WHY DO CHICKENS STOP LAYING EGGS?
Dr. Patrick Biggs, Ph.D. at the Purina Mills poultry research center say:
Chickens stop laying for a variety of reasons. Hens may lay fewer eggs due to light, stress, poor nutrition, molt or age.
DAYLIGHT: The first and most common cause of decreased egg production is light hours. Hens need a minimum of 16 hours of light per day to sustain maximum egg production. Without supplemental light, they may naturally stop laying due to a hormonal response as the days get shorter. Hens lay best when provided at least 16 hours of light, whether natural, artificial, or a combination of the two. Some flock raisers use winter as a natural period of rest for their hens without supplemental light. If you are looking for consistent egg production throughout the winter months, provide additional light to encourage your birds to keep laying.
COOP ENVIRONMENT: If birds are stressed, egg production may suffer. Stress comes in many forms – predators, over-crowding, aggressive hens, loud noises, too much heat or cold, poor nutrition, parasites and illness. Check the environment to be sure there aren’t any stressors in the area. Keep temperatures comfortable in the coop, but not drastically different than outdoors. Chickens, especially cold-tolerant breeds, can withstand winter temperatures without supplemental heat. If you feel providing a source of heat is necessary, only raise the temperature a few degrees. Hens will adjust to the cold temperature, but if it is 70 degrees F. in the coop and zero degrees F. in the run, they won’t be able to regulate their body temperature.
NUTRITION: Another reason for decreased egg production is over-treating and over-supplementing hens. Added treats and scraps can dilute the nutrients in a complete layer feed so the hen is less able to produce eggs consistently. A general rule to follow is the 90/10 rule. This means the hen’s diet should be made of at least 90 percent complete feed.
MOLT: Around 18 months of age and annually thereafter, chickens go through molt, which is defined as a period of feather loss and regrowth. Molt usually occurs in autumn and is associated with a decrease in egg production.
AGE: Chickens begin laying eggs between 18-20 weeks of age and can lay eggs as long as their productive lifetime allows. The average lifespan of a chicken is 8-10 years. Over the course of a hen’s lifetime, egg production will peak at about 250-280 eggs during their first year laying eggs. After that, the number of eggs produced each year declines until she retires.