Why Aren't My Hens Laying Eggs?

You can raise your own chickens for an economical source of protein from fresh-laid eggs. If your hens aren't laying eggs, examine their living conditions, diet and overall health in light of expert advice from experienced poultry farmers. For happy and productive hens, protect your chickens from predators like foxes, skunks, snakes and dogs. Hens lay the most eggs in their first and second years.

  1. Feed Issues

    • A diet lacking vital nutrients for laying eggs is one of the main causes of unproductive hens. Feed your laying hens quality pellet or mash feeds containing between 16-20 percent protein. Check your feed's expiration dates and sniff it for "off" odors. Feeding your hens scraps from your kitchen should be limited, since too many scraps adversely effect laying. Feeding hens on a diet consisting only of wheat or corn also limits laying. Although complete feeds do contain vitamins and minerals, you can supplement their grit with calcium-rich oyster shell to give an extra boost to laying hens. Use hanging feeders for cleanliness, and only replenish them after the old feed has been eaten. Clear away any uneaten fresh fruits and vegetables so they do not attract predators.

    Light Issues

    • Hens naturally slow down or cease egg production during the winter months; they need at least 14 hours of daylight for peak egg-laying. Intensively farmed hens are stimulated to skip this break by the use of artificial lighting in their coops, but all hens resume their normal laying schedules as spring approaches and the days lengthen. If your hens are not laying eggs by late February, suspect that something other than short days is affecting them; rule out other causes, such as diet and harassment by predators, and try adding artificial lighting for a few hours a day to see if this increases laying.

    Infestation Issues

    • Hens with infestations are unhealthy and poor layers. Infestations such as worms, lice and red mites are treatable with medicines available from your local poultry store.

      Use only vet-recommended medicines and keep all new birds in quarantine for four weeks before adding them to your regular group. Remember to avoid eating any eggs laid during the treatment, since they can contain traces of the chemicals used to remove the infestation; the specific amount of time such eggs are unsafe to eat is clearly stated on the labels of these medications.

    Environmental Issues

    • Your hens may actually be laying eggs, but in odd places; when the eggs are scattered around, it's harder to know if any have been lost to predators before you can collect them. Hens are famous for laying their eggs in locations of their own choosing. To persuade them to lay where you want them to, try "seeding" the nests with plaster eggs. Offer hens plenty of private corners to nest in; plastic-covered cat litter trays and wooden crates appeal to some hens more than the accommodations in the henhouse. Even just the presence of predators near nesting sites causes enough disturbance to stop some hens from laying. Reinforce henhouses, install and check any locks and consider using motion-sensor lights to discourage predators from coming too close to your hens. It's not only wild animals that bother hens; neighborhood pets, such as dogs, can also discourage hens from laying.

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