Domestic egg-laying chickens can lay an egg every 25 to 28 hours. However, certain circumstances can cause hens to stop laying eggs, including environmental stresses, seasonal changes, nutrition problems, ageing, moulting and egg binding.
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Chickens are connected to their environment and are sensitive to changes. A new coop, a new nesting box, lack of food and water, and frequent visits by predators can cause a hen stress, which causes her to stop laying. A clean, well-maintained coop, protection from weather and predators, and time to adjust to a new environment will reduce stress and improve egg production.
Chickens lay best at temperatures between 7.22 and 26.6 degrees C and need about 14 hours of daylight. Hens will slow or stop their egg production as winter approaches, when the weather cools and daylight hours shorten. Adding lights to the hen house lengthens the amount of daylight and warms the air, encouraging egg production.
According to the University of Florida, "laying chickens require a completely balanced diet to sustain maximum egg production over time. Inadequate nutrition can cause hens to stop laying." Maintaining a diet blended and balanced for laying hens is important for good production. Also, egg shells are made up of calcium carbonate. Adding oyster shells or other calcium supplements to the hen's feed will improve shell development and egg production.
At about 18 months old, chickens will lose some or all of their feathers and grow new ones. This is a natural process called moulting. Moulting lasts between two and four months, and hens stop laying eggs during this time. Laying will resume when the moult is over.
Chickens begin laying eggs at about 6 months old and can lay well into their teens. However, production begins to significantly decline after three years. By 10 years old, a hen is laying about 10 per cent of her original level of production.
Egg binding occurs when a hen forms an egg, but the egg is stuck inside her body. Egg binding is a relatively common condition that can be prevented with balanced nutrition. A bound egg can be released with a warm bath or gentle massaging. As a last resort, the egg can be broken, and the pieces removed.
A decrease in eggs might not be from a decrease in egg production. Hens will eat eggs, and so will snakes and other predators. Also, close quarters will cause excessive breakage. Chickens need a properly sized, secure facility for good egg production.
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