Chickens Eggs Health Issues

Got Eggs? Top Ten Reasons for Decline in Backyard Chicken Production

The girls are now in the full swing on molting. Tilly molted first.   Finally I am proud to say that both her tail feathers and her eggs have returned. She looked so funny while she waited for those tail  feathers to grow back. Oyster Cracker, on the other hand, never seems to escape with a light molt. She is a heavy molter. Starting with the head and ending with the tail, Oyster Cracker is now molting on her chest and wings. Prickly pin feathers are emerging from her neck. The poor girl is a mess. Of course, with  molting the eggs are less. Molting and egg making require protein. The eggs are few and far between as the chickens use up their protein stores to make feathers. But did you know that in addition to molting each Autumn, there are other conditions that can make chickens cease or decrease their egg production at various times of the year?

1. Molting: As mentioned above, both eggs and feathers are almost 100% protein. As feathers are created egg production tapers off.  Here is more information on molting.

2. Predators: The majority of the egg making process occurs as the chickens sleep. If they are startled in the evening while sleeping, woken up or just plain stressed, egg production can halt.  Did you also know that predators will sneak into the coop to eat eggs?  Often snakes will slink into the coop, find the eggs and swallow them whole. Foxes, skunks, rats and weasels will also eat your chickens’ eggs.

3. Lack of Evening Food: As the egg forms in the chicken’s body overnight, be sure that they are not going to bed hungry.  Provide them with access to food and water right before bed.  You might find your egg production increases.  My girls love to chow down before they roost.  When I pick the Silkies up out of the nesting boxes to place them on the roost at night, I can’t help but smile when I feel their full little crops!

4. Lack of Protein: Over-treating the flock with lower protein foods like vegetables, breads, table scraps and fruits can cause a decrease in their productivity. Chickens require their diets to be approximately 17% protein. Try switching out their treats to ones that contain more protein such as sunflower seeds and dried meal worms.

5. Heat Stress: Can you imagine even wanting to lay an egg if you are overheating and not feeling your best? On very hot and humid summer days, egg production can decrease.  Read more about heat stress here.

6. Old Age: Hens are most productive during their first 2 years of laying. After that, their egg production tapers off. With each year, it decreases. This is a normal process of the aging for hens.

7. Broodiness: Hens that are broody will lay a clutch of eggs, typically one per day, until they have reached their maximum sitting capacity. Once a hen goes broody, her focus is on hatching her eggs and raising her chicks. Hormones in her body tell her to stop laying eggs. Egg laying typically returns a few weeks after they hatch their chicks or they are no longer broody.

8.  Egg Bound:  Often when eggs are too large to pass, a hen can become egg bound.  A tell tale sign is a puffed up hen sitting in the nesting box, not looking so good.  She does not feel like walking around.  Her lower half of her abdomen, when gently touched, reveals fullness-the egg that is stuck.  She will not feel like eating or drinking.  This is a medical emergency- not only will she not be laying any more eggs, her life may be in jeopardy.

9.  Egg Eaters:  Don’t be fooled.  Sometimes your hens are laying eggs, but you have an egg eater amongst the flock.  Raw eggs once sampled by the hens, are irresistibly delicious.  You have to be quick to break this terrible habit, but it can be done.  Click here for more egg eating information.

10. Lack of sunlight:  Hens require 14 hours of sunlight to stimulate their brains to lay an egg.  Eggs naturally taper off during the winter months.  This is a normal process and egg laying resumes as longer days arrive with spring weather.  Adding windows to the chicken coop can help.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

  • I just have two hens right now but am still getting two a day. It is getting darker earlier but we are farther south so not as early as you guys. Thanks for all the great info. I will miss my eggs when winter arrives.

  • Great post! I read the one on molting too…We suddenly went from an average of 6 eggs per day from 7 hens to an average of about 3 in a matter of a couple of weeks. I knew part of it was the shortening New England days…but suddenly we have our first molter! Poor thing! She walks along and the feathers fall right off! (I did check her for infestations and she looks clean…and we provide plenty of feed, fresh water and a clean coop and run.) She's suddenly a little more nippy too, even though she's always been mild-mannered and even a little shy. I'm sure she's uncomfortable with loads of new feathers "sprouting" all over. We've been giving her a little scrambled duck egg and dried meal worms each day. (Not huge amounts though as I heard that wasn't good either.) We've seen some other feathers around too so I suspect we have 2 more starting.

  • Terrific post! I think questions about why their hen stopped laying is one of the top questions people ask about their chickens. This is a great list detailing many of the main reasons for decreased and lack of egg production. Number 3 is one many people don't think of at all! I know many people only think about feeding their chickens in the morning. However, I do think you missed one main cause – and that is disease/illness. A hen that is not feeling well will likely slow down or stop laying all together. Well anyway, it's still an "eggcellent" list and I'm going to tweet this to my followers 🙂

    • Thank you Sarah! We are glad you agree and we are grateful for the tweet.

  • Thanks so much for this post. We chatted about a week ago about my ladies not laying since relocated to our Garden center. Now I am starting to see some feathers about….maybe starting to molt. Our silkie laid an egg today. It was the first egg in two weeks from our ladies. We have added more protein to their diet and they are getting lots of fruits and veggies. Hopefully the egg production will increase again soon!

  • Anonymous

    thank you for all your helpful information

  • Anonymous

    Keep on writing, great job!

    DIY reputation management

  • Anonymous

    I have some Rhode Island Red Chickens who are almost 8 months old. They have not produced 1 egg yet. They have a nice coop and a run. Plenty of sunshine. Any help would be appreciaed.