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Eggless

By Audrey Pavia, Urban Farm contributor

Monday, December 19, 2011

hens

Photo by Audrey Pavia

My hens aren't laying right now, but when they do, they get serious about it.

I wanted chickens my whole life, and when I finally got them, I was so excited about having fresh eggs. I remembered the time one of my young hens laid her first. I picked it up, raced into the house and woke my husband up.

“Look!” I said. “Look!” I was so overwhelmed with joy that, I could barely say anything else.

Now, here I am three years later, and seeing eggs in my nest boxes is still exhilarating — which is why I’m so bummed that I haven’t gotten one egg out of my chickens for the past three months.

What is going on? I started to worry they were sick. I did lose one of the hens a few weeks ago, but the others seem perfectly fine. They are eating, running around and doing all the things they usually do.

I complained to a friend in the neighborhood about the situation, and she told me that her hens aren’t laying either. It’s been months. I’ve since heard other people in town are having the same issue.

Why have all our birds suddenly stopped laying? Is it the weather? We seem to be having a colder-than-usual winter so far. Hens are notorious for taking a break in the winter, although, here in Southern California, they tend to lay all year round with just a break here and there. Much like vegetable gardens, chickens in this part of the country produce almost constantly.

But now the hens in this neck of the woods are suddenly acting like they live in Minnesota. Even if the cold weather is causing them to stop laying, they really need to get some perspective. “Cold” around here is a drop of the low 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night, and 60s during the day. And that’s just a few nights here and there. Does that warrant going on an egg strike?

My chickens are weird about their eggs anyway, so I guess this is just a new twist on the things. When they are producing, they will leave as many as three or four a day in their nest boxes, and then suddenly start laying them under a bush. This means I go from bending over to fetch their them eggs from the coop to crawling around on my belly to hunting for hidden ones eggs.

One of the most aggravating things about this current egg strike is that people in my life have come to expect eggs from me, and they just aren’t getting any. When I tell them my hens aren’t laying, they look at me skeptically, as if I’m holding out on them. If they lived with chickens like I do, they would understand. You can bring a hen to the nest box, but you can’t make her lay.

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Interesting
a', Houston, TX
Posted: 11/5/2013 6:43:33 AM
Agreed, if these are the same chickens for the past three years their egg laying cycles are ending. They are not going to lay as many eggs and with colder weather that can also play a big part of it. I am not sure if your intentions are for these chickens to be pets, however we rotate our hens out each year, so we start with 4 one year, keep them through the first year or two and then butcher them for eating and then ad new ones each year. We usually have a nice flock of 9-12 throughout the year. We also insulate our coop and have windows for light in the coop, and we keep a heat lamp lit all day through the cold months which helps keep them laying. Good luck!
Tina, Rifle, CO
Posted: 12/19/2011 12:41:25 PM
yes, daylight hours play a big part of their laying. Also, you said you've had these same chickens for 3 years? They are getting old. Their best egg laying years are behind them. They will still live a long time if they stay healthy and safe, but their egg production will continue to decrease. My 3 young chickens are laying consistenly straight through the winter, but this is their first laying year.
Tamlynn, Torrance, CA
Posted: 12/19/2011 12:13:30 PM
It's likely the light, not the temperature. We are nearing the shortest day of the year and chickens are descended from tropical jungle fowl where the days don't ever shorten below 12 hours. The lack of light often triggers a winter time rest from laying, particularly for older hens. Try putting a light bulb in their coop from 4 pm til dawn. If it's any consolation, my hens have stopped laying too and last winter (they had just started laying last Sept.) they laid eggs all winter.
Kelly, Boulder, CO
Posted: 12/19/2011 12:01:33 PM

About the Blogger

Audrey Pavia

Audrey Pavia
Keeping farm animals in the city can be a real hoot. Follow freelance writer Audrey Pavia's adventures in Southern California with a yard full of urban livestock, including horses, chickens, a Corgi and an urban barn cat. She somehow manages all these silly critters by herself while working full-time. And you thought "The Simple Life" was out there?

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