Why Are My Chickens Laying Fewer Eggs?

Posted by Daphne Cybele
chickens are not laying eggs
Photo: United Soybean Board on Flickr

Wondering why your egg basket is light?

Are you seeing less eggs from your chickens when you go out to collect from the coop? It may be that time of year, or it may be illness, or several other reasons why your chickens are not laying eggs.

Do you want to figure out why your chickens aren't laying as many eggs? Here are six reasons why your egg basket or egg apron might be a little lighter and you're seeing fewer eggs from chickens.

1. Time of Year

You will see fewer eggs from chickens during the early fall and winter time months, primarily because the reduced amount of light (or reduced day length) during these seasons.

Chickens need 14-16 or so hours of sunlight daily in order to regularly lay eggs. The shorter days of late summer and early autumn trigger a decrease in egg production for mature hens. This decrease is tied to daylight length and hormones, and is a major reason your chickens are not laying eggs during some times of the year.

Each day after the summer solstice in late June is progressively a bit shorter until the winter equinox on December 20 when the days once again begin to lengthen.

fewer eggs from chickens

Your chickens will lay less (or stop laying eggs) during the winter season, beginning with the reduced day length of late summer and fall days. Egg production in laying hens generally picks up again in early February.

You can add lights to the coop (these should come on early in the morning when it is still dark) to stimulate egg production during winter months. Although, artificial light during the winter is likely to come at a cost to future production. Laying through the winter without a "rest period" may shorten the total length of time a hen lays eggs by up to half.

spotless eggs fresh from the coop - no more cleaning dirty eggs

2. Broodiness

You will see a drop in egg production when you have broody hens in your chicken coop. Even when you remove the eggs from underneath her daily, a broody hen will sit in an empty nesting box, will eat and drink less, and will stop egg laying.

Broody hens are determined to sit on a clutch of eggs (or in an empty nest box) for a few weeks trying to hatch chicks. Signs you might have a broody hen: refusal or reluctance to leave the nest box for hours at a time, grouchy pecking when you reach into the nest box, and a bare area, free of feathers on the abdomen.

READ MORE7 Reasons to Let a Broody Hen Hatch Eggs

3. Molting

Molting chickens lay fewer eggs or stop entirely for part or all of their molt. Growing feathers takes tremendous amounts of protein and resources, so the energy and resources for laying eggs are diverted to feather growth during molt. Have patience. Laying resumes when less energy and resources are needed for growing feathers.

READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Molting Chickens

Reduce the stress of molting by adding high protein feed and treats (and free range when possible so your chickens can hunt down high-protein insects). Mealworms and sunflower seeds are good to supplement during molting.

Some new backyard chicken owners may think reduced laying from a molt is permanent, but that is not the case!

molting chicken
Photo: Good Life Permaculture

4. Stress

Anything that stresses your chickens may impact the number of eggs you are able to collect from the chicken coop. New chickens added to the flock, a heat wave, predator sightings, a loud thunderstorm, a move of location, a new coop, crowding, inadequate feed, molting, and illness mean fewer eggs from chickens. Stress can reduce egg laying or even induce a molt.

Avoid nutritional stress by feeding a good quality layer feed and ensure a supply of calcium from supplements such as crushed egg shells or crushed oyster shells. Grit is essential for digestion, and all chickens need a daily supply of fresh water. A balanced diet also includes fresh greens when available.

cleaning dirty eggs (and how to get spotless eggs)

5. Illness

Illness can reduce the number of eggs a chicken lays. Sickness from disease, a stuck egg, and parasites are all illnesses to check for when you are seeing fewer eggs from chickens.

When in doubt, consult an avian vet near you.

6. Age

Chickens typically lay eggs for five to seven years, more or less. Some hens continue to lay without a drop in production for many years. Some hens may stop laying frequently after three to five years.

There is a persistent belief that older hens stop laying well, even after just two years. While commercial egg layer operations will cull their hens after two years (for peak efficiency), your backyard chickens actually have many years of productive egg-laying left.

free range eggs healthier?

So there you have it, the six reasons your chickens are not laying eggs or why you might find fewer eggs when you head out to the chicken coop to collect eggs. Evaluate why you may be getting less eggs, and, more often than not, just be patient!

Are your hens laying fewer eggs right now? Do you miss fresh eggs? We want to hear about it, so let us know in the comments below!

Photos via Daphne Cybele unless otherwise specified. 

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Why Are My Chickens Laying Fewer Eggs?