Nine Reasons Hens Stop Laying Eggs

It can be quite alarming when a poultry owner gets a consistent five eggs, daily, from five hens, only to find just one egg for a few days. This sudden drop in egg laying takes us all into detective mode – are they hiding the eggs? Are they sick?

Below you’ll find some of the most common reasons for decreased egg production to put your mind at ease and hopefully get your girls laying consistently again.

  1. Molt. At 15-18 months of age, and every year thereafter, chickens will replace their feathers. Feathers will fall out to make room for new feather growth. During this time, hens will stop laying eggs.
  2. Lighting. Chickens need about 15-16 hours of light per day to produce eggs. The first year, most laying breeds will lay through the winter without artificial lighting.
  3. Too many goodies. Think of kids, if you unleashed your kids at a buffet, and told them they could get whatever they want, most would load up at the dessert table. Your girls will do the same thing, filling up on bread, table scraps etc. they may not be getting what they need to produce eggs. This is usually a slowdown, more than a stoppage.
  4. Too much lovin’. One rooster can easily handle 12-18 hens. If this ratio is too low, he will over mount the girls and bare patches will appear on their backs and the backs of their heads. This stress can drop them out of production.
  5. Dehydration. It doesn’t take much water deprivation, especially in hot weather, to take your hens right out of production. Many times alpha hens will not allow submissive hens (bottom of the pecking order) to drink. They are attempting to “vote them off the island”, but the first thing that will happen is an egg stoppage. We recommend adding water stations during warm weather.
  6. Any undue stress. Maybe the coop is secure, but they are still being harassed by raccoons, neighbor’s dogs, or other predators.
  7. Egg eating by the hens, or theft by 2 or 4 legged scoundrels! They may be laying, but the wrong critter is getting the eggs. Believe it or not, human egg stealing is more common than people think – I’ve even seen it on a game camera.
  8. Change in the pecking order. Adding new hens, a new rooster or removing a hen can cause a power void and/or drama. Drama=stress=egg production drop
  9. Illnesses/parasites. The reasons above may likely be the cause but parasites or illness can also cause stress on a hen. We’ve got a whole section on our blog dedicated to diseases and disorders of chickens, so take a look here to learn more: http://scoopfromthecoop.nutrenaworld.com/category/diseases-and-disorders/

 

Laying Issues: Internal Layers and Peritonitis

Call a veterinarian if you suspect a serious health issue.

Call a veterinarian if you suspect a serious health issue.

Similar to egg binding, Peritonitis (an indicator of internal laying), is a distressing issue that can occur with laying hens

Internal laying is a disorder where the yolk of the egg, rather than being laid in the normal manner, is not taken up by the oviduct and instead is deposited in the abdomen. This can be a genetic issue, but often times it follows an incidence of infection or trauma to the oviduct, such as a thin shelled egg breaking inside the hen.

Internal laying by itself is not always an issue. Occasionally a hen will lay internally for no apparent reason and the yolk will simply be absorbed back into the body without complications if there is no bacteria present. The problem results when bacteria is present and when eggs build up. Egg yolk is a rich medium for bacteria growth, and a build up of eggs internally can provide a playground for infection. This infection is known as peritonitis. If your hen continually lays egg after egg internally, the yolks can not only harbor and grow bacteria, but all the yolk material puts pressure on internal organs, making it difficult for the bird to breathe and causing her to adopt a penguin-like stance.

Symptoms of an internal layer with peritonitis can include:

  • Yolk colored feces
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy/Depression
  • Swollen & spongy feeling vent area and/or abdomen
  • Respiratory problems
  • Fluffed feathers
  • Penguin stance; abnormal waddle

If an internal layer is identified early on, steps to prevent the laying process can be taken. The bird may be spayed or have a hormone implant placed that stops ovulation. Unfortunately, an internal layer is often in discomfort and pain. Sometimes it may be necessary to euthanize the bird to end her suffering.

If peritonitis is suspected, the choices for treatment are usually limited, due to the amount of time the infection has most likely been brewing before symptoms become evident. Giving antibiotics if caught early enough in the process has had some success.

If you suspect you have an internal layer, with or without peritonitis, contact your avian veterinarian for a full diagnosis and treatment options.