what might cause a flock of hens to stop laying?

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We have a flock of banties that usually give us 4-5 dozen eggs a week. They are free range, and the flock is about 4 years old, but has a dynamic population (they always hide enough eggs to raise replacements) Within a couple of days, we dropped from 7-8 eggs a day to 2-3, with an occasional zero. Good spring weather, long days, normal feed and water consumption, no obvious parasites, no sign of predators (more than normal, we always lose some of the eggs layed "outside" to crows and magpies, and have lost a few hens to skunks, but not recently) Looked for ticks on the roosts, but didn't find any. Have seen more than the normal amount of feathers in the bedding, so may be having a moult problem, but presumably have that every year and have never had this kind of a drop in production. We may go from selling eggs to buying them-not a pleasant thought. Any ides would be appreciated. TIA


-- rob koster (arjay@theofficenet.com), May 14, 2000


Hi Rob, There are some great answers to this problem in the Archives of Countryside on this webpage. They are listed under "The Hen House". There are 4 or 5 threads there under titles like " They stopped laying" I'll let you read them as I think that I might not do the answers as well as the original authors. Hope this helps !

-- Joel Rosen (Joel681@webtv.net), May 15, 2000.

Since you say your Banties are on free range, you can suspect that they are hiding their nests out. They are notorious for doing this.

If they were penned up, I would consider that they have stopped laying, but running free, you simply may not have found their nests.

-- homestead2 (homestead@monroecty.net), May 15, 2000.

Rob, if moulting hasn't dropped production this badly before, yet you're finding a lot of feathers, is there something getting into the coop at night and giving the hens a bad time? Seems like you've pretty much covered the bases, could they be getting into something-rat poison you or a neighbor have used, are they getting onto freshly sprayed land? Are they getting enough grit? If you're buying feed, did you get a bad batch or have they changed the formula?

Don't really have any hard suggestions except to keep watching them, make sure they're getting enough to eat and enough to drink. Gerbil

-- Gerbil (ima_gerbil@hotmail.com), May 15, 2000.

Rob, has your flock been scared? My bantams when ever the neighbor kids come over & scare them--no eggs for even up to a week or more! When the neighbor's dog pulled one through the fence & killed it the rest didn't lay for over 3 weeks. The geandkids were here over the week end they don't try to scare the chickens --but they were playing ball not far from the hen house----no eggs tonight! Don't know if that is your problem, but it sure impacts my hens! Sonda in Ks.

-- Sonda (sgbruce@birch.net), May 15, 2000.

Thanks All, for the responses. I had checked the archives, but not all the way down the list, so I missed some of the suggestions. As far as I know, there was no change in the food, and no scares. There has been no use of poisons (although I am thinking about a tick spray on the roosts if this keeps up) The feathers are trying to tell me something, but we have found body parts when we had predator problems in the past, so I'm not sure what. They could have taken an advanced course in egg hiding, but we haven't found eggs in the places they have "hidden" them before (they love the haystack, especially the spaces between bales). Anyway, I'll check back here for a bit and post "the answer" if I find it. Thanks again


-- rob koster (arjay@theofficenet.com), May 15, 2000.

Rob, when I find feathers in the nest boxes, it usually means that someone is going broody. In the past I let my chickens free range(got tired of feeding my neighbors' dogs). When one hen chose a nest spot and really wanted to brood, she hid it very well and all the other hens would lay in it too. At times I would finally find the nest and maybe 2-3 doz. eggs. Good Luck

-- Jill Faerber (lance1_86404@yahoo.com), May 16, 2000.

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