’s gonna be a cold night, you can offer corn. But as a consistent way to increase their feed, I don’t suggest feeding corn. You’re better off offering just more of what they already normally eat, and making sure that they’re getting enough protein and calcium.

Calcium

To help keep your hens laying toward the winter, you should also make sure that they’re getting enough calcium. This is really important. Winter is an especially important time to offer oyster shells as a calcium supplement. You should do it all year round, but winter is especially an important time to do it.

I just offer oyster shells separately in a bowl or a dish. Don’t mix it with their feed, just offer it separately so they can take it as they need it.

Without the calcium supplement, hens will start to draw calcium from their own bones which you don’t want. It’s not to say that if you don’t offer oyster shells, they will absolutely draw calcium from their bones, but if they don’t get enough calcium in their diet, it will start to come from their own bodies.

So I suggest that you offer them oyster shells as a supplement and let them eat at it as they need it.

If you have any concerns about whether your chickens are getting the right diet or are deficient in anything, you can always take them to a vet to have blood pulled to double check. But as long as you’re sticking to a recommended diet and feeding enough, your chickens should be okay.

Just remember, that I’m not a vet, so this is just a public service announcement. If you have any concerns about your chickens not getting the right amount of nutrients, have a vet pull some blood and double check it.

Now let’s just talk about scratch for a minute. I think you should avoid scratch at all costs, especially commercial scratch. If you make it from home and it has enough protein, that’s one thing. But commercial scratch … I suggest that you just save your money and don’t buy it.

Personally I think you’re better off offering more of the regular feed, or offering some other tasty treat.

Stress

Now something else that can shut down egg production in winter, even if you do everything else right, is stress. When a hen’s body is stressed, she’s less likely to lay. So when it’s very hot or very cold, she is less likely to lay because her body is having a little bit more stress. But there’s also environmental stresses that can be brought on by winter and confinement.

Now as it gets colder, you might choose to keep your hens in the coop more often. Or when there’s a lot of snow hens will choose to stay in the coop rather than brave the elements. This can lead to some environmental stresses, especially if they’re used to getting out and about a lot.

This is the classic issue of overcrowding. Overcrowding can lead to a drop in egg production and behaviors like egg eating, picking at each other, fighting. So when there’s snow everywhere and they don’t want to go outside, what are you going do?

Here’s what we do. In the past, we’ve put straw on the ground in the run. We don’t use shavings because shavings absorb water and it can become a boggy mess in the run very quickly. So we use straw which gives them a nice, clean place to walk and it’s a little bit warmer than snow.

Then to convince them to go outside we offer them treats, like mealworms. Pumpkin is another favorite. You can offer them any treat that they really go nuts for.

The situation of chickens being in the coop too much really becomes one of weighing the risks and the benefits. If they stay inside, what kind of behavioral, or even nutritional issues will they develop if they’re in the coop for long periods of time without sunlight. Vitamin D absorption can become an issue which then causes problems with calcium absorption. So look at the risks versus the benefits in making them go outside for a couple hours.

Obviously I’m not saying you should make them go outside in negative thirty degree weather or thirty mile an hour gusts. I definitely wouldn’t have them go outside in that case.

I’d definitely wait for a day when the weather is better. If you have really bad weather every day where you live, I’d consider building them an indoor warm area, like a greenhouse. But in reasonable winter weather, there’s no harm in making them go outside for a couple hours, and it will only benefit them and help avoid cabin fever.

Boredom Busters

Another option is what I like to call boredom busters. You can find a lot of examples out there on the internet. You can move perches around a lot to give them some interesting environmental things to think about. Something mine love are pumpkins, and literally what I do is I just break it in half and let them peck at the flesh and enjoy that for a few hours. We have about thirty chickens in our coop and it takes them a few hours to get through it all.

If you can’t find pumpkins in your area, you can offer them squash or other gourds. And the nice thing is that since the flesh is a little bit tougher in pumpkins and squash, it can take them some time to get through it, they get extra food, and they also love the seeds.

In my experience, the squash and the pumpkin keep them occupied longer which, in the dead of winter, when they’re bored, is always a good thing. It also keeps them moving around, which helps them keep their body temperature up.

With your flock, you can use some of these ideas to help reduce their stress levels, or you can always come up with your own to keep your flock occupied during colder days of the year when they might not want to go outside and play. And the less stress that they have, the more likely they are to keep laying throughout the winter.

If you want more boredom buster ideas you can head over to my article about my favorite gifts and winter boredom busters for your chickens.

So to sum up, making sure that your hens get enough to eat, get enough light, and have low levels of stress, will help you keep your hens laying eggs. Do you have any ideas you have on how to keep hens laying through the winter? What are your favorite winter boredom busters for chickens?

How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs? Ultimate Guide To Laying

How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs? Ultimate Guide To Laying

Eggs are one of the amazing benefits of having chickens in your care – along with companionship and having a coveted family pet and honorary member. But if you’re brand new to chickens, or if you’re trying to make sense of all the old wives tales out there, you might wonder “how often do chickens lay eggs anyway?”

Whenever a non-chicken person stops by the farm, I’m certainly asked this question! Well, if you’re wondering, “How many eggs do chickens lay?”, the truth is, it depends on a few factors:

  • Breed
  • Diet
  • The season
  • Their environment

Let’s take a look at each factor above, and by the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer idea of how many eggs you can expect your hens to lay, as well as things that can cause egg laying to stop.

How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs And How Many?

Factor #1: Breed

Some chicken breeds are more inclined to lay eggs consistently, while other breeds aren’t. Obviously, this will effect how often these chickens lay eggs. Two extreme examples to illustrate this point are Cornish Crosses and Production Reds. These are industrial breeds; Cornish Crosses are raised for meat, while Production Reds are bred for egg laying in factory farms.

Cornish Crosses don’t lay eggs very often – when we raised them as pets, they laid one egg a week or so. They’re too heavy with too many health problems to expect any real amount of eggs.

On the other hand, Production Reds are bred to lay eggs no matter what – we’ve had some that laid a nice brown egg every day (yes, 7 days a week). Most breeds are somewhere in the middle – they’ll lay between 4-6 eggs a week.

Here’s a breakdown of how often different popular chicken breeds lay eggs:

Breed Frequency (on average) Lay in Winter?
How often do Silkie chickens lay eggs? 3-4 times a week Not without extra lights
How often do Ameraucana chickens lay eggs? 4-5 times a week Not without extra lights
How often do Bantam chickens lay eggs? 3-4 times a week Not without extra lights
How often do Barred Plymouth Rock chickens lay eggs? 4-5 times a week Yes, it’s possible
How often do Black Sex Link chickens lay eggs? 5-6 times a week Yes, it’s possible
How often do broiler chickens lay eggs? 1-2 times a week Not typically.
How often do Rhode Island Red chickens lay eggs? 5-6 times a week Heritage blood lines need extra lights, industrial blood lines might not.
How often do Dominique chickens lay eggs? 4-5 times a week Yes, it’s possible. Adding a light to the chicken coop is a good idea, though.
How often do free range chickens lay eggs? 4-5 times a week (if you can find them) If they’re not cooped regularly, probably not.
How often do Leghorn chickens lay eggs? 4-6 times a week Yes, it’s possible
How often do Partridge Rock chickens lay eggs? 4-5 times a week Yes, it’s possible

Factor #2: Diet

Diet effects egg laying ability, and it’s frequently people who aren’t feeding their flocks a good, high protein diet who email me asking “how often do chickens lay eggs?” because they’re frustrated with their hens. When a hen doesn’t have enough protein, nutrients, or calcium in her diet, it can cause her to stop laying eggs. After all, egg laying is about reproduction – if her body isn’t healthy, the first thing her body will do is stop anything except the bare necessities to live.

A diet that includes a 16% layer feed and a calcium supplement is ideal. You can free-feed your chickens, or offer 1-2 cups of grain per hen each day. These are the best chicken feeders we recommend that make it easy to feed hens without wasting a ton of food. It’s also a good idea to supplement her diet with table scraps or treats, such as black soldier fly larvae.

Factor #3: Seasons

Chickens will lay less in winter than they do in the spring, summer, and fall. Partly this is caused by the shortage of daylight in the winter, and partly (particularly in very cold areas) it’s caused by her body reserving calories for warmth. It takes a lot of energy to lay an egg! If she’s stopped laying from November – February, she’ll likely pick back up in March (in the Northern Hemisphere – this will be the opposite for our Aussie and Kiwi friends in the Southern Hemisphere).

Factor #4: Environment

Environmental stress can effect how often chicken lay eggs, so it’s always best to provide a quiet, predator free chicken coop that’s not over crowded.  When a hen is stressed, the calories she eats are diverted towards supporting her body – and not to laying eggs. In some cases, when a hen is very stressed over predators, she might stop laying together for a while.

Another reason hens stop laying is if their nesting boxes aren’t up to snuff. Chickens need to feel safe when laying eggs, and if they don’t, they might stop laying. A nesting box in a quiet, dark area that’s away from the rest of the flock (and especially roosters) is idea. You can make your chicken nesting boxes out of anything that’s easy to clean.

It’s also a good idea to put sweet smelling herbs in the nesting boxes – they’ll relax the hen and attract her to the nesting box (so she doesn’t lay elsewhere). Similarly, when chickens live in crowded conditions, or she lives with competing roosters who overly mate with her, it can spike her stress levels, and she’ll go off her eggs.

It’s best to build a coop with 10 square feet of space per bird, and with lots of roosting bars for them to rest on. It’s also important to keep out predators, rats, dogs, etc, so your flock feels safe. You can check out our top free chicken coop plans here.

How Often Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs?

Chickens stop laying eggs for a variety of reasons: season, diet, and stress are some common factors. You also might think your hens have stopped laying eggs – but they’re actually hiding them! This is common with free range chickens. If your hen is broody, and is sitting on a clutch, she’ll also stop laying eggs until her chicks are hatched and able to fend for themselves (about 2-3 months). Weather also can effect egg production – if a hen is heat stressed, she will stop laying. Similarly, if she’s dehydrated, her body will shut down (you can learn how to make a DIY automatic chicken waterer for $12 here – these are a LIFESAVER in the summer!)

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Do Chickens Lay Eggs Every Day Naturally?

Hens will naturally lay eggs, but not necessarily one each day. Most chickens require about 12-14 hours of daylight each day to produce eggs, since egg laying is a hormonal response to sunlight. In addition, it can take about 24 hours for an egg to make it from the hen’s ovary,  through her oviduct and encased in calcium, to her vent, so it can be finally laid. There’s really no way to speed up this process – so it’s reasonable to expect your chickens to lay eggs every 24-26 hours. Most hens take a day or two off each week – and that’s completely natural.

How Many Eggs Does A Hen Lay In A Day? Do Chicken Lay Eggs Every Day?

Typically, one egg. Hens need 12-14 hours of daylight each day to produce eggs. So, a hen will lay 1 egg every day or every other day, as long as she gets 12-14 hours of light each day. In the winter, her production might decrease because the days are shorter.

So, How Many Eggs Per Week Does A Chicken Lay? The number of eggs per week a chicken lays depends largely on factors such as their breed, nutritional intake, and environmental conditions. Most chickens are known to lay 5 eggs a week or at least one every other day, for about 300 eggs per year.

Do Chickens Lay Eggs At The Same Time Every Day?

Even though most hens don’t lay every day, it’s certainly possible that a hen could lay eggs at the same time. However, most of the time, she won’t. Hens lay eggs every 24-26 hours – so she might lay her eggs in the morning one week, and in the evening another week. It’s a crapshoot! Ultimately, hens just follow their own rhythm, and lay when nature tells them to.

What Time Of Day Do Chickens Lay Eggs?

It seems like a lot of hens lay their eggs in the morning, but chickens lay eggs all throughout the day. In fact, you might see several hens fighting over the nesting box! They won’t lay their eggs at night though – they like to sleep and stay safe by roosting at night.

Is It Painful For Chickens To Lay Eggs?

There has been no clear evidence to support the claim that laying eggs hurt chickens. Of course, very large eggs laid by a very small hen might cause an issue such as egg binding or prolapsed vent, which is painful. But on average, it seems laying an egg isn’t the same as pushing out a baby every 24 hours. In fact, you’ll probably hear your hens singing “the egg song” after laying – it might just relieve them to finally pop out the egg!

Does A Chicken Need A Rooster To Lay An Egg?

No, a chicken doesn’t need a rooster to lay eggs – hens will produce their “butt nuggets” whether or not a rooster is present. This is because egg laying is a hormonal response to the amount of light – not whether she has a mate or not. If you want fertilized eggs so you can hatch chicks, then you’ll need a rooster. You can read about the best incubators we recommend here.

Is It Possible For A Chicken To Lay 2 Eggs A Day?

Yes, it is possible – if she lays “an egg within an egg.” This occurs when, for whatever reason, an egg that was released from the ovary doesn’t make it down the oviduct, and stays in her body for an additional length of time. Meanwhile, the ovary has released a second yolk, which is then also enveloped in calcium – along with the first egg. It’s important to remember, though, that this isn’t a typical thing – it’s really an abnormal egg.

How Long Does It Take For A Chicken To Push Out An Egg?

It usually takes 24 to 26 hours to fully form the egg and lay it.

How Many Eggs Do Chicken Lay A Year?

To determine how many eggs a chicken will lay in a year depends primarily on the breed, nutrition provided, and the overall management of the flock. Most egg laying breeds will lay about 300 eggs per year. Here’s a chart of the more popular breeds:

Breed Eggs per year (on average)
Silkie chickens 200-250 per year
Ameraucana chickens 250 – 280 per year
Barred Rock chickens Approx. 300 per year
Bantam chickens 250 – 280 per year
Black Sex Link chickens Approx. 300 per year
Rhode Island Red chickens Approx. 300 per year
Dominique chickens 250 – 280 per year
Leghorn chickens Approx. 300 per year

How Many Eggs Are In A Chicken? Are Hens Born With All Their Eggs?

A hen is born with all the egg yolks she’ll ever have (the yolks are what’s actually released from her ovary – hens have two ovaries, but only one is functional). The amount of actual yolks in her ovaries changes from chicken to chicken – they’re individuals after all. However, most hens lay consistently for the first 3 years of their lives. Since many breeds lay about 300 eggs a year, and they don’t start laying until they’re 6-8 months old, you can reasonably expect a hen to lay about 600-1,000 eggs during her lifetime.

Do Large Eggs Hurt Chickens?

Although most of the time it doesn’t hurt a chicken to lay an egg, it’s completely possible an overly large egg might hurt. The vent does stretch to accommodate laying, but an egg that’s a much larger size than normal would put extra strain on the hen. However, there’s nothing you can do to stop this – egg laying is natural, and sometimes, the eggs are larger than normal because that’s nature’s way.  

Do Male Chickens Lay Eggs?

No – just female chickens. The male chickens, called roosters, fertilize the eggs and protect the hens and provide companionship.

How Long Is The Egg Laying Process?

The egg laying process takes about 24 to 26 hours to produce and form the egg. The process – releasing the yolk from the ovary and encasing it with albumen (white egg parts) and the shell starts again 30 minutes after the chicken has laid an egg. You can read about all the parts of an egg here.

How Often Do Chickens Lay Double Yolk Eggs?

While double yolk eggs happen frequently and aren’t anything to worry about, there’s no telling when hens will lay eggs with two yolks. Some hens lay them consistently, and some hens will only do it once in their lives. You can read more about double yolk eggs here.

How Often Do Chickens Lay Eggs In The Wild?

Just like domestic breeds, wild chickens lay eggs every 24-26 hours – but this depends on the season, her health, and her diet.

How Often Do Chickens Have To Mate To Lay Eggs?

Hens will lay eggs regardless of whether they mate with a rooster or not. If you want to hatch chicks, however, you will need a rooster to fertilize the eggs. You can read about how chickens mate right here.

What Do Chickens Do With Unfertilized Eggs?

If the hen is “broody,” meaning she wants to hatch eggs, she’ll sit on them even if they’re not fertile. If the hen isn’t broody, she’ll just leave the eggs in her nesting spot and go on with her day. Sometimes, hens will eat their own eggs, especially if their diet isn’t already sufficient, or if they’re bored.

How often do chickens lay eggs that are unfertilized? Well, that depends on whether they run with a rooster or not! If they’re cooped with a rooster, you can bet her eggs are consistently fertile. If there’s no rooster, then all her eggs will be unfertilized.

Why Your Chickens Stopped Laying Eggs: 10+ Troubleshooting Tips

Why Your Chickens Stopped Laying Eggs: 10+ Troubleshooting Tips

If your chickens stopped laying eggs, it’s probably not your fault.

 

Chickens not laying eggs when they’re supposed to is really, really frustrating. I know, because I’ve been there, and certainly my chickens stopped laying from time to time.

 

You think you’re doing everything right, but egg production has stopped…..and you’re left to wonder “Why are my chickens not laying eggs?”

 

 

If you’ve asked everyone “Why aren’t my chickens laying eggs?!” or “How do I get my chickens to start laying eggs again?” and are coming short of answers, you should know that there’s a lot of factors that might stop your chickens from laying, such as stress.

 

However, if one or more chickens stopped laying, they might be protein, vitamin, or mineral deficient, and they won’t lay until those needs are met.

 

Reasons Why Chickens Not Laying Eggs Include:

#1: Chickens need feed with 16%-18% protein. (check out my organic homemade chicken feed recipe)

#2: Figure out if your chickens are stressed.

#3: Make sure your chickens have enough vitamins and minerals in their diet.

#4: Make sure your chickens are getting enough calcium, iron, and salt in their diet.

#5: Figure out how old your chickens are. If they’re very old, they might not lay eggs because of their age (read more about how long chickens live here).

#6: Figure out if your chickens are hiding their eggs.

 

While a good chicken feed of 16 – 18% protein is always recommended to avoid these issues, sometimes there’s other factors effecting your chicken flock that have stopped them from laying.

 

For this article, I’m going to assume your hens get a layer feed as a major part of their diet.

 

If you’re throwing only scratch grains or allowing them to forage and your chickens stopped laying, start by giving them a good-quality layer feed.

 

Over the past couple years, I’ve researched reasons why my chickens stopped laying.

 

Between my research and experience, I’ve come up with some answers I’d like to share with you.

 

If your chickens stopped laying altogether or if you’re struggling with low egg laying with your whole flock, consider some of these reasons.

 

If your chickens stopped laying eggs, it can be frustrating. Here's 10 tips to troubleshoot to get eggs again!

 

Chickens Not Laying? Might Be Not Enough Protein

The most common reason chickens stop laying is by far the amount of protein they’re getting.

 

Chickens are individuals, and I’ve found that even different breeds can require a different amount of protein to lay efficiently.

 

My Production Red chickens happily produce eggs every day with a 16% protein layer feed.

 

My Blue Copper Marans require a 22% game feed, however.

 

Particularly if you let your hens forage all the time, they might not be getting enough protein.

 

One way to test this is to offer a handful of mealworms (either live or freeze dried) to your chickens to see if they pick up production.

 

You can also offer higher protein feed as well as things like lentils, peas, and beans.

What can cause a vitamin or mineral deficiency?

Vitamin and mineral deficiency is one reason chickens stop laying. There’s a lot of reasons your chickens might need a supplement, far more reasons than I can include in one article.

 

I include the two below because I have experience with them, and I think they’re common reasons that are frequently overlooked, especially in large flocks of chickens.

 

Not Enough Food – Even If You’re Feeding Enough

If your chickens have stopped laying, they might not be getting enough food, even though you’re giving enough.

 

This can happen with birds low in the pecking order, and if you have a lot of chickens or very bossy hens.

 

You can try putting out extra feed stations or separating less-dominant birds from the flock during dinner (or permanently, if they’re getting really picked on).

 

Age

Another possible issue for chickens not laying is age. As anything ages – chickens, people, etc., absorbing the right vitamins and minerals can get difficult.

 

If your chickens have stopped laying, then offering a vitamin supplement might be necessary.

 

While it can be hard to pin point the exact deficiency without bloodwork or at least a vet exam, there’s 4 possible reasons your hens might be vitamin or mineral deficient if your chickens have stopped laying.

 

Vitamins/Minerals Your Chickens Might Need

Vitamin D

Lack of Vitamin D – which is needed to absorb and metabolize calcium correctly – is one possible factor if your chickens have stopped laying.

 

The most common cause of this deficiency is not enough sunlight.

 

If your chickens are cooped up constantly (and not out in the sun), this can lead to a decrease in their Vitamin D absorption.

 

Simply letting them sunbathe for an hour or so each day is a great preventative.

 

If your chickens been Vitamin D deficient for a while, and they’re having very pronounced issues such as soft bones, you have bigger problems than just your chickens stopped laying.

 

You should first contact a veterinarian. In addition, adding some vitamin D to their feed for about 3 weeks might increase the laying.

 

Mycotixins in their feed can reportedly make it difficult for chickens to absorb vitamin D. Mycotoxins are caused by fungi.

 

Unless you have a professional examine your grain, it’s hard to determine if mycotoxins are present, but if you suspect your feed might be infected, throw it away.

 

 

Calcium

Once they start laying, your chickens calcium requirements quadruple.

 

Chickens absorb calcium through their intestines, and without enough calcium, they either won’t lay, or will lay very soft shelled eggs.

 

If your chickens are low in vitamin D, they’ll have difficulty absorbing calcium.

 

Try giving your flock egg shells or oyster shells as a supplement if your chickens stopped laying.

 

You should supplement your chickens daily rations with calcium anyway.

 

 

Iron

Ever see chickens open and close their mouths, as if they had sour crop? Yet the crop is empty?

 

This can be a sign of iron deficiency, and your hen might be anemic. (If it gets to this stage, you need to take her to a vet).

 

If your bird is truly ill, she might have stopped eating, which can cause anemia as her iron levels drop.

 

Anemia doesn’t just occur if your chickens are sick.

 

Sometimes anemia happens when your hen simply isn’t getting enough to eat, or her diet is low in iron, or she’s suffered a severe mite infestation.

 

As chickens become more anemic, their red blood cells have difficulty bringing oxygen around her body. (That’s why it looks like she’s gasping for breath).

 

If it’s been going on long enough, and your chickens stopped laying, you will notice your chickens have lost weight, too.

 

Use their breastbones as a guide. Does it feel muscular, or does it just feel like bone? For a definitive diagnosis, you’ll need a vet’s advice.

 

 

Are Your Chickens Getting Enough Salt?

If you are wondering why chickens aren’t laying eggs, check their salt intake.

 

Chickens that don’t get enough salt will experience a loss of appetite, and might stop laying as a result.

 

Signs of too little salt also include increased feather pecking, loss of weight, and an increase in nervousness.

 

If your flock gets a good layer feed and are allowed to forage, it’s unlikely they will be salt deficient.

 

Chickens fed a large cereal-based diet (such as hens only fed oats) might need a salt supplement.

 

Be cautious with overloading your chickens on salt, as too much can lead to kidney problems and death. As with anything, moderation is best.

 

To be on the safe side, you can offer salt free choice (in a cup, for example), and let your hens peck at it whenever they want, or add a little to their dinner.

 

If your chickens stopped laying and you want to provide salt, I only recommend using Himalayan salt. It still has a lot of the natural minerals that something like table salt lacks.

Are Your Chickens Hiding Their Eggs?

Frequently I hear from readers whose chickens stopped laying suddenly and they are wondering how to get chickens to lay eggs again.

 

My first question about diet, but if that answer checks out ok, then I usually ask whether the chickens free range.

 

Typically the answer is yes, their chickens free range.

 

While there can certainly be another reason your chickens stopped laying, barring a diet issue, it’s entirely possible your hens have made a nest for themselves in some hidden area.

 

This happens more often than you’d think.

Chickens like to lay eggs in the quiet and in dark, secret places. This is an evolutionary thing – she can sit on them without disruption and the eggs have a higher likelihood of hatching.

 

So, if your chickens stopped laying without explanation, put them in their coop for a week or so to see if any eggs appear.

 

Is it Winter?

Most chickens require 14 hours of daylight in order to lay eggs.

 

I say “most” because we’ve bred some Production Red hybrids on our farm that still lay throughout winter.

 

If your chickens stopped laying, consider the time of year. If it’s winter, then it’s completely natural. There’s plenty you can do to keep your chickens laying through the winter though!

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Have your chickens stopped laying eggs? How have you tried helping them? Email me at [email protected] or comment below!


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