Here is a list of things that affect how well your hens lay eggs, along with suggestions for what you can do to ensure that they lay their best.

1. Lighting

Now that Spring is approaching, and the days are getting longer, the hens in my home flock have started laying again.  During the early part of the winter, they were laying fewer eggs because there were fewer daylight hours.

Hens need 14 or more hours of daylight each day to lay well. During late fall and winter, particularly from October through February, they won’t receive that many hours of daylight naturally.  You have a choice, you can either let them take a break from laying or provide additional lighting.

2. Stress

Stress can cause your hens to stop laying. What causes them to have stress? Allowing them to get frightened or handled to much, letting them run out of food or water,  moving them to a different pen or coop, or disrupting their pecking order can all cause stress.

3. Feed

Laying hens need a balanced diet to lay well. Good quality layer feeds have the correct balance of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, calcium and other minerals. If you feed table scraps or scratch grains to your hens, you should use moderation so as not to upset the balance.

4. Water

Chickens should always have access to clean water.  In the winter, take precautions to make sure their water doesn’t freeze.

5. Diseases or Parasites

Diseases or parasites can slow or stop laying.  The Chicken Health Handbook (Damerow) is a good source of information on this topic.

6. Temperature

Hens lay best when it’s not too cold or too hot.  If possible, keep the temperature in their coop above 55° F in the winter. During the summer, provide plenty of shade and cool water.

7. Molting

Chickens will molt about once a year and usually slow or stop laying eggs during that time.  The molt will last from two to six months.

8. Age

As your hens get older, they will lay less frequently.  Usually, they lay best during their first and second year, then as they approach three years old, their laying will decrease.  By the time they’re about five years old, they’ll only be laying about half as frequently as they did at their peak.  Raising a new flock every few years is the best way to have an ongoing supply of home grown eggs.

9. Predators

Predators such as skunks and snakes will eat eggs.  Prevent this by gathering the eggs more frequently, and improve pens and housing as needed to keep the predators out.