If you're wondering why your chickens aren't laying eggs there are a few things you'll want to troubleshoot in your daily routine. Sometimes the reasons chickens stop laying eggs are natural and can't be helped, other times there are small changes that can be made to help encourage more frequent and consistent egg-laying.
To begin with, we want to encourage our backyard chickens to lay eggs by giving them a good nesting spot in a safe coop.
The coop we built and use is Justin Rhode’s chickshaw design. You can find Justin's chickshaw plans here.
For quite a few years, we had a static coop. I’ve found that since we have a mobile coop, our chickens tend to stay healthier.
Having the ability to move them is helpful in giving them a fresh area of grass to peck at that isn’t muddy.
Reasons Why Chickens May stop Laying
Some of the main reasons I’ve found that chickens stop laying eggs are light, mites, location, diet, and environment.
I haven’t been able to pin down whether a certain breed is more susceptible to some of these issues or not. However, if your backyard chickens stop laying, a good place to start checking is these areas.
Chickens need at least 14 hours of daylight to stay on a good laying cycle. Depending on where you live, the winter months can be a challenge to get enough natural daylight hours.
Using artificial light such as a string of Christmas lights on a timer can be useful in tricking them into a regular schedule, but many people choose not to “force” their hens into laying and allow them a natural break along with the seasons.
As a side note, hens are born with the number of eggs they will lay in their lifetime. By forcing a hen to lay eggs with artificial light, you aren’t going to get more eggs out of her, you will just get them in less time.
Mites are a common occurrence in backyard chickens and chickens will stop laying if they have mites. One way they can pick them up is from wild birds in your yard.
We dealt with mites a lot while we had a static coop because it was hard to keep them clean enough. You can’t really prevent mites entirely, but keeping a clean coop definitely helps.
Here’s how I check and treat for mites on my birds….
- Hold your chicken upside down. This makes the blood rush to the chicken’s head and puts it to sleep for a few seconds.
- Lightly ruffle through the feathers on the underside of the bird and look for tiny bugs right next to the skin. They can be either white, red, or dark brown.
- Treat them by dusting them with some diatomaceous earth. I put mine in the foot of some panty hose and tie it off making an easy to handle duster.
- It’s easiest to do this while the chickens are roosting. Grab them, turn them upside down, and dust their bottoms and under their wings.
If a chicken has wet feet, it can affect its laying. A mobile coop makes it easier to move them as the ground gets muddy, but there are options if you have a static coop.
You can either lay down straw or check into deep litter bedding. Basically, do what you need to do to keep the chickens on dry ground.
If the ground is muddy, you will also have to deal with dirty eggs. When the chickens come in to roost, they will step on the eggs with their muddy feet.
A well-balanced diet is important to ensure a hen keeps laying eggs. We feed our chickens scratch and mealworm.
It’s ok to feed them table scraps, but it’s also crucial to make sure they have all the nutrients they need.
Read more here on how we feed our farm animals.
Any major transition in a chicken’s life can make them stop laying eggs. We recently moved to another state and moved our chickens with us. We went for about two months without eggs as our chickens acclimated to their new home.
Sometimes, even a minor change in daily routine can mess with their egg-laying cycle. Things like adding chickens to your flock or moving the coop across the yard have made our birds stop laying.
It can be different for every bird and every flock. Another stressor for chickens is predators. If something is stalking the chickens, it will greatly impact their production.
A Few More Notes On Chickens
Chickens are hardy critters! As we move from fall to winter, some people worry whether or not their chickens will be okay in colder temperatures. As long as you have a closed-in space with good bedding, their body heat will keep them warm enough.
An option here is deep litter bedding. It will start composting which will also generate heat. It is actually best to not add supplemental heat such as a heat lamp. It can cause problems with ventilation and can also be a detrimental fire hazard.
All chickens will molt throughout the year. This is a period of time when a chicken loses its feathers and grows new ones. It will take six to twelve weeks for the feathers to grow back. While the chicken is molting, it will not lay eggs.
An average chicken will lay eggs for about three to four years and peak in the first few years. They will lay one egg every 24-36 hours.
If your chickens are free-range, you can’t assume that they have stopped laying if you can’t find the eggs! They seem to be masters at hiding eggs. Especially if a chicken is getting ready to go broody, it will want to hide and sit on its eggs in hopes of hatching them out.
Finally, I hope this helps you narrow down reasons as to why your chickens may have stopped laying eggs. And once you figure it out and are up and running again, blessings as you find ways to use up all of those eggs!