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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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!
Want to learn more about raising chickens? Chickens; Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock is my best selling book about raising healthy hens! You’ll learn how to handle sticky first aid situations, raise baby chicks with the week-by-week checklist, how to give the best care even in the worst weather, and more!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.