Backyard chickens are all unique. Different feathers, different colored eggs, different personalities. Some are not egg-laying, while others provide an abundance of eggs. If you have egg-laying hens, but they have stopped laying, or they are laying fewer eggs, there are a couple things you can do to make sure your chickens have the best egg-laying environment.
First, confirm that you have egg-laying hens of the right age. It can vary by the breed, but hens usually start laying eggs at 6 months. The first 3 to 4 years of their life are the best egg-laying years, which again can vary depending on the breed you have.
If you have hens of the right age, and you have the right laying breeds, try these tips to help get more eggs from your backyard chickens.
Healthy EatingMake sure your birds are eating a balanced diet. It is important that they get the nutrients they need to produce eggs regularly, like protein and calcium. There is poultry feed made specifically for laying hens, such as Kaytee’s Laying Hen Feed. With healthy eating comes access to fresh water. Make sure your hens always have fresh, clean water for drinking. Especially in the winter, make sure the water doesn’t freeze so that your chickens stay hydrated.
DaylightDaylight could be a factor in fewer eggs. On average, chickens need between 14-16 hours of daylight for their bodies to naturally produce the most eggs possible. In the winter, especially for northern states, this can be hard to achieve, which results in fewer eggs. Chickens need the winter for their bodies to rest and recover. Seasonality is something that all chicken owners deal with in the winter. While you could put artificial light in their coop to help expose them to the light, this is not recommended.
Clean Nesting BoxesKeep your nesting boxes clean. Chickens are looking for a place to potentially raise young, so they can be discouraged from filthy nesting boxes. Collect eggs daily, if not more so that they are often cleaned out and ready for more. Change out nesting material frequently as well so that it is comfortable for your hens.
Relocate a Broody HenSome hens become broody, which is characterized by sitting in the nesting box on her eggs all day, squawking or pecking when you approach her, and she’s stopped laying new eggs. A hen can become broody when she wants her eggs to hatch. There are some tips and tricks for stopping a broody hen. Examples include blocking off the nesting box, making her roost again, or removing her from the nesting box. For more tricks, read these tips from the Happy Chicken Coop.
Check for IllnessMake sure your hens are healthy and free of parasites, colds, or other illnesses. Fix any contamination or isolate sick hens until they are treated and healthy again to avoid contaminating the flock. Molting, which occurs annually, is not a sickness but can look like one to new chicken keepers. During their molting, chickens will typically not lay eggs.
Keep a RoutineChickens like to have a routine, and any disruption to their regular, daily lives can throw them off and cause them to stop laying for a few days. Be patient if you move, you add new chickens to the flock, or if there is a change in their environment since they might just be adjusting. Keep their coop, flock, and daily routine regular if you don’t want to change their laying schedules.
Keep your chickens healthy, watch for changes in behavior, and make sure they have the best environment for laying eggs. If cared for properly, your hens should have many years of egg-laying in them! Follow us on Facebook for more tips, and happy chicken keeping!
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