Homestead and Gardening

Why Aren’t My Chickens Laying Eggs? Troubleshooting Chicken Egg Laying Problems

The price of eggs is HIGH but your chickens aren’t paying their rent with eggs. What’s going on? Why aren’t those freeloaders dropping golden eggs? There are a lot of possibilities but in this post, we will help you troubleshoot why your fowlish friends aren’t providing food for the breakfast table.

Why aren’t my chickens laying eggs? Let’s find out.

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1. Your Chickens Aren’t Laying Because There’s Not Enough Daylight

grass during sunset
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Shortened sunlight hours are probably the #1 reason why your chickens aren’t laying. When the days are short and with only a few sunlight hours chickens don’t lay as many eggs.

But Hannah — you might say if you know my name — my chickens laid last winter and they’re not laying this winter.

I know. Ours did the same thing. The first winter their laying slowed down, but they continued to lay pretty well. Second winter their production dropped. Third winter (where we are now) they stopped laying for a few months and are only now (in the middle of January) beginning to lay again (sometimes).

Why does their egg production slow down or stop when the sun is hiding? According to Kansas State Research and Extension,

“In normal daylight conditions (14 hours), hens almost always lay their eggs before 3pm. After the hens lay, the process of developing the egg starts over in about 45 minutes with the release of the next ovum (yolk). The time it takes for an egg to develop, from yolk to egg, is around 24 hours. So, you usually see an egg every day.”

They go on to say:

“To understand why the amount of light plays such a huge role, you first have to understand the poultry’s reproductive system. Chickens detect light through their retinal cones in their eyes and in their pineal and hypothalamic glands in their brain. The detection of light triggers hormone production that is important in reproduction. So, if these glands do not receive the correct amount of light, egg production slows and you may not see an egg for multiple days.”

How to Solve The Problem of Light

There are a few options to offer as a solution to a few daylight hours.

Option one: Do nothing.

Lowered egg production in the winter is a normal process that chickens go through. Some people think that adding a light to the chicken coop can add stress to the chickens. Chickens also have a limited number of eggs they can lay in their life, so you’re ultimately not getting more eggs from a chicken. However, you will be able to get more

Option two: Add supplemental light to the chicken coop. You can add a light bulb to your coop to simulate the sun to your chickens.

The Penn State Exentension suggests:

  • 14-16 hours of light a day
  • Use a 25-40 watt bulb
  • Do not exceed 16 hours a day
  • Add artificial light in the morning

Some additional suggestions for adding light:

  • Keep light bulb in a safe place free from feathers, bedding, and debris (fire hazards)
  • Gradually work your way up to 16 hours of light
  • Get a timer that automatically turns the lights on and off
  • Too much light can stress your chickens and cause problems. They do need some time to sleep.

What You Need to Set Up a Light in Your Chicken Coop

To set up a light in your chicken coop you need a light bulb and it’s helpful to have a timer so you don’t have to manually turn the light on and off.

I found these rechargeable lights on Amazon. It comes in a pack of four, and you can set timers on them for your chickens. Most chicken owners agree that warm lights work best for your chicken coop so choose one with “warm” light.

I also found these solar-powered lights that have a remote timer and different settings for a light color.

You can also use a light bulb or a shop light with an electrical cord and a timer.

I would not recommend using a heat lamp in your coop. It’s a fire hazard and your chickens don’t need it in winter to survive.

Keep Your Chickens and Chicken Coop Safe

A light bulb or shop light is also a potential fire hazard, so here are some ideas to help keep your chickens safe:

  • Don’t use heat lamps
  • Keep lights away from bedding and debris that might spark a fire.
  • Regularly check lights for damage or blown fuses/breaks.
  • Only use cords that are free from damage
  • Don’t overload an extension cord
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near the coop

2. Your Chickens Are Too Young

Another good reason your chickens might not be laying is that they aren’t old enough. The average age for a chicken to begin laying eggs is 6 months, but some might take as long as 8 months before they begin laying.

Certain breeds take longer to lay also. Breeds like Plymouth Rock, Wyandottes, Opringtons, and Brahmas might take longer to start laying.

Young chickens who come to age during the winter might take longer to start laying because of the aforementioned reason (not enough daylight).

How to Solve the Problem of Chickens That Are Too Young

Wait until they’re older ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Your Chickens Are Too Old

four assorted color roosters
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

It’s a sad truth but chickens do eventually age out of laying. You’ll probably notice that they gradually slow down laying and then eventually stop.

How long do chickens ordinarily lay eggs? Ask different people and they’ll give you different answers, but most backyard chickens will continue laying at least occasionally up until 3-4 years. Your average chicken can live up to 6-8 years (and some live longer), and some people report that their chickens will still lay until these older ages, but you can’t count on it.

You’ll also notice that your chickens will lay fairly regularly during their first winter, but will gradually slow down in succeeding winters. Even as they age, they may begin to pick up again in the spring when the days get longer.

How to Solve the Problem of Chickens Being Too Old

I think the best way to solve this problem is to get new chickens every 1-3 years so that you always have an influx of new chickens in the prime of their laying season.

4. Your Chickens Aren’t Laying Because There’s a Problem With Their Feed

person feeding white chicken outdoor
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There’s a lot of chatter in the chicken community about the quality of the chicken feed you’re feeding your chickens. Some people believe the government is actively trying to stop the production of eggs, and others think that feed companies are cutting corners due to inflation and shortages. Some people believe that corporations are intentionally making feed quality poor so they can make more money selling eggs.

Whether the conspiracies are true or not, it is helpful to know what exactly your chickens need to be healthy and lay eggs.

What Chickens Need in a Well Balanced Diet

Chickens are omnivores, which may be a surprising fact to some people. They eat seeds, grain, and grass, but they will also eat worms, insects, snakes, mice, and frogs. Most chickens don’t get all of their food from foraging, and some get none at all so it’s important to have good feed that meets all of their nutritional needs.

Most bagged feed you buy will be made to include the essential nutrients that your chicken needs to live and lay eggs.

According to the University of Georgia Extension, the things chickens need are:

  • Carbohydrates
    • Cereal grains like corn, wheat, barley, and millet can provide them with the carbs chickens need
  • Fat
  • Protein
    • Protein sources in your chicken’s feed might be soybean meal, corn gluten meal, sunflower seeds, fishmeal, meat, and bonemeal.
  • Vitamins
    • Some of the vitamins that chickens need include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, B vitamins. (They naturally make vitamin C on their own so it does not need to be added to their diet).
  • Minerals
    • Minerals needed in their diet include calcium, phosphorus, and salt. Chicken farmers will often use oyster shells to make sure chickens get the calcium
  • Water

Some people have started making their own feed for their chickens, but be careful when you do so in case you miss some of the essential nutritional needs of your chickens both for their health and for their egg-laying.

How to Solve Feed Problems

If you suspect your feed isn’t meeting the needs of your chickens, you can switch to a higher quality feed or try a different brand or variety. You can also see if you have a local feed mill that can give you information about how they make their food and what goes into it.

Your chickens may also need supplements for their feed such as oyster shells, calcium supplements, or extra protein.

5. Some Breeds Don’t Lay As Much as Others

brown eggs in brown wicker basket
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You may notice that some breeds of chickens lay more often and longer in their life than other chickens. Chicken breeds/hybrids that are known for being good layers are:

  • Rhode Island Red 200-300 eggs a year
  • Leghorn 250-300 eggs per year
  • Red Sex Link 250-300 eggs per year
  • Sussex 200-250 eggs per year
  • Buff Orpingtons 200-280 per year
  • Isa Brown – 300-350 per year

Chicken breeds/hybrids that may be poor layers:

  • Dorking – 170-190 eggs per year
  • Japanese Bantams – eggs 75 per year
  • Silkies – ~ 120 eggs per year

How to Solve Chicken Breed Problems

You may find that you would like certain breeds because of their temperament, appearance, or personality, even if they aren’t considered “excellent layers.” There are many breeds that are great to have in your flock but would be considered average in egg production. However, if your main goal is regular eggs you may want to choose high-yield breeds.

6. Your Hens May Be Broody

close up photo of chick
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A broody chicken refers to a hen that wants to sit on eggs and hatch chicks. When a hen is in this mode, she will stop laying eggs. Some breeds of chicken are more likely to be broody than others. This is not necessarily a bad thing if you’re hoping to have chicks raised by a mother hen, but it can be frustrating if you are not intending on hatching chicks and only want fresh eggs.

How to Solve the Problem of Broody Hens

The first step is to choose breeds that are not inclined to be broody. For example, Silkies are known for being broody and are also not highly productive layers. (If your hope is to have good mama hens, then you may intentionally look for broody breeds).

If you have a particularly stubborn broody hen, here are some tips to get her to stop:

  • Collect eggs regularly so she doesn’t have a chance to sit on the nest
  • Kick her off the nest and take her outside. You can offer her treats to stay outside.
  • Close off the nesting boxes once everyone has laid for the day.
  • Remove the hen and put her in a place with food and water but no bedding for a few days.
  • Put a frozen water bottle under your hen.

7. Your Chickens Are Laying But May Be Eating Their Eggs

It’s really discouraging when your chickens eat their own eggs. You’ll often find evidence of their activities, but sometimes they’ll eat the entire egg so you won’t know you’re not getting their eggs.

When it happened to us, we tried a variety of tactics, but what ended up working the best was checking many times a day to see if they had laid an egg. My daughter took a trip outside about every 30 minutes or so or any time we heard an egg-laying song. The chickens got a little froggy and started making their egg-laying sound even when they weren’t laying eggs, so between the two of us, we were at the chicken coop a whole lot those days.

It can be very difficult to get chickens to break the habit of eating their eggs. Even though I believe ours stopped eating their eggs for a time, I did find evidence of a broken/eaten egg the other day. It’s not something they’re doing 100% of the time, but it’s still an irritation.

How to Get Chickens to Stop Eating Their Eggs

  • You can try taking an empty eggshell and putting something unappetizing in it, but I don’t really think that works in my experience. We filled an empty eggshell with mustard and left it in the coop for our chickens. They broke into it right away but didn’t seem to mind the mustard too much.
  • Checking on your eggs very frequently — and I mean very frequently — can be a good way to help them break the habit, but it’s not always a practical solution for everyone, especially if you have a job that takes you away from your house.
  • When chickens eat their eggs, it could be a sign of a nutritional deficiency. Protein and calcium are common things your chickens may be lacking, and their eggs provide both of these things.
    • You can ensure they’re getting protein in their diet by giving them layer feed. In addition, offer things like mealworms, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, bean sprouts, worms, or insects to your chickens. Some people even feed animal carcasses to their birds. I’ve heard of people feeding cat food to their chickens, but I wouldn’t suggest it since cat feed is not formulated for your chickens.
    • Calcium can be given to them by providing crushed oyster shells. Some people recommend feeding chickens their crushed eggshells back to them and don’t believe it leads to them eating their fresh eggs.
  • Make sure you have a lot of soft nesting material in the nesting box to help prevent an egg from accidentally breaking when they drop its egg.
  • Quickly remove any egg debris after a chicken has broken one.
  • Boredom is another reason why chickens may break and eat their eggs. Some ways to keep your chickens entertained include:
    • Time outside free ranging.
    • Hanging a mirror in their run.
    • Giving them materials like hay, fresh dirt, sand, or leaves to scratch through.
    • Give them a dust bath.
    • Provide extra perches or swings.
  • Some people recommend putting fake eggs in your coop. In theory, your chickens will get frustrated and tired of pecking at fake eggs and will leave the real ones alone.
  • If the problem persists, you can install a roll-away nesting box on your coop that prevents your chicken from having access to the egg once they’ve laid it.

8. Your Chickens Have a Predator Problem

Predators may be snagging your eggs, reducing the number of eggs you can collect. If your chicken is attacked by a predator or even if they are afraid of a nearby predator attack, the stress can cause them to stop laying for a time.

A Solution to a Chicken Predator Problem

When we built our chicken coop, we used black hardware cloth for their run and coop. This is expensive to purchase, but it is very good at keeping critters out of your coop. Then, as an added layer of protection, we used woven wire fencing on the ground around the coop to keep predators from digging into the run.

9. Your Chickens are Laying Anywhere but the Nesting Box

You may be getting tons of eggs — just not where they should be. Free-ranging chickens are especially likely to lay eggs freely – under the porch, in the woods, behind the shed, in the middle of the road. Anywhere but the nesting box.

You may not know that your chickens are laying somewhere besides the nesting box, so it’s a good idea to watch their behavior. You can also leave them inside their coop/run for a few days to see if the issue is that they’re not laying in their nesting box. Search the coop and run for possible drops in the wrong spot.

If you discover an egg in an old boot on the porch, here’s your next step.

Solutions to Chickens Laying in the Wrong Places

  • Don’t let them free-range for a little while. If you’ve got a hippy farm that allows your chickens to be free ranging all the time, what do you expect? Loose chickens, loose morals, I always say. But in all seriousness, just give them a few days closed up and they might start laying in their nesting boxes again.
  • Another tip is to put fake chicken eggs in their nesting box. Chickens like to lay where other chickens lay. I don’t know why. Nothing about chicken biology really makes sense to me. (Why make a sound when you lay an egg to alert every predator around?). But anyway, if the chickens see an egg (even a fake one) it might inspire them to lay there too.
  • Keep adequate bedding in your nesting boxes. Our chickens loved kicking out the bedding in their nesting box and then they didn’t want to lay there anymore. We added a strip of wood to help keep the bedding in and that helped a lot too.
  • It’s also important to keep your nesting boxes clean.

10. Your Chickens Might Have an Illness or Parasites

I won’t talk extensively about this, but your chickens might be laying fewer eggs because of common illnesses or parasites.

Common parasites that plague chickens include:

  • Lice
  • Fleas
  • Mites
  • Ticks
  • Flies

Some common illnesses include:

  • Coccidiosis
  • Avian influenza (which is deadly)
  • Fowl pox
  • Salmonellosis

Solutions For Keeping Your Flock Healthy

Taking care of parasites and keeping your flock free from illness is a bigger subject than I will cover in this short section, but some general things you can do are:

  • Provide plenty of food and water for your chickens
  • Ensure your chickens are having their nutritional needs met.
  • Quarantine sick chickens.
  • Sterilize the coop if there has been sickness or disease.
  • Sprinkle diatomaceous earth (DE) in their run/provide a dust bath that includes DE. This can help with parasites such as mites. (Some people believe that DE can be harmful to chickens. The main concern is their lungs because DE can be breathed in. To avoid hurting them, spread the DE when the chickens are not in around and give it a chance to settle before introducing them back in.)
  • Clean out your coop bedding and clean and replace the bedding in your nesting boxes.

11. Your Chickens Are Molting

egg near blueberries
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Once a year (usually in the fall) you’ll notice that your chickens will lose a lot of their feathers and look like they are dying. That’s an exaggeration, but they do look super weird when they lose their feathers.

It typically takes about 8 weeks for your chickens to complete this process, but it can take as long as 16 weeks. During this time, your chickens won’t be laying eggs.

How to Solve the Problem of Molting

This is a natural part of a chicken’s life, so you can’t stop it and you wouldn’t want to. It’s best not to handle your chickens during this time because it can make them feel uncomfortable. Some people think it’s helpful to increase your chicken’s protein intake while they’re molting to help them grow back their feathers.

Why Aren’t My Chickens Laying Eggs Solved

There are 21 reasons why your chickens aren’t laying eggs. Have you been discouraged by the lack of eggs in your coop? Try some of these 11 solutions and see if things begin to improve.

What have I missed? Are there any other reasons why your chickens may have stopped laying? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

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