According to the University of Florida, chickens should begin laying eggs between 20 and 25 weeks of age, and slow down after two or three years, although some lay for many years afterward. If a hen within the common laying age range is not laying, there are a number of factors that could be responsible for the empty nest. Because egg laying is a reproductive activity, rather than a survival activity, it is often stopped or postponed if the hen's environment is not ideal.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Laying feed
- Fresh water
- Nesting box
Feed the hen a "layer" diet, which is specially designed poultry food for egg-producing hens. Any supplements added will upset the complete balance of the feed, which should remain at 13% protein, 3% calcium and .5% phosphorus. Some breeders offer calcium in the form of oyster shells.
Check the feed for mould, which will cause sickness or death in a hen.
Provide a constant supply of clean fresh water in a clean, accessible container.
Light the chicken's environment for a minimum of 14 hours each day. If the coop's source of light is natural lighting, the chicken will not begin laying until longer spring days.
Assess stress levels in the coop, including temperature, overcrowding, pecking, ventilation and predators. A hen which is too hot or living in fear will not lay.
Provide a roost and a nest box. The University of Wisconsin recommends eight inches of roost space per bird, and one nest box, or the equivalent of one square foot for every four to five birds.
Search for a hidden nest. Your hen may already be laying, but hiding her eggs in an instinctual attempt to hatch them herself.
Remove all eggs from the hen house daily. A hen that is broody, or trying to hatch eggs, will not lay eggs if a full nest triggers her to brood and stop production.
Wait until moulting is complete. Birds that are moulting---replacing old feathers with new---do not have enough energy to also lay eggs.
Analyse the health of the hen. Abnormal or patchy feather loss or signs of respiratory discomfort indicate the need for medical attention. When the hen returns to full health, she may begin laying eggs.
Tips and warnings
- If numerous hens suddenly stop laying and acting abnormally sluggish, consult a veterinarian immediately.
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