The most common reasons for chickens to stop laying eggs are decreasing day length, moulting, disease, broodiness, poor nutrition, and stress.
Moulting is a natural process that allows the hen to replace old worn feathers and at the same time rejuvenates her oviduct the organ that “makes” eggs. This allows the hen to increase its rate of egg production and produce higher quality eggs when it returns to lay. With the moult the hen puts all of her energy into feather growth leaving little for egg production. Every year I have first time chicken owners contacting me and asking why the hens that have been laying all year have suddenly stopped.
2. Decreasing Day Length
Natural moulting is a seasonal process related to changes in day length. Once the daylight hours begin to decline this will trigger moulting and consequently your hens will stop laying eggs for a few weeks. This usually occurs in the fall after chicks have fledged.
Often your whole flock will stop laying at the same time. Commercial growers use artificial lighting to prevent their hens moulting all at once and consequently they may often moult at any time.
There are many causes of stress, from predators hanging around or even a loud noise which can cause the hens to stop laying. You may have moved them into a new environment which is definitely stressful for them. Not only do they have to get used to their new home they also have to establish a new pecking order.
Do everything you can to make their life comfortable and they should reward you and start laying eggs.
4. Broody Hens
Some hens of certain breeds are prone to becoming broody. This means that they will try to incubate their eggs to make them hatch. When this happens they stop laying eggs. They are more likely to become broody if they are allowed to accumulate eggs in a nest. The hens will sit on the eggs and get very annoyed when you try to take the eggs from the nest.
To avoid this situation it is best to collect the eggs at least once a day which will prevent the hen from building up a clutch of eggs. This is also important to preserve the freshness and quality of eggs for human consumption.
Diseases will stop your hen laying even if the symptoms they have are not obvious. Keep an eye on the hen and if any disease symptoms appear you will need to treat the disease before your hen begins laying again.
Hens need a balanced and adequate diet to maintain egg production. Many backyard flock owners don’t realize how much calcium a hen needs to produce eggs. To maintain egg production you need to feed your flock a prepared layer ration or at least provide some source of calcium. e.g ground limestone or oyster shell that birds can eat when they need to. You should be able to source layer ration or oyster shell at your local feed store.
Hens can live for many years. As with other species an aging hen will eventually lose its ability to be reproductive and will stop producing eggs. Protect your hens from the elements and predators. Make sure that their hen house is clean and well maintained and make sure that they have a constant supply of nutritious food and water. This will result in high egg production and many quality eggs for your family to enjoy.