Can you force hens to start laying?

Can you force your chickens to start laying eggs? I get asked all the time how to get a chicken to start laying and the short answer is: No, you can't! There are a whole lot of myths around egg laying though. Old wives tales abound, from feeding hot peppers to using fake eggs and unfortunately none of them work.

However, some of these methods seem to work some of the time. That is where it gets tricky!  

Most of the time when someone is getting impatient for their hens to start laying it's either because:

A) The winter laying break has dragged on long enough already!
or
B) These chickens have to be old enough to lay by now! Right?

Fresh eggs | how to get a chicken to start laying

In either of these cases, using the old wives methods of prompting your chickens to start laying will generally coincide with the chickens naturally starting to lay anyway. So it only seems like it works. Here are the ones I've heard recently...

Hot peppers: Add hot pepper flakes to your hens feed in late winter to get them to start laying earlier. This old wives tale goes on the theory that hot peppers warm the body making the chickens think summer is here and so they start laying. This would make sense if it was temperature that causes hens to start laying in spring, but unfortunately it's light. No amount of spicy food can replicate the lengthening daylight hours.

Fake eggs: Put fake eggs in the nest boxes to get the hens to start laying. While this can help your hens to figure out where to lay their eggs when it's time, it can't get them started laying any sooner than they would naturally. Kind of like you can't get a girl to start puberty just by handing her a baby to hold. Egg production starts when the body is mature enough and no sooner.

Get a rooster: This old wives tale says that pullets will start laying if you get a rooster so they can reproduce. Fortunately, hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs and getting a rooster does not trigger a pullet to start laying simply because she suddenly wants chicks. 

Farm fresh eggs in a basket | forcing a hen to lay

What actually can help:


  • Adequate light. At least 14 hours of daylight is necessary for peak egg production.
  • Maturity. Some of my hens didn't lay until they were 8 months old, which is common for certain breeds.
  • Good quality layer feed and plenty of fresh water.


Good nutrition is number one with a laying hen. Many people swear by Calf Manna (high protein) and fermented feed as nutrition boosts to prompt a hen to start laying. While these won't make a hen lay that isn't already going to....they can correct a nutritional deficiency that has stalled her laying

These things can cause a hen to stop laying during peak age and season:
Parasites
Squabbles and stress between flockmates.
Space, overcrowding in the coop.
Molting.

I cover these reasons and more in depth in 11 Reasons Why Your Hens Aren't Laying

Unfortunately if you hens haven't started laying yet due to age or season, the only cures are light and time. The good news is, that days are lengthening as we speed toward summer and they should start laying again shortly.

~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.

1 comment:

  1. We have never had a problem with the chicks laying...We get the same number of eggs in the winter as we do in the summer here in N. Alabama....We expect an egg a day from each and every hen....Our hens of choice are the Red Star from Murry McMurray Hatchery and this year we are trying 40 Novajen Brown from Valley Farms Hatchery here is Alabama.....We do get about a 98% lay rate until the hens are 3 yrs old....All 5 pens are exposes to natural daylight at the ends of the open pole barn and the chicks all 150 of them have free range from daylight when I open the gates to to dark when they go to roost.....Have had chicks for 5 years now and had good success with "Scoots Organic Eggs".....They may just put Scoot (The 10 year old Grandson) thru college....We do feed a very high quality expensive Organic feed...and so, have to charge a fairly high price for the Jumbo Eggs these hens produce, but Oh, they taste so good.

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