Chickens can be a main staple of farm life success, and if they aren’t laying no one is eating the profitable produce. It can be troublesome to pinpoint what the problem is when your hens aren’t laying eggs. But if your hen is old enough to start laying and you still don’t see any eggs, there are a few factors that could cause this problem.
Chickens may not lay their eggs if the lighting inside the coop isn’t bright/warm enough, they aren’t having enough nutrition in their diet, or they are too old to lay. Molting will also result in hens not laying, as well as several poultry diseases. They may even eat their own eggs.
In this article, there will be information on why eggs haven’t shown up, the different types of chicken diseases that result in no eggs being laid, how to help chickens feel comfortable to encourage laying, and some ways to prevent your hens from eating their eggs. There’s a lot to go over and we’ll answer your questions below.
Why the Eggs aren’t Being Laid
There are so many reasons why eggs aren’t being laid by the chickens. It can be overwhelming, but luckily there are ways to fix the problem.
The number one cause of egg production going down is limited light is inside the coop. Chickens need 12 hours of light at minimum to lay eggs, but ideally up to 16 hours of daylight in order to keep the production quota up. Without an artificial light supplement, they will adopt the behavior of not laying eggs at all because of a triggering hormonal effect.
This is especially crucial during the winter seasons so owners should provide an incandescent bulb with 25-watt power or an LED light bulb with 3-9 watts. Place these lights every 100 sq ft inside the coop. If there is a way to put the lights on a timer, this will help the chickens also sleep better and help you save money on electricity.
The coop’s environment will also take a toll on chickens if they become stressed enough. A chicken will become stressed when seeing predators outside the coop. If the chickens become overpopulated, they will show signs of stress by plucking out one another’s feathers. Loud sounds and improper levels of hot and cold temperatures will also cause stress.
To block out predators, there needs to be galvanized wire and metal screens put in place around the coop’s doors and windows. If your chickens are free-range, make sure their outside enclosure is secure as well. Chickens need plenty of space to move around, so make sure there are about 10 sq ft per hen and have about one nesting box for every four hens. The bedding needs to be kept clean and all the hens should have access to dry bedding. Separate the aggressive hens from those who are getting too stressed to prevent any further problems.
Temperatures need to be kept at 70-75 degrees F (source) and when winter hits the hens will need to be cold-tolerant enough to bear the changes in temperature. It’s important to keep the temperature at 70 degrees in order to help the chickens regulate their body heat. and continue laying.
Chicken nutrition is also a factor in egg production as treats and other unhealthy scraps can affect their nutrient balance and cause the hens to not produce as many eggs. The rule of thumb is to give laying hens 38 grams of protein and 4 grams of calcium daily. This will help them maintain their own health, as well as produce strong eggs.
By layering their feed, your chickens will receive the proper nutrients necessary to produce eggs. Generally, the way to feed hens by having at least 90 percent of the food be chicken feed, with occasional supplements of protein, calcium, or treats.
*More information on feed layering can be found here.
Molting is another cause of an empty nest on chicken farms. Molting is the process of hens losing their feathers in order to grow new ones. This happens in the autumn season when a chicken is at least 18 months old. During this time, chickens will likely be more focused on regrowing their feathers than laying eggs. This lasts for 8-16 weeks varying on the chicken and egg production will continue once the new feathers are fully grown.
You can also help your hens through their molting season by packing their food with high amounts of protein (Purina Flock Raiser is one example). Once the molting season is done, have your chickens be switched back to layer feed with high calcium (Purina Layena/Layena Plus and Organic Layer Pellets/Crumbles, and Omega-3 are all good choices).
How old is your chicken? Age does result in loss of egg production as well. Hens will lay as much as they can in their average lifespan of 8-10 years. Many chickens lay about 200 eggs per year when they are at their most productive. This number will gradually decrease with age until the chicken dies. However, before the hen passes, she will provide care and leadership to new hens and might even help raise them.
Top 5 Chicken Diseases That Hault Egg Laying
Unfortunately, when a chicken becomes sick, it’s best to prepare for the egg production to be limited or stopped. While there are some illnesses that can thankfully be treated there are a few that will rapidly increase the chances of death.
Here are the commonly known illnesses that cause problems with egg-laying chickens:
Egg Drop Syndrome: The signs of this disease start with diarrhea then begin to affect the eggs. They will either not have shells at all or be too thin in the coating. The disease will also pass on to the chicks through stool contact. While there isn’t a cure for the syndrome, once a chicken goes through a molting process, the chicken will produce eggs again.
Caged Layer Fatigue: This occurs when the flock doesn’t receive enough nutrition in their diet. This usually occurs in cheap feed or homemade feed that isn’t made correctly. Symptoms include the hen being awake but unmoving and if the hen may suffer death by dehydration if she isn’t treated. The best way to treat chickens like this is to place the hen in her own cage with access to water and better quality feed. Make sure to replace the lower-quality with the correct feed. You also should allow the hens to get out and move around to prevent this disease from spreading.
Rickets: If the chickens have low vitamin D and/or their calcium-phosphorous ratio is off-balance, the hen will develop this disease. To check for rickets, observe the eggshells. See if they appear thin, or if your hens have fractured limbs, lameness, soft/bowed bones, and low egg production. It is a rare disease if the flock is fed regular laying rations but will sometimes occur if the feed is homemade. This is another reason to stick to the top-quality chicken feed. However, there are cases when hens will still be affected even when they’re been eating a high-quality feed. As a result, they develop an intestinal virus infection so the hen cannot absorb any nutrients. To treat the disease, adjust the diet by having the hen consume a calcium-phosphorus ratio of 250 mEq/kg. Although this may not always help, it is worth a try (source).
Fatty Liver Syndrome: The symptom of this disease are pale combs on chickens. The disease works by accumulating fat and causing hemorrhaging until death. You should control/monitor the chickens’ feed intake and be up to date on their weight (5-10 lbs being the ideal range) Changing the feed reduces the carb and the fat amount by supplementing selenium. This can help the flock become in contact with reduced carbohydrates (Source).
Egg Peritonitis: This disease happens when the abdominal lining/peritoneum becomes infected because the yolk went into the chicken’s abdominal cavity. You should watch for a swollen abdomen, abnormal stance, and inflammation. Treatment can be done at a vet’s office by receiving hen medication to fight off the illness and assist in abdomen drainage. Sadly, this is a disease that most hens don’t recover from (Source).
How To Help Chickens Lay Stress-Free
There are many reasons why your hens may not be laying eggs, but one thing you can do to help is creating a healthy, stress-free environment for them.
Nesting Box/Roost Needs & Egg Collection
Remember the nesting box requirement? Place a box for every 4-6 hens as this will provide comfort for them. Having too many nests will make the hens feel like they can sleep and defecate in them, resulting in the habit of not lay eggs. Make the nesting boxes appealing because this helps hens feel safe to lay. You can achieve this by placing the boxes in dark corners. Roosts should have proper shavings/straw bedding otherwise hens won’t see them as resting places.
Roosts should be placed in dark corners of the coop and raise up a few inches above the floor. Having enough roosting areas helps chickens feel they have a place to relax and sleep. If you only have nesting boxes for chickens to sleep in it’ll become a mess to clean and eggs will get dirty. When you collect your eggs regularly, it helps the chickens feel that they have plenty of space to lay, as a large number of eggs in a nesting box isn’t appealing (though up to 2 eggs won’t be a problem).
Helping Hens Learn Laying Procedures
To help chickens lay in the correct nesting boxes, place a fake egg (like a golf ball) in the nesting boxes you’d like them to use. Start doing this when they are about 18 weeks old since this is when most breeds will start laying regularly. This will signal where the hens should lay eggs. Chickens are smart and will know if they’ve laid in the wrong place if you block the area off or cover the area with scraps of wood, rocks, or plastic materials. The hen will take the hint and go back to the nesting box.
Chickens need to be inside their coop until the middle of the morning as this trains chickens to lay at a set schedule and prevents them from laying their eggs outside. They will also need to be placed in their roosts if you see hens staying too long in the nesting boxes. If you shoo them or take them out of the box enough the chicken will catch on and see it as the laying spot. It’s especially important to do at night, as chickens can grow a habit of sleeping in the nesting boxes (Source).
Stopping Chickens From Eating Eggs
As gross and infuriating as it is, yes chickens will eat their own eggs. One reason behind this is the chicken sees a broken egg and decides to give it a taste. This can result in the chicken tasting the raw egg and developing a liking for it. If chickens are starved of nutrients like calcium or protein, they may turn to eating their eggs so they can regain the nutrients they lost.
Here are steps to stop chickens from eating eggs before the habit forms:
- If the egg is unbroken, the chicken is less likely to think about eating it.
- To protect and cushion the eggs, make sure every nesting box has about 2 inches of dry nesting material. This padding will prevent eggs from cracking, and make the box more comfortable for the hen. If the egg is properly cushioned and protected, it’s more likely to stay intact until collection.
If you have chickens that already developed the habit, here’s what to do in helping break it:
- Don’t place bright lighting near nesting boxes.
- Only disturb hens when they try to sleep in the nesting boxes.
- Give every hen enough space so the hen with the habit won’t go after their neighbor’s eggs.
- Have fresh feed and water available so they won’t feel hungry enough to eat their own eggs.
- If a hen is a bully, create a separate feeding station and/or cage for them.
- Place hens outside to roam around so they can naturally consume grass and bugs. This will satisfy most of their hunting instincts and their desire for fresh protein.
Sometimes the chicken(s) won’t care what you do and continue to persist in eating the eggs. In that case, try these tips below to see if it makes a difference:
- Roll-away nesting boxes provide a feature that lets the egg roll out of the box once it’s laid, making it unreachable to the hen. It then sits in a safe, unreachable area where it can wait to be collected.
- If you place golf balls into the nests of problem chickens, the chicken will be annoyed that pecking at the fake egg results in no food. This frustration can sometimes break the habit.
- Chickens hate the taste of mustard and a great disciplinary trick is to fill an eggshell with the sour filling. Do this by making a hole inside an empty shell and squeezing mustard inside. The chicken will be in for quite a surprise if it tries to eat the egg after this!