11 Reasons why your hens aren't laying

You have a full flock of hens but your egg basket is regularly empty. What gives? There are a lot of reasons why your hens might not be laying. From age to illness, almost anything can go wrong and cause a hen to stop laying. Luckily, many of these issues are easily fixed!

hens aren't laying

Why your hens aren't laying eggs


Here's my list of 11 reasons why your hen is not laying eggs, starting with the easiest and most common reasons. Make sure you read all the way to the end to see my bonus 3 reasons why you may just think your hens are not laying...and where the eggs may actually be instead.

1) Too young: Many chickens look full grown before they actually are. Depending on the breed, your hens may not start laying till they're almost 8 months old! I've heard of Silkies that didn't lay till they were 9 months old. While most hens will start laying between 4 & 6 months old, it might just be a little too early for your hen to lay. Hang in there a few months, she should start laying in time.

2) Old age: Egg production in most hens slows down after age two. As they age from there, the amount they lay can decrease each year. My oldest hen is 8 years old and lays about 5 eggs a week for maybe 2 months in summer. Some will lay more than this, and some will lay much less. This can also depend on breed.

3) She's broody: When a hen goes broody she starts sitting on eggs to hatch them, but she stops laying more eggs. Even if you take away the eggs she's sitting on, the hen won't start laying again as long as she's broody. It's a hormonal thing, she can't just change her mind to not sit. If you don't want chicks you can break her from being broody. Or you could just let her hatch chicks. It only takes 21 days and hens generally start laying again when the chicks are about 6 weeks old.

4) Insufficient diet: Laying hens need a healthy, balanced diet. Too many treats or not enough vitamins, minerals or protein can cause them to stop laying eggs. Make sure your hens have access to good quality feed and plenty of clean water. You could also try fermenting feed to add to your hens diet. Fermented feed has a higher nutrient absorption rate then regular feed. Chickens don't need as much fermented feed to get the same (or better) nutritional benefits. Plus, fermented feed is full of probiotics to keep my flock healthy.


molting hens do not lay eggs.

5) Molting: Chickens generally tend to molt in fall, though molting can happen at any time of year. They will experience a pattern of feather loss along with a cease in egg production. Molting generally lasts about 2 months as their feathers fall out and grow back in. Hens will start laying again when their molt is done.

6) Illness: Illness can take its toll on a laying hen. As her body is fighting to get better, egg production might stop. She should start laying again shortly after she gets better.

7) Parasites: Becoming infested with external or internal parasites can cause a hen to stop laying. Northern fowl mites feed on blood which can cause anemia. Check between feathers and around vent for signs of mites and lice. Internal parasites like worms can cause a decline in nutrient absorption. 

It can be difficult to tell if a chicken has internal parasites. Diarrhea, eating more, losing weight and a halt to laying can all be symptoms of worms. You can take a fecal sample to your local veterinarian for testing. Many vets will do this test, as they they do the test for cats and dogs anyway. 

8) Trauma: Injury, attack or other trauma can cause a hen to stop laying eggs. I had a hen that broke her leg when a rock fell off a stone wall. She stopped laying while in recovery, but once her splint was off and she rejoined the group, she quickly got back to her normal laying pattern. Once healed up, an injured hen will resume laying.


hens not laying

9) Drama: Yes, chickens have drama too! The pecking order is very real! A hen that is bullied or picked on may stop laying. Watch to make sure that there isn't any abnormally mean behaviors in your flock. A move, new coop, or new flock mate may also cause hens to stop laying. 

A predator attack can also cause the survivors to stop laying for awhile. Give it some time for the drama to blow over and the girls should be back to laying eggs in no time!

10) Weather: Extremely hot or cold weather can throw your hens off their laying schedule. Every summer when it gets brutally hot my girls go from giving me a dozen eggs a day in the big coop, down to 1 or 2. Once the days cool down just a bit, all the hens go back to full time laying.

11) Season: Regardless of age, many hens won't lay in winter. It actually has more to do with the hours of daylight then with the temperature. Even hens in California slow down their laying in winter. Although extreme cold can put them off a bit. (see above) You can add a few hours of 'daylight' to their days with a light in the coop. I personally don't choose to light the coop in winter but many people do with excellent results.

Or this could be the problem....

Egg eaters: I have personally not had an egg eater that goes into nest boxes to do the deed. I have dropped an egg and the girls have swarmed it eating it down to nothing in seconds. There was only a few chips of shell left! Don't assume because you're not finding empty shells that it's not your girls. Egg eating is easier prevented than stopped, but it is possible.

Opossums, snakes, raccoons and squirrels: Opossums love eggs. In fact, I have caught an opossum in a guinea nest before. I reached in and started pushing it aside thinking it was a lavender guinea, then it turned and looked at me. You can just imagine how my stomach dropped! 

Snakes will eat eggs or chicks. Unfortunately they will kill a chicken they can't possibly eat if it disturbs them while they're looking for a meal. Raccoons will eat eggs (or chickens). Squirrels will also eat eggs. Many people don't associate them with rats because they are so cute, but squirrels are rodents and will eat eggs and even chicks. Any of these predators could be the reason you're not finding any eggs in the nest box.

Hidden nests: Sometimes hens just don't want to use the nest boxes and decide to hide their eggs instead. This can be a problem with free range chickens especially. A nice shaded area might seem like better idea to them than going all the way back to the coop. Or young pullets may not understand what's going on yet and just drop an egg wherever they are at the moment. An egg hunt may be in order if you think there's a hidden nest somewhere.


Determining why your chickens are not laying can be difficult, but it's not impossible. Getting them back on track might take a little bit of work, or they might just need time. Either way, it helps to know what to look for in case there really is something wrong!

Want to know more about chicken health and egg laying? Click here for my other posts on eggs and egg laying habits.!

~L

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I am not a veterinarian or other animal care professional nor do I claim to be. I am simply passing on information that has worked for me and my flock. This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please see a vet if your chicken is ill. Click for my full disclaimer

4 comments:

  1. Good article, suffering with temperatures constantly @ 45 degrees at present and egg production has dropped to nearly zero with all the chickens suffering. It is a battle to keep them cool.

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    1. Thanks, I'm glad you liked it!
      Oh wow, that is some extreme temperatures! Hopefully you'll be back to more reasonable weather soon!

      ~L

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  2. Hi Lisa,
    I don't have chickens but when I growing up we always had chickens and your reasons for chickens not laying eggs from what I know and remember are very accurate. Congratulations on being featured on Homestead blog hop. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day!

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    1. Thanks, I was so excited to see I was featured!

      Have a lovely day!
      Lisa

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