When the Hens Stop Laying

When the Hens Stop LayingOh, no!  The hens have stopped laying!

Few chicken-keeping problems are as bewildering as this one.  So many variables affect egg production.  How do you sort through them all?

The quickest way to solve a laying problem is to keep good records well before the problem arises.  Every day write down:

  • The number of eggs you gathered.
  • The outdoor temperature.
  • The amount of feed, scratch, and kitchen scraps you put out.
  • Any anomalies that you might want to remember later on.

You should also keep track of the age, breed, and number of your hens.  These records may seem tedious or superfluous at first, but they are invaluable when you are trying to solve a laying problem.  The more information you have at hand, the faster you will be able to sort through the possibilities and arrive at a solution.

But now that you have an egg shortage, it’s time to figure out what caused it.

 

Diet

Optimal egg production requires the right balance of nutrients.  Many layer rations have been concocted to try to achieve this balance, but in the end the chickens know best.  Provide them with access to plenty of fresh grass and bugs, and supplement their diet with layer feed, scratch grains, and kitchen scraps.

No formula can precisely calculate how much you should feed your chickens.  The best way to balance the feed and the scratch is to simply watch what the hens are eating.  If they are just picking at their feed or leaving pieces of grain on the ground, give them less.   If they are devouring one or the other, or maybe even both in the winter, give them more.

After you change the hens’ diet, they should gradually lay more eggs starting in three to four days.  If there is no improvement, you’ll have to seek another solution.

 

Temperature

Chickens usually don’t lay well in extremes of either heat or cold.  If your laying problem coincides with a summer heat wave, there isn’t much you can do except to provide your flock with shade and cool water, and ride it out.  In the winter, give the hens windproof housing and plenty to eat.  The scratch in particular gives them the energy they need to stay warm.  Periodically give them an additional boost with a high-protein treat like beef liver or a ham bone with meat scraps still attached.

 

Age

The age of your hens plays a significant role in how many eggs they will lay.  If your whole flock is more than two or three years old, you will probably notice a sharp drop in production.  In that case, consider buying or hatching some new hens.

 

Breed

Be aware that breed can affect the hen’s laying rate drastically.  Heavy breeds typically lay better in cooler weather, while light breeds prefer warmer weather.  Also keep in mind that some of the ornamental breeds will never be stellar layers even under ideal conditions.

To keep egg production reasonably steady all year long, either buy a mix of hot- and cold-weather layers or choose breeds that can tolerate a wide range of conditions, such as Australorps or Plymouth Rocks.

 

If All Else Fails…

If none of these variables seem to account for your production problem, thoroughly inspect your flock and their living quarters.  Are the chickens in poor health?  Do you see signs of parasites?  Are the hens hiding their eggs in some bizarre, out-of-the-way location?  Is something eating the eggs?

If you see chickens with yolk on their heads, you’ve got a real problem.  The egg-eating habit is difficult to stop, so take pains not to let it start.  Make sure your hens have enough fresh range to keep them entertained and enough feed and scratch to keep them full.  Pad the nesting boxes with plenty of straw to avoid accidental breakages.  Setting out a pan of oyster shell as a calcium supplement will also help to keep eggshells from cracking.

If you break an egg in the chicken pen, don’t let the hens clean it up.  Bury it with dirt or hay before they can eat it and get any not-so-funny ideas.  Sometimes a hen will acquire a taste for fresh egg and become an inveterate offender.  When this happens, your only choice is to remove it from the flock.

Again, the best way to solve an egg production problem is to keep good records well before the problem starts.  That way if laying rates suddenly start on a downward spiral, you’ll have a much better chance of identifying the difficulty and solving it quickly.

Getting Started: Part 1—Live Debt Free

Are you new to country living?  Just starting out or maybe taking a deep breath before making the jump?  Never fear!  Over the next four weeks you’ll find tips to make your country living adventure a success.

 

Getting Started: Part 1—Live Debt FreeAmerica has long been known as a free nation, but most Americans have gradually grown accustomed to slavery in a variety of forms.  Debt is one of the most common.  Perhaps that is because as a society we want what we want when we want it—and when we want it is usually NOW!  We never pause to think about the long-term blessings we are imperiling in our haste to achieve short-term gratification.

Romans 13:8 commands:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other….

This pretty much precludes taking on debt.  But do not view this command as a hindrance.  As with all Biblical injunctions, it is actually in our best interest to keep it.

Proverbs 22:7 notes:

The borrower is the slave of the lender.

How true!  And yet how often overlooked!

Think about it.  Any lender has some level of control over your money.  To pay him back, you must forfeit some part of your income.  But this is not all.  If you owe money, you are under an obligation to pay it back.  That means that you must manage your time in a way that fulfills your obligation, even if it means taking a job you didn’t necessarily want.  Even your life is now under your creditor’s control!

 

Case Study

Those of you who are familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books may remember Pa’s experience with debt from On the Banks of Plum Creek.  Anxious to move out of a dugout and into a real house, Pa planted some wheat, hurried off to town, and returned home with machine-sawn lumber, glass windows, and a new stove.

“But the wheat’s hardly up yet!” Ma said.

“That’s all right,” Pa told her.  “They let me have the lumber, and we’ll pay for it when we sell the wheat.”

Fast-forward to harvest time.  Pa declared that he had never seen such a wheat crop.  There was only a week to go before it would be ready to bring in.  Suddenly, the sun was blocked out by a cloud…a cloud of grasshoppers!  In only a short time, the wheat field was utterly devastated.

In order to pay his debt, Pa made his way east, walking three hundred miles to find a job harvesting someone else’s wheat instead of staying home to provide for his own family.  He had sacrificed his freedom for a new house.  Furthermore, his wife and children had to shift for themselves until his return that winter.

 

Questions to Ask Yourself

Freedom is a gift from God, too precious to be sacrificed lightly.  Before you take on any debt, seriously consider these questions:

  • Am I taking on debt to reach a lasting goal or to gratify a temporary desire?
  • Is it possible to commit to working and saving for this thing I want to purchase?
  • What are the pros and cons of saving up until I can buy it outright?
  • Do I have the self-discipline necessary to avoid falling into a debt lifestyle?
  • Is the return I will make on my investment worth the extra money I will pay in interest?
  • What plans will I need to make to pay off my debt and regain the full use of my resources?
  • Do I have sufficient cash reserves to handle a large, unforeseen expense?
  • Am I positive that, regardless of what happens, I will always be able to meet my obligations?
  • What is my fallback plan in case of financial difficulty?

True, by living debt free you may have to settle for less acreage and an older tractor at first, but at least all your resources will belong to you until you can save for something better.  Your time and money will be your own with which to pursue your vision and fulfill your life’s purpose.

 

Next week: Part 2 – Think For Yourself

 

Complete Series

Getting Started: Complete SeriesGetting Started

 

Abundant Living in Flyover Country