Jan 4, 2013

8 Reasons Chickens Stop Laying Eggs

Recently, I've met many new hen owners who are worried about their hens' egg production. Either their hens aren't laying at all or they are laying less frequently than the owners would like. There are several reasons this may happen - and all of them can be fixed relatively easily.

1. The hens aren't old enough. Generally, young hens begin laying eggs at around 6 to 8 months of age.

2. The hens are too old. At 2 or 3 years of age, hens begin laying less frequently. (This is true even if you don't encourage winter egg production by putting a light in the hen house or run; more on this momentarily.)

3. The hens are molting. Hens naturally loose their feathers and grow new ones, usually in the fall (but sometimes in early winter). During this molting process, all the energy the hen would normally spend on laying eggs goes into keeping the hen warm and growing new feathers. Once the hen is fully feathered, egg production will begin again shortly.

4. There isn't enough light. Hens require 14 to 16 hours of daylight each day in order to produce eggs. During winter months, when the days are shorter, their egg production naturally slows down or may stop altogether. If you wish to encourage egg production, add an appropriate light to the hen house or run. (Do not use a work light, since they contain Teflon that will kill the chickens if the bulb breaks.)

5. The hens are stressed. If you've recently introduced new hens, or have moved the hens or their house or run, or some other factor is making the hens feel stressed, they may not lay well.

6. The hens aren't getting proper nutrition. If you feed your old-enough-to-lay hens commercial layer's feed, this should never be a problem. However, if you make your own chicken feed, you should try a commercial feed for at least a month to see if production improves. And while it's great to encourage hens to forage, you should always make commercial feed available to them as a supplement.

7. The hens are broody. If you have one or more hens who sit in a nesting box all day, warming eggs, you have a broody hen - a hen who's trying to hatch eggs. When a hen is broody, she'll stop laying eggs. If desired, you can purchase fertilized eggs for her to hatch. Or you can help get her out of the broody mood. I've tried various methods for doing this, but by far the best (and most humane) is to make up a lidded box for the hen with food and water - but no bedding. (I use a Rubbermaid style box we've drilled large air holes into.) Leave her in this box in a sheltered area for at least two days. When she no longer feels hot (like she's running a fever), the she's no longer broody and may be reintroduced to the flock.

8. The hen is ill. If none of the above reasons are applicable, the hen is probably ill. Remove her from the flock immediately, giving her a box or separate, small hen house to live in. This reduces the risk of the entire flock becoming ill. A local vet who is knowledgeable about farm animals is certainly an option in this situation. If you're unsure such a costly visit is needed, try posting your hen's symptoms over in the Backyard Chickens forum; long term chicken owners there should be able to give you an idea of what's troubling your bird.


  1. Thanks,Kristina, for sharing your post on our Homestead Abundance link-up. Excellent points about why chickens reduce their laying. One more point that I would add is lack of water. We found that if their water froze in winter, or if in summer they spilled their water pail or ran out of water, they would stop laying for a few weeks. Its worth it to find a way to keep the water from freezing in winter.

  2. These are some very useful tips on way hens will not lay eggs. I recently had a hen that was not laying and found out it was do to stress. After 2 weeks it started laying once it got used to the new coop I made for it.

  3. I have 22 chickens in three different pens. Only one of my pens is laying. One of the other pens is too young and I've Nwvwr gotten and egg from them.. But for the last week or two my big pen of hens that were laying (I was getting 10-13 eggs a day) have stopped, completely. It was all at once too. One day I had ten eggs and the next day there were none. These hens are not even a year old yet. What could be the reason they all stopped laying so suddenly? Why haven't they layed for a couple weeks now?

  4. Cassidy, given the time of year, I'd first suspect they are molting.

  5. Cassidy,
    I am also having the same issue with one of my two hens. My Barred Rock is just 8 months old, she started laying in August, and stopped laying for no reason 2 1/2 weeks ago. The other hen that started laying in September is still laying. I have seen a few loose feathers from the Barred Rock in the past few days. Other than that, she is acting fine. No parasites, eating, drinking, happy when out, doesn't seem stressed. It just seems to young for her to be molting already.

  6. p.s. We do live in NW PA, and it has been quite dark and dreary lately.