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Saturday, October 9, 2010

My chickens stopped laying

Okay, my girls are seriously slacking off. The first week we had them, the two that are laying were squeezing them out like clockwork. We got about 10 eggs that week. This week? I think we got 3. WTF?

I know it's getting darker out earlier, but in one week should we see this sort of drop-off? One egg was under the roost the other morning and ice cold so I have no idea when it was laid. They all look healthy and happy and adjusted to their new environment, so what's going on, ladies?

Oh, and I did figure out that their errant brown poops were cecal poops, so I can stop worrying about diarrhea now (warning for the faint of heart: don't click on the poop link).

These chickens can be tricky :) Well, not really. Start laying ladies or you'll be looking at the inside of my All-Clad pot!

Any ideas about what's going on?

Bagawk!

21 comments:

Rebecca said...

ours have slowed too - but they're also loosing feathers and I read somewhere that while they're malting (usually for a month or so during the fall), they'll either stop laying, or slow down.....maybe they're malting?

Leevelyn said...

Some of my birds are molting and when that happens the laying becomes practically non-existent. Shorter daylight hours also really affects production, so that is a possibility.

Anna in Atlanta said...

I wouldn't worry -- chickens are like women, our emotional stress shows in our physical beings. Your ladies are likely stressed from the move, a possible change in food, and also the onset of winter. This is molting time in addition to fall -- soon your girls' feathers may all fall out and they'll use their energy to grow new ones instead of laying. My only laying girl has gone from daily to every-other-day, and I can see funky feathers start to fall. If they seem otherwise healthy, hang on. Things will pick up after molting, and even more after solstice. They still run funny even when they're not producing :-)

Cynthia in Denver said...

An entire site dedicated to chicken poop. Yeah. Speechless.

Robj98168 said...

YOu sound like you got yourself some union chickens and they are on strike- try a wage increase or some medical

Green Bean said...

Could be molting, less light, etc. Sometimes, though, the ladies just take a break. Mine did this a month or so ago and I figured it was fall. Then, they ramped back up for a couple weeks and are dropping off again. One of mine didn't lay for 6 weeks and now is laying every day. Go figure.

Green Bean said...

Oh, and the poop page, I spent hours on that page when I first got my chickens. Literally, hours devoted to analyzing chicken poop.

Amy Manning said...

Yeah, everyone's having that problem around here. Decreasing light levels. I think mine are molting as well.

Amy Manning said...

Yeah, everyone's having that problem around here. Decreasing light levels. I think mine are molting as well.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Ah, I guess that makes sense. Chloe (the only one that hasn't started laying yet) is the only one that's been losing feathers so I couldn't figure out if the other girls were thinking about molting too since they haven't lost anything yet.

Anyway, I just wanted to make sure they were doing okay besides looking so darn cute. It's good to hear that it might just be stress or molting. Or too many treats :)

Anna said...

Our group is molting big time, I mistook my rooster for a lady the other day and had to apologize! We were getting 13 eggs and now are getting 7. A poop site is soo handy, we get cecal poo often, and since no other problems arose I figured it was normal.

Any change in housing, feed, light, weather or an upset in routine will cause them to get discombobulated and forget what they were doing. My son used too bright of a light to close the doors and get them out of the nesting boxes one night, and it took 3 days to get back to normal.

Kate said...

I'm definitely seeing a reduction in egg count here in PA as days become shorter. But only about a 15% reduction. Going from 10 eggs/week to 3 sounds like something else to me. Molting will definitely account for one hen being out of commission. Are you seeing any signs of egg eating, or have they perhaps found a place to lay outside of the nesting box?

panamamama said...

I was wondering if it was the daylight length too. My girls had just started laying- I went on vaca for a week and they laid NONE when I was gone (or my hubby didn't find them) and then now none. Either that or they are hiding them from me. Do they do that?

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

It depends on their age too, besides low daylight, and natural molting in fall. If they are pullets, that just started to lay, they shouldn't slow down - if they have been laying since molt last year, they are taking a break. They can't lay eggs when they are growing feathers.

All that aside, eggs are the first thing to go if nutritional needs aren't being met, usually protein and energy is lacking. Both are needed more during the fall and winter dark days. Hopefully they have full access to a good feed and they are just molting. Plan on about 6 - 8 weeks for full feathering.

deb ... p.s. bohemian said...

Talking w/ a gal at the farmer's market about keeping chickens recently and she said to put a light in the hen house and have it on in the darker days/months to 'trick' them into laying more then - no idea if it works since I don't have my chickens yet but figured I should pass it along.

Brad K. said...

Deb,

I believe it is the pituitary gland that reacts to changes in day length. In horses and some other animals that change signals shedding the summer coat for fall, or fall coat in the spring. Horses also stop going into heat in the winter time. Since horses are aged at January 1 instead of the actual foaling date, racing folk like to breed their horses for January foals - and they do the same thing we do with chickens. Turn on a light for 12 hours every day.

That way a cloudy day or two, or decreased day length of late Fall, Winter, and early Spring won't let the reproductive system go dormant to rest, won't let the winter coat set on, and won't stop the eggs from appearing.

@ PanamaMama,

Yes, chickens with places to hide will hide their eggs. Being chickens, the hiding place, once you find it, won't likely seem terribly clever. After you find it, that is.

We had one group of pullets begin laying before we noticed - and had a bunch of rotten eggs on some boards stuck over the rafters in a barn.

@ Crunchy,

How much human interaction are the hens getting? If they are being interacted with more than they are used to - I imagine that will throw their cycles off. Also, if they had the day-lights on where they were before arriving at the Crunchy Chicken Manor, and then there were no more lights, the drop might be their reaction to a winter lull.

I never lit my hen house, I got my chickens for other reasons (keep flies down behind the barn), and I figure if the natural cycle includes dropping egg production in winter - it will be that much longer before I need to replace chickens for old age. I figure the winter "lull" lets the body recuperate, restore, and reset for the next season. To me that is as important for long term flock health as mixing up the feed with grass, milo seed heads, watermelon rinds, etc.

Robj98168 said...

To solve your problem, just show your girls this picture- Might solve the problem.

Greenpa said...

I was pretty astonished to read all these comments and not find the one that popped into my head first- Calcium!

Laying hens need a constant and large supply, and it's often NOT provided in the feed, even feeds designed for laying hens.

You should have (maybe you do?) a constant supply of free-choice calcium in their pen; it's available at any Chicken Depot (no, that's not a real name); most commonly as crushed oyster shell, or crushed limestone. You can get fancy and find dolomitic limestone, and a couple other kinds, in case you need some minors.

Failure to provide it can lead to.... EGG EATING.

Horrors. Yup, if they get hungry enough, they'll eat that food, right there. When this happens, they eat everything, most definitely including the shell; so sometimes it's hard to know it's going on. A big pain to break that habit, once formed. Incidentally, lots of people feed their eggshells back to the chickens after breakfast; but crush them thoroughly and mix with their feed, so they don't get ideas.

Guess two- trauma. (I'm not much of a fan of the shorter daylight theory; many chickens lay all winter, blah, blah, blah)

Anyway- did they accidentally mess up their water supply recently, and go thirsty for a half day or so? That'll do it. No eggs for several day.

Or, did a neighbor's dog (or kids) get into the yard and terrify them for a couple minutes, barking into the cage? That'll do it.

I just traumatized 6 of my hens (watch for my next blog post, it'll cover this); and two days later, they're laying 3 a day, on average; in Minnesota (short days).

Anonymous said...

Backyardchickens.com for all that is chickens

Miss Kris said...

I buy my eggs from Dog Mountain Farm and just stocked up because of this. A slow-down in production this time of year is normal for hens in our area. The farmer said that his hens start producing eggs again in a couple of months. You can give them artificial light, but he said the break is good for them.

April said...

Have you ever heard of the Seattle Urban Farm Co-op? You can get & share a lot of chicken info! You can even purchase your chicken feed in bulk through the co-op among many other things! If you have not heard of it, you should check them out. http://www.seattlefarmcoop.com/ Sign up for the online forums on yahoo groups, the link is towards the bottom of the page on the left.

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