Episode 9 – In this episode we discuss reasons a hen stops laying and what you can do about it.
Looking at our stats, I noticed that we have picked up a bit of an international following. We now have listeners in Canada, England, Australia, Italy, the U.K., India and Tanzania. By my count, that’s five continents! Now we just need a listener in South America and one on Antarctica. Anyone know someone at the ice station down there?
Oven Pancake Recipe [01:44]
Suzy found an believably good recipe for oven pancakes. They taste like a cross between pancakes and french toast.
Ten Reasons Hens Stop Laying – Part 1 [05:44]
It can be very frustrating when a hen has been laying for a while and then suddenly stops for no apparent reason. There are ten reasons that hens might stop laying. We will cover the first five in this episode and the next five in episode 10.
1. Insufficient Daylight [07:02]
Hens need at least 14 hours of daylight to lay eggs. In the winter time, there is much less natural light than that, so your hens will very likely slow down their egg production or stop altogether.
You can get them going again by providing artificial light to extend the light hours. Set the lights on timers to make sure they get the light consistently each day.
It is better to provide the artificial light in the morning rather than at the end of the day. When it begins to get dark, hens head to the coop and get settled on their roost poles for the evening. If the coop is well lit, they miss their cue to get on their roost pole and when the lights suddenly go out, they may have to remain wherever they stand.
2. Molting [10:24]
Molting is a natural process that hens go through once per year where they lose their feathers and grow new ones. A typical molt lasts two months, although they can take anywhere between one and six months.
The best thing you can do is be patient. The molt takes as long as it takes.
You should be more gentle with molting hens, as their bodies are tender. You should also do what you can to reduce their stress as much as possible. Avoid moving them to another coop or moving in new roommates.
Feeding them some extra protein can be helpful. Mealworms, scrambled eggs or extra-protein feed are ways to boost their protein levels.
3. Poor Nutrition [14:08]
Laying hens need a balanced diet and lots of clean water. Feeding them too many treats – even healthy treats – can affect their nutritional balance.
Also watch to see that all of your hens are accessing the feeder and waterer. If one hen is bullying the others by keeping them away from food and water, you may need to set up an additional feeder or waterer so the other hens have access.
4. Disease [16:35]
A drop in egg production could be the first symptom of a disease. Look for changes in behavior, watery eyes and nostrils, sneezing, coughing, and breathing noises.
The best thing to do is keep your hens from getting sick in the first place. Do this by keeping a their environment clean and follow good biosecurity practices.
5. Parasites [19:31]
Chickens are susceptible to both internal parasites, like worms, and external parasites like mites, lice, and fleas.
You can use wormer on a schedule to prevent worms or you can use it when your birds become infested. If you do not follow a worming schedule, make sure you check your chickens’ poo regularly for worms and treat them if you find any.
Anytime you use a dewormer, make sure you follow the withdrawal time. Don’t eat the eggs during that period after you have used the wormer.
As for the external parasites, check every hen once a month by tilting her upside down, separating the feathers around her vent and look for any little critters that might be running around.
If you find lice, mites, or fleas, you can dust them with food grade diotemaceous earth (DE) on day one and again on day 7. Sprinkle it around their vent area, on the back of their neck and under each wing. If DE doesn’t do the trick, you can try something stronger like Sevin. Sevin is a chemical pesticide and is not something you want to breathe in. Wear a mask if you are going to use this on your chickens.