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Chicken newbie: Hens basically stopped laying

 
Tys Sniffen
Posts: 52
Location: Northern California
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So, almost through 2 weeks of having chickens. (5 total, 3 laying hens, one pullet and her brother, the young rooster) They were given to me by a neighbor who needed to thin out his flock.

I'm doing a pasture sort of thing, with a mini coop they get closed up in at night, with 600 sq ft or so of forest floor to spend the days in. I didn't start giving them all the store bought food until the 2nd week, because I was hoping that compost plus forage plus mice from traps would be enough.

from the 3 layers:
first day: 2 eggs
next 5 days: 1 egg a day

haven't had any since. they now have oyster shells, lay pellets and I've been doing a couple handfuls of scratch 2 or 3 times a day.

Could this just be some transition to the new environment? or were they so starved for nutrients that first week that now the 2nd week I'm not seeing eggs? or are they just not liking the new digs?

you can see photos of my setup here:
http://www.journeyinthewoods.blogspot.com/2013/05/introducing-chicken-shack.html

http://www.journeyinthewoods.blogspot.com/2013/05/thar-be-chickens-here.html

thoughts?
Tys
 
Jay Green
Posts: 587
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Oh, wow....you need waaayyyyy more ventilation than that on such a small coop...sorry, but that's a virtual hot box like one would see on Cool Hand Luke! Easy to change that, so that's no problem. Open some ventilation at the bottom of your coop to allow fresh air in at the bottom and stale air out at the top..you won't regret it.

Yes, the change in nutrition can affect lay as the birds~when starved for proteins and fats~ will keep nutrition for living and won't put it into reproducing. Give it time. You didn't mention the ages of your layers...if the man was thinning out his flock, he might have given you older birds that won't be laying as efficiently as younger hens.

Also, just the act of moving to new digs can halt laying for a bit..even up to 2 wks. Another factor could be your young rooster....most young cockbirds are vigorous breeders and you have too few hens to satisfy that need, so your birds may be getting a little overworked by the male...this can affect laying also if he is too persistent and not giving them a moment's rest~watch their backs for loss of feathers...this shouldn't ever happen and, if it does, you need to add hens or remove a rooster.

Just watch and wait, you may start to notice things like this as you go along. One thing to remember...chickens aren't gumball machines and they have times of slack, times of plenty, times when temporary changes can stop their usual production levels, etc.
 
Tys Sniffen
Posts: 52
Location: Northern California
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thanks for the feedback, and you're right, I shouldn't be impatient. I just worried as they showed up laying, and then stopped once I took responsibility. (the 3 hens should be in prime laying age, over one year, but not real old) I did get an egg today.

I'm surprised about your feedback about the ventilation... remember that these birds are outside and roaming around the 600 sq feet during the day, and seem to be pretty comfortable (they could escape my fencing very easily, they can all fly - but they don't) and I live in the woods in the mountains, and this coop is mostly in the shade most of the day. I don't think the thing is any warmer than anywhere else on the property. In fact, we've been having cool days and nights... I'll keep track as time goes on, I even put a thermometer in there today, and will check during hot times the next few days.

also, the roof opens entirely, so if it does get hot out, I can always crack open the top for 100% ventilation capabilities.

Tys
 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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chickens create a lot of heat just on their own though so the coop might be that hot when it's sitting in the shade and empty but if they're all in there it will get toasty pretty quick
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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Location: zone 6b
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I'm wondering if they've got a hidden nest. Many times I thought ours had stopped laying only to find a pile of eggs in some out-of-the-way place a week later. Most hens will cackle after they lay an egg, so you can listen for where that's coming from, tho the ones I currently have are very sneaky and make not a peep when they lay an egg. It helps to leave one egg in the nest. They can't count, so as long as there's one egg they think everything is fine, but if all the eggs keep disappearing they may think their nest has been compromised by a predator and find a safer haven for their eggs.
 
Jay Green
Posts: 587
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S Carreg wrote:chickens create a lot of heat just on their own though so the coop might be that hot when it's sitting in the shade and empty but if they're all in there it will get toasty pretty quick


Ditto. Surprisingly enough, you will find this level of ventilation more detrimental in the winter months than you will in the summer months~you will see more frostbite, more illness, less feed efficacy. Ventilation is more for airflow than for temps, with the humidity levels being the most important of all.

If you can measure humidity in your coop at night when they are all on the roosts, then you may get an accurate idea of how much clean air is flowing through your coop. The stale, humid air in coops is like a petri dish for bacteria, molds and parasites...they love it.

You simply cannot have too much ventilation, particularly in such a small coop. Good air in at the bottom, stale air out at the top.
 
Tys Sniffen
Posts: 52
Location: Northern California
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I appreciate all the advice, and will closely monitor the situation and start thinking about ways to work other ventilation in.

Not to question the wisdom given, but just to clarify, my 'mini-coop' set up is where they sleep, and lay. the rest of the day they are outside scratching around while the door of the coop remains open (being ventilation near the floor). and, while I'm really new at all this and might get lazy later, I'm cleaning the coop - that has a litter layer in it - every week, and it has yet to even be slightly unpleasant to stick my head in there.

Also, I'm in the hills in northern California, so I don't have to worry about freezing temps in winter, or humidity all summer for that matter.

And, to wrap up the thread, it seems they've started back laying, at least to the same level as when they arrived (the 3 hens creating 2 to 3 eggs in 2 days)

thanks again,
Tys
 
Otis Banks
Posts: 6
Location: Watertown, SD
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Related story/idea, for what it's worth.

This spring, I left my son in charge of taking care of the hens for about a week while I was working long days. He didn't change their water and they stopped drinking because the water got scummy. They promptly stopped laying, all of them. After a week they hadn't come out of it, despite clean water and plenty of feed. I scrambled up a couple of eggs and fed them to them, and 3 days later they started laying again. Could be coincidence, but this has worked for both my brother and I. It seems like the protein boost from the scrambled eggs kind of kickstarts egg development again, or restarts it if it stalls.

I'm curious what you more experienced chicken folk think of that?
 
Jay Green
Posts: 587
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Never had that experience, so I couldn't really say. Some swear by additional protein, some by putting cayenne pepper in their feed, others by placing fake eggs in the nests to encourage further lay. Additional protein, temporarily, certainly couldn't hurt and could only help, but I wouldn't feed high pro feed supplements on a continual basis for layers unless it was something they could find in nature. I've seen newbies up proteins to layers on the advice of others~get a little too enthusiastic with the idea that more is better so a little more is best~ and end up giving more protein than the kidneys can handle, resulting in recurring bumble foot, leg/joint pain, and even death from renal failure.

I free range so my birds are pretty much assured to be getting their daily ration of proteins but if mine were confined to a coop and run, I'd be naturally supplementing the protein ration found in regular layer ration with the use of animal proteins...fish, meal worms, red wigglers, crickets, their own eggs (though I'd give these raw, uncooked)etc.
 
mike clark
Posts: 43
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are they molting?this would cause them to stop laying for a bit.
 
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