5 Major cause on sudden decrease in egg production from your laying chickens
Common reasons for a decrease in egg production
This include management mistakes such as a lack of food or water, short day length, environmental temperatures that are too high or stress. If your flock is out of food or water for even a few hours this could cause a decrease in the number of eggs being produced.
Chickens are especially sensitive to a lack of water. Failure to provide proper day length through artificial lighting as the days naturally become shorter can cause production to stop all together.
The stress associated with temperatures that are too high or too low as well as possible stress from the addition of new animals, or excess moving or handling can also be problematic.
Nutritional problems are another common reason for decreased egg production. These problems can include nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of salt, calcium, vitamin D3, protein, or fat. Additionally, decreased egg production may also be cause by an excess of certain nutrients such as too much salt, phosphorus, or vitamin D3. Moldy feed can also cause a drop in egg production due to the presence of mycotoxins.
If management issues have been ruled out and are not to blame for decreased egg production in your flock there are a variety of medical issues that could be causing the problem.
External parasites such as the northern fowl mite, lice or stick-tight fleas can all cause egg production problems. Internal parasites such as roundworms and tapeworms should also be considered. Aside from parasites there are a plethora of diseases that are likely to affect egg production.
These diseases can include fowl pox, coccidiosis, infectious bronchitis, infectious coryza, avian encephalomyelitis, Newcastle disease, avian flu, fowl cholera and mycoplasma gallisepticum. The most effective way to diagnose most of the above mentioned diseases is by having a necropsy performed by an avian pathologist.
Major Reasons For Decrease In Egg Production
Some of these reasons are natural while others can be fixed with simple changes. It’s up to us as flock raisers to solve the mystery of why farm fresh eggs might be missing from the nesting box.
First, confirm your hen isn’t hiding her eggs and creating a nest outside the coop. Then, before you go looking for an egg thief, here are five factors to consider that can affect egg production:
The first and most common cause of decreased egg production is light hours. Hens need a minimum of 16 hours of daylight to sustain strong production. Without supplemental light, they may naturally stop laying eggs due to a hormonal response as the days get shorter.
Hens lay best when provided at least 16 hours of day light, whether natural, artificial or a combination of the two. Some flock raisers use winter as a period of rest for their hens without supplemental light.
If you’re looking for consistent egg production through the winter months, provide additional light to encourage your birds to keep laying.
We recommend using one incandescent 25-watt or LED 3- to 9-watt bulb per 100 square feet of coop space. If supplementing with artificial daylight, keep your flock’s exposure and sleeping schedule consistent by putting lights on timers.
2. Coop Environment
If birds are stressed, egg production may suffer. Stress comes in many forms – predators, over-crowding, aggressive hens, loud noises, too much heat or cold, poor nutrition and illness. Check the environment to be sure there aren’t stressors in the area.
Use these tips for keeping the chicken coop stress-free:
- Predator proof your coop with galvanized wire and add metal screens on doors and windows.
- Provide at least 4 square feet of indoor space and 5-10 square feet of outdoor space per bird.
- Offer one nesting box per four hens with clean, dry bedding.
- Separate hens if the pecking order becomes aggressive.
Keep temperatures comfortable in the coop, but not drastically different than outdoors. Chickens, especially cold-tolerant breeds, can withstand winter temperatures without supplemental heat.
If you feel providing a source of heat is necessary, only raise the temperature a few degrees. Hens will adjust to the cold temperature, but if it is 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the coop and zero degrees in the run, they won’t be able to regulate their body temperature.
3. Chicken Nutrition
Another reason for decreased egg production is over-treating and over-supplementing hens. Added treats and scraps can dilute the nutrients in a complete layer feed so the hen is less able to produce eggs consistently.
Laying hens need 38 nutrients for consistent health and performance. Calcium is the most critical for laying hens; she must consume four grams of calcium each day. Complete layer feeds are formulated to provide everything hens need in the correct amounts, but if we provide too many treats, then those nutrients become diluted.
A general rule to follow is the 90/10 rule. This means the hen’s diet should be made of at least 90 percent complete feed.
Around 18 months of age and annually after, chickens go through molt, which is defined as a period of feather loss and regrowth. Molt usually occurs in autumn and is associated with a decrease in egg production.
Molting chickens redirect their energy from laying eggs to growing feathers. This results in a brief break from egg production. Molt typically lasts eight to 16 weeks, depending on the bird. Once she has a new set of feathers, egg production should return to normal.
5. Hen age
Chickens begin laying eggs between 18-20 weeks of age and can lay eggs as long as her productive lifetime allows.
People often ask us: ‘How long do chickens live?’ This is a great connection to egg production. While the average lifespan of a chicken is 8-10 years, we’ve also seen well cared-for hens live beyond that. Just like people, as birds age they tend to slow down.
Over the course of a hen’s lifetime, egg production will peak at about 250-280 eggs during their first year laying eggs. After that, the number of eggs produced each year declines until she retires.
A hen can continue to be a valued member of your flock after her peak production has passed. Retired hens provide great companionship and often become leaders in their flocks, showing younger birds the ropes.
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