Why are my Chickens not laying eggs?

We get commonly asked, ‘Why are my chickens not laying eggs?’ and there are many answers to this quandary. Some owners feel stressed and anxious when they always open up the door of their coop only to find an empty laying box. Read the following information to find some possible answers:

How old are your hens?

Normally chickens start to lay at around 20-24 weeks old, although this depends on the breed. Most heritage pullets don’t start to lay until 24 weeks old and this can be 30 weeks if it is deep winter and the daylight hours are short. Some hybrid chickens such as the hy-lines and the Isa Browns, only produce an abundance of eggs for the first two years of their life. When you purchase your chickens be sure to ask exactly how old they are to give you a rough idea of when to look for eggs. You also need to understand even if all hens are the same age, some reach laying ability before others. We don’t all mature at the same rate. When a hen is close to the age of laying eggs, her comb will be large and deep red. This is a sign of maturity.

Young Heritage Breed Pullets
Young Heritage Breed Pullets
Mature Australorp Hen
Mature Australorp Hen

Also, when a hen is getting close to laying her pin bones (or pelvis bones) separate out so she can pass an egg. If a hen is young or not laying her pin bones will be close. We have this you-tube video to show you how to check. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WOw0vuEjCc

Are your chickens getting feed with enough protein?

When it comes to hens of laying age, what you feed them is very important and will directly influence the number of eggs produced. Laying chickens need to consume about 16 % of their diet as protein, so it is important that you choose a layer crumble or pellet with at least 16% protein if you want them to produce eggs. We have found that our chickens consume less of our feed if we feed them quality crumble (we use 17% layer crumble) as they can extract their nutritional needs from it effectively. We have found that lower quality feed equals production of more chicken manure not more eggs.

Laying hens need to be on layer food for approximately 2 weeks prior to the onset of laying. Medicated grower or starter feed specifically states that you shouldn’t consume eggs from chickens eating the feed or, they have been on it in the past two weeks.

It is also important that you are not feeding your chicken to many scraps and/or scratch mix. If you feed your chickens to much rice, bread and other low protein food, they will fill up and leave no space for the nutritional feed. They are like children and if you offer them lollies they will eat them. It is okay to feed your chickens around a handful of scratch mix once a day to put them in or as a treat but don’t go overboard.

Do your hens have access to food and water all the time, even during the night?

At sun-rise every morning, your chickens love to come out of their roosting space and have some food and water. Exposure to sunlight stimulates a hens ovaries to commence making another egg. Its is important that chickens have access to food, water and sunlight as early as possible in the morning. Chickens need 14 hours of sunlight in a day to produce an egg approximately every 26 hours. Lack of light slows this process.

Are your chickens stressed?

Making an egg is a process that takes about 4 days. If your chickens are being chased or harassed by a dog, fox, cat or young child during the day or the night, this can stop them laying. This can also happen if you move chickens to a new location or you introduce new chickens and upset the balance of your flock.

Do your chickens have worms or lice?

How to dust chickens for lice

Parasites suck the blood of chickens and can irritate, annoy and make your chicken sick – this can be enough to put your chickens off the lay. We recommend treating for lice and worms at each change of season (every 3 months) and more often if you an infestation. We sell the products for worming and treating parasites that do not have an egg withholding period so you can safely eat your chickens eggs when you have treated them.

Are your hens moulting?

All chickens moult their feathers and grow new ones. This generally happens in autumn or winter each year. Chickens do not lay eggs when they are moulting as they are using all of their energy to grow feathers and stay warm. Roosters also moult each year and this effects their fertility.

Australorp in a very full moult.
Australorp in a very full moult.

Is your hen broody?

If your hen is broody or on the way to going broody, she will not lay eggs. If your hen desires to be a mother of baby chickens, she increases her body temperature, sometimes plucks her chest feathers and sits in the nesting box day and night (eggs or no eggs). You can read our page on what to do with a broody hen if you suspect that your hen is broody. what-to-do-with-a-broody-hen/