Why Your Chickens Don’t Lay Eggs

Why Your Chickens Don't Lay Eggs by The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Why Your Chickens Don't Lay Eggs - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Why Don’t My Chickens Lay Eggs?

Are you wondering why your chickens don’t lay eggs? Are you tired of feeding a flock that isn’t paying for their keep? Looking at your feed bill and wondering how to cut down on the cost of homesteading? It’s very frustrating, I know. So I’ve spent plenty of time figuring out why our egg production is low.

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Reasons that Chickens Don’t Lay Eggs

There are many reasons that chickens don’t lay eggs. Some may seem pretty hilarious, but for someone new to chicken keeping it may be a revelation to learn why their chicken isn’t producing! Let’s take a gander at some common reasons you aren’t getting eggs…

Roosters don't lay eggs :)
No mistaking this guy for a hen!

#1 – Chickens Don’t Lay Eggs if They Are Roosters!

Now, this may seem pretty obvious, but some roosters don’t show off for the ladies or crow. They may even look more like a hen than a rooster. Some don’t mature as fast and could masquerade as a hen, especially if there is already a dominant rooster in the flock.

If you have more than 1 rooster for every 8 to 10 hens, you may want to get rid of some. In fact, unless you want fertile eggs for hatching or a guard for your flock, you could get rid of all of them. Hens don’t need a rooster to lay eggs, the eggs just won’t be fertile for hatching.

why your chickens don't lay eggs? Maybe they are too young
These pullets are too young to lay eggs

#2 – They are Too Young or Too Old

Most breeds will start laying anywhere from 5 to 8 months of age. Some will lay as early as 4 and a half months old while other breeds could take close to a year. Before you choose a breed, look into the average point-of-lay age so you can mark it down on the calendar.

As hens get older, their production slows down and may stop completely. If you don’t intend to keep chickens that don’t pay their keep, make sure the whole family knows in advance.

a hen that is molting won't lay eggs
Hens stop laying when they molt.

#3 – They Are Molting

Starting around 18 months old, chickens go into a molt once a year. This is the process of replacing old feathers with new ones. It takes a lot of protein and energy to grow new feathers and hens stop laying while they molt.

It may take several months before they resume laying and once they do, they will lay fewer (possibly larger) eggs. Not everyone wants to feed hens through their molt and in commercial flocks they are usually sent off to the slaughterhouse at 18 months.

Chickens don't usually lay eggs in the winter unless there is a light in the coop.
Chickens don’t usually lay eggs in the winter unless there is a light in the coop.

#4 – Not Enough Daylight to Lay Eggs

During the winter, most hens stop laying eggs unless they have a bright light on a timer in their coop. Some people choose to let their flock take the winter off while others provide light to keep them in production. Without at least 14 to 15 hours of light a day, their bodies tell them that conditions aren’t right for laying eggs and hatching chicks.

Chickens don't lay eggs when they are under stress
Too much attention from a rooster can be stressful for your hens.

#5 – Stressful Conditions May Halt Production

If your flock is exposed to a lot of stress, they will stop laying eggs and go into survival mode. Stressful conditions include too many roosters trying to mate with hens, predators disrupting the flock, rough handling, illness, hot weather, and moving to a new coop or homestead. It can take 3 or 4 months without stress before their production picks up again.

Chickens need proper nutrition to lay eggs

#6 – Poor Diet

If your hens aren’t getting all of the vitamins and minerals they need to fuel egg production, they won’t be able to lay for you.

Make sure that they have calcium, methionine, and all of the other nutrients needed to thrive and produce eggs. Choose a quality layer feed with 16-18% protein that is formulated for egg production. Free-range hens may be able to find most of the nutrition they need, but it is advisable to provide a balanced layer ration too.

#7 – Chickens Need Plenty of Clean Water to Lay Eggs

Make sure that your flock has clean, fresh water at all times for the best egg production. Eggs have a high water content, so hens need extra water to keep laying.

If their water isn’t changed daily, they may cut back on drinking which can lead to fewer eggs. It’s best to have clean, cool water in several locations around the coop and pen for them in the heat of summer. In winter, keep the water from freezing over.

#8 – Chickens Don’t Lay Well When They are Overweight

Of course, your hens need proper nutrition to provide you with those lovely eggs. However, too many treats can cause a buildup of fatty tissue in their abdomens. This reduces egg production and may halt it altogether.

In summer, avoid giving corn or sunflower seeds as they are high in fat and can raise body temperature, adding to the stress of hot weather. Try increasing their pasture size and giving them feed only in the evening if your hens start to waddle like ducks.

Chickens don't lay eggs when they are raising a family
Raising a family takes a lot of energy!

#9 – Broody Hens Stop Laying

When a hen has the maternal instinct to set on a clutch of eggs to hatch, she’ll stop laying eggs. Hens need to put their energy into keeping the eggs warm instead of leaving the nest to eat and drink as they normally would. You can attempt to break a hen of broodiness or just let her raise some chicks.

Best Broody Hens for a Self-Reliant Flock

#10 – Egg Peritonitis and Egg Binding

Sometimes a hen’s body is actually in production but there is a problem with her reproductive system. Egg Peritonitis is an infection that can affect any hen of laying age. Basically, the yolk doesn’t follow the normal route and ends up in the coelomic cavity in her abdomen. This condition may cause a long slow death from infection.

Here is a veterinary site with more information about symptoms and some ‘gross’ but informative photos.

Egg binding is another serious issue in laying hens, but when caught early enough should be able to help. If a hen seems to be attempting to expel an egg but isn’t successful, she most likely is egg-bound.

Lubricating the vent with vegetable oil may help the egg pass more easily. If this doesn’t help, a warm soak may help. This condition is more common in young hens when they first begin to lay. You can read more about this condition here.

Your hens might be stashing their eggs in a hiding spot

#11 – Maybe Your Hen is Hiding the Eggs

Hens don’t always use the nest box to lay their eggs. They can be sneaky! You might find a stash of eggs hidden away somewhere. My friends had chickens laying eggs under the riding lawn mower deck. Fortunately, they were found before the blades were engaged. You may have to search around, especially if you have a free-range flock.

#12 – Egg Eating Hens

If you aren’t getting any eggs from your hens, it’s possible that they are eating them. Are you finding eggy goo in their nest box or bits of broken shell? If so, someone is eating the eggs. An opossum could be the culprit. However, hens like to eat their own eggs too once they get a taste for them.

Make sure you provide them with enough feed for proper nutrition so they don’t need the extra calories.

If there isn’t enough calcium in their diets, the eggs will have thin shells. This can lead to eggs that break in the nest box and encourages egg eating. Provide free-choice oyster shell to increase the calcium if thin shells are a problem.

Watch to see who’s guilty and remove the hen from the flock. They will often learn this bad behavior from each other so you may have a whole flock of egg eaters on your hands. Try putting golf balls or wooden eggs in their nesting box to deter them. Set up a nest box with a hole in the bottom with a catch tray underneath so that they can’t get to the eggs.

Prevent this from becoming a problem by collecting eggs often so your hens don’t get bored and start pecking at their eggs.

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Older hens may serve a purpose when they stop laying
You might want to keep a good broody hen around even if she doesn’t lay anymore!

Hens that Have Stopped Laying Eggs

What should you do if your hens are too old to lay eggs anymore? After 2 1/2 to 4 years of age, most hens won’t lay enough eggs to pay for their keep. So what to do?

Well, of course, this is all up to you. If your chickens are pets with names like Henrietta, I completely understand that you don’t want to turn them into chicken soup or sell them to someone who will.

Keep a small flock and look for ways to reduce your feed bill in that case. Free-ranging them, feeding kitchen scraps, and raising mealworms may help reduce your expenses. Here’s how to forage for free chicken feed and grow your own chicken treats.

There are some options for making a bit of cash off your hens that don’t involve selling eggs. This could give your flock a new job to do! Here are some ways that your hens might earn their keep:

  • Start a chicken blog and monetize it (this is a long-term plan, not a get-rich-quick scheme!)
  • Raise hens with attractive feathers for sale to crafters (ie: Wyandottes, Barred Rocks, Dominiques)
  • ‘Promote’ your hens – give talks at conferences, farm shows, or on local tv spots
  • Petting zoo – do you live in a cute old farmhouse? Could you set up a little farm-style petting zoo?
  • Keep broody hens to raise clutches of chicks for you.
  • Use your imagination…write a storybook for kids, sell your chicken photos, or rent your hens to someone with a big yard full of ticks!
when chickens don't lay eggs you may wish to make soup

Should You Make Chicken Soup?

I don’t keep chickens as pets. They must be productive. They have up to 3 good years in my flock and then they are used for meat. Since I raise my own meat chickens anyway, this only seems natural to me. It’s the way my Grandmother did things and I prefer a nice pot of chicken soup rather than paying a big feed bill. Our family buys very little meat from the store and this is one way to help make our homestead a little bit more self-sufficient.

Learn How to Butcher a Chicken

Do you have hens that aren’t laying eggs? Was this post helpful? Leave a comment!

Why Your Chickens Don't Lay Eggs - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

20 Comments on “Why Your Chickens Don’t Lay Eggs

  1. This is what I featured on my blog 12-28 to 1-1-2021. On Tuesday was Grandma Lydias Ice Box Cookies. Wednesday was Blueberry French Toast Bake. Thursday was Crock Pot Cocktail Smokies. Winding up the week was Italian Wine Cookies. Enjoy!

  2. That is so interesting! I’ve been thinking of getting chickens for years but every time I read one of your posts, I change my mind. It’s not as easy as it appears. Thanks for the party.

    1. Hi Suzan,
      Hens only have a certain number of egg follicles and this is why they slow down and stop laying as they get older. 🙂

  3. Thank you for hosting! This is what I featured the week of 9-28 to 10-2-2020 on my blog. On Tuesday was Creamy Mushroom Soup. Wednesday was Chicken Parmesan Soup. Thursday was Weight Watchers Veggie Soup . And winding up this soup week was Butternut Squash Soup With Ginger. Enjoy!

  4. Great post Lisa! I can’t wait till I get eggs, But having fun now also! If they only would keep their water clean!! Thanks !!

    1. Hi Pamela,
      It is hard to be patient, isn’t it?! I gave up on keeping their water clean. It is enough to give them fresh water every day, maybe twice a day in hot weather. 🙂

  5. Great article! We figured out the water one the hard way. When kids do chores, it isn’t always done well… It also takes about a week of consistent good care for them to start laying again.

    1. Thank you, Jenn! Yes, kids aren’t always thinking of the consequences…but the same goes for a lot of adults. :/
      Thanks for sharing!

  6. I know I’ve got a couple of hens laying away from the nest boxes – one goes regularly in a sack of old hay and I just have to get to the egg before the dog does. The other – who knows? Maybe I will find them one day or maybe one day the dog will have rally bad wind and I’ll know she’s found them! #FarmFrechBloggers

    1. Lol…dogs do love getting those unattended eggs. 🙂 I hope you find the eggs before the dog does, Rosie! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. I don’t keep my non productive hens either.

    You had a lot of good ideas for them too. I had never thought of selling feathers from pretty birds. Mine aren’t probably what a crafter is wanting, but it’s a good idea.

    1. Hi Maria,
      Some fly fishers use the feathers from Barred Rocks for their flies…I have been thinking about raising them again. But I don’t go fly fishing!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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