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View Full Version : NOW why are my hens on strike?



deltawave
Jan. 4, 2011, 01:04 PM
My Buff Orpington hens, now 18 months old, stopped laying for a few weeks in the late fall, corresponding with a universal molt. On the advice of many wise chicken people, I added lights and eventually they began laying again, about as much as ever.

Now they've quit again. They're bright and active, they have light, they have heat, they have vitamins, they have treats, they have table scraps, they have calcium . . . not a single egg in weeks. I don't think they're eating the eggs, because I've not seen even a speck of shell or a wet spot, and the nest box is not even being sat in at all. (no chicken-butt-shaped indentation in the bedding) during this time frame.

Is it just what chickens do in the depths of their second winter? They laid prolifically all last winter, but that was their first and they'd only begun laying in August.

Washed up? Time for the stock pot? :lol:

VWBug
Jan. 4, 2011, 01:34 PM
This is going to sound nutty and it reeks of old wives' tale but .... put cayenne pepper in their feed.

Like you I could discern no reason for my hens not to be laying. I read about cayenne pepper on backyardchickens.com as a way to jump start the laying. If you do a search in their forums you'll get lots of hits. I think it had to do with supporting the immune system, metabolism - I can't recall exactly.

Two days after I added it to their feed they started laying. I know, I know, I'm cringing as I write this because I know how weak it sounds. But if you're looking for something to try...

Calamber
Jan. 4, 2011, 01:40 PM
My Buff Orpington hens, now 18 months old, stopped laying for a few weeks in the late fall, corresponding with a universal molt. On the advice of many wise chicken people, I added lights and eventually they began laying again, about as much as ever.

Now they've quit again. They're bright and active, they have light, they have heat, they have vitamins, they have treats, they have table scraps, they have calcium . . . not a single egg in weeks. I don't think they're eating the eggs, because I've not seen even a speck of shell or a wet spot, and the nest box is not even being sat in at all. (no chicken-butt-shaped indentation in the bedding) during this time frame.

Is it just what chickens do in the depths of their second winter? They laid prolifically all last winter, but that was their first and they'd only begun laying in August.

Washed up? Time for the stock pot? :lol:

They have to have a rest. The new livestock/chicken management theory of forcing them to continue to lay when they need that period of rest and restoration is bunkum in my book. They are not washed up. Just turn off the lights for a while, feed them some alfalfa hay so they have greens and needed calcium and phosphorus and they will come back. You can play around with their system only so much. Give the girls a break and they will lay for many years, maybe not at the rate that the commercial egg producers and those who think that they can lay all year round would expect. The eggs will be a little bigger each year too!

I am just not sure how long they should be allowed to rest, but I would give them at least a month and then try again. The biggest challenge I ever faced with my hens was introducing new ones into the flock and keeping predators at bay. I never quite settled the first problem and now I cannot continue my experiment as I can have to chickens, sadly. Good luck with your girls and your new chicken endeavor. Don't they have the most soothing sounds when they are happy?

fivehorses
Jan. 4, 2011, 01:48 PM
They have to have a rest. The new livestock/chicken management theory of forcing them to continue to lay when they need that period of rest and restoration is bunkum in my book. They are not washed up. Just turn off the lights for a while, feed them some alfalfa hay so they have greens and needed calcium and phosphorus and they will come back. You can play around with their system only so much. Give the girls a break and they will lay for many years, maybe not at the rate that the commercial egg producers and those who think that they can lay all year round would expect. The eggs will be a little bigger each year too!

I am just not sure how long they should be allowed to rest, but I would give them at least a month and then try again. The biggest challenge I ever faced with my hens was introducing new ones into the flock and keeping predators at bay. I never quite settled the first problem and now I cannot continue my experiment as I can have to chickens, sadly. Good luck with your girls and your new chicken endeavor. Don't they have the most soothing sounds when they are happy?

Ditto.
I have had chickens that laid for 6 years, and the eggs were beautiful and large.
I don't keep them on lights, and find in shorter daylight is their natural resting period.

As in many of our culture based around ag things, Easter, and the symbolic easter egg has its reason. the chickens start laying again in spring.

SmartAlex
Jan. 4, 2011, 01:57 PM
They do need a break. Look what mine did when I kept them under lights and with heat:

http://www.poultryhelp.com/visphot3.html

Yes, I got a lot of eggs from them, but I also got at least 3 of those freaks. My husband was spastic. I was out of town on business, and he started finding these eggs and figured he'd find a dead hen next. Of course what really freaked us was when we opened them up. The experienced people on the forum told us to turn off the darn lights!

deltawave
Jan. 4, 2011, 01:58 PM
Well, I like spicy eggs! :lol: It might be worth the experiment just to force myself to do something so entirely against my nature. Sort of therapeutic. :lol:

Perhaps they just do need a rest. Happy to provide it for them! I shall turn off the lights and just chill.

As to soothing sounds . . . hmmm, mine must not be very happy, because they sound VERY indignant most of the time! :D A little peaceful clucking is normal, yes, but JEEEEEZ, the minute one of them moves in such a way as to disturb another the BOKBOKBOKBOKBOKBOKBOKKKKKK! kicks in. Bunch of . . . old hens! :lol:

tikidoc
Jan. 4, 2011, 02:10 PM
They probably do just need a rest. Ours have almost totally quit laying over the last month as well. I don't think the Orps have laid anything recently. BUT, look around and make sure they have not just decided that there is another place that they prefer to put their eggs. Ours periodically find new and wonderful (to them) places to lay, usually only accessible by my 5 year old daughter. Between walls in the barn, behind coops, in deep grass.

SuperSTB
Jan. 4, 2011, 02:26 PM
My chickens molt in November so I give them a couple months off. In a couple weeks I'll put the lights back on and get them going again. They usually start laying end of Feb anyhow so I just move that up a few weeks.

Spring eggs are always huge but I let them free range the yard at this time.

We have a new batch of chicks that are about 4 months now. I really like these girls- barred rocks and americanas. Very social and smart. My older girls (leghorns) are aproaching 4yrs now. I was thinking of getting some more australorps (sp?) but I lost the 2 I had last summer in the extreme heat (they didn't seem very smart but they were pretty looking birds).

Sakura
Jan. 4, 2011, 03:12 PM
We noticed a big slow down too... then accidentally stumbled across a hidden nest behind our HUGE Rosemary bush... the stinkers stopped laying in their nesting boxes and started laying in a community nest :eek:.

Auventera Two
Jan. 4, 2011, 03:17 PM
My birdies take the winter off every year. It's normal :)

tle
Jan. 4, 2011, 05:41 PM
mine haven't stopped really. A little slower than they were when I got them in August, but I'm still getting 4 eggs per day on average from 5 hens. I do keep the lights on... but only because they're heat lamps that I'm using to try to keep their water from freezing! So they'll just have to deal with it. the youngsters aren't ready to start laying -- but they sure eat a ton!

deltawave
Jan. 4, 2011, 06:10 PM
Mine never stopped last winter, but I guess now that the novelty of laying has worn off they're due for a winter break. :lol:

They're not hiding the eggs--their indoor quarters don't have any hiding places. :)

How weird to have to buy eggs!

Thanks, everyone. :)

RiverBendPol
Jan. 4, 2011, 06:50 PM
My Buff Orps are also on strike, have been since AUGUST. My husband threatens them with the stock pot. They are coming 3. They are as happy as chickens could be, free ranging, lights on, lights off, heat, warm water, yummy Layena crumbles, clean shavings, comfy nesting boxes, a roost just right, nice 2nd cut hay on top of the snow so they don't have to get cold ankles, blah blah blah, nothing works. They are totally cheerful and happy to be part of the group. Tom says not for long.......Says when I get home from Aiken, I won't recognise them. I told him he has to 'do it' himself or it isn't fair. We'll see.

Guin
Jan. 4, 2011, 07:14 PM
In solidarity with the Oven Chicken.

FREE THE CHICKEN!

Auventera Two
Jan. 5, 2011, 11:51 AM
My Buff Orps are also on strike, have been since AUGUST. My husband threatens them with the stock pot. They are coming 3. They are as happy as chickens could be, free ranging, lights on, lights off, heat, warm water, yummy Layena crumbles, clean shavings, comfy nesting boxes, a roost just right, nice 2nd cut hay on top of the snow so they don't have to get cold ankles, blah blah blah, nothing works. They are totally cheerful and happy to be part of the group. Tom says not for long.......Says when I get home from Aiken, I won't recognise them. I told him he has to 'do it' himself or it isn't fair. We'll see.

Some breeds just aren't known for being good layers. That's why people who rely on getting a lot of eggs (and selling them) stick to the breeds known to be great layers. I am not a chicken expert by any means, but I know that Leghorns are known for being exceptional layers. If you read the descriptions at Murray McMurray Hatchery, you can see which are known for being good layers and which are not. I just checked and it says the Buff Opringtons will lay through cold weather, but their "Best Egg Layer" section does not include them. It includes Leghorns, Red Star, Black Star, Rhode Island Reds.

deltawave
Jan. 5, 2011, 02:57 PM
I think that's because Orps are supposedly "dual purpose" breeds, good layers (but not exceptional) and good meat chickens (but also not exceptional). I bought them because they were cold hardy and have easygoing temperaments, not for meat. And because I wanted to have chickens, dang it! :lol:

The lights in the barn are now officially off during the day. (other than the heat lamp) Now watch them start laying like crazy! :lol:

2DogsFarm
Jan. 5, 2011, 03:51 PM
OK - I tried the BYC cayenne trick & all I can say is within a week all 4 of my regular layers were back in business & the 5th Wheel (Houdan - strictly a decorative breed) had laid 2 days in a row!

Maybe it was the brief warmup in temps, but we are back in the 20s & I still got 4 nice eggs yesterday :yes:

foggybok
Jan. 5, 2011, 05:51 PM
Mine never stopped last winter, but I guess now that the novelty of laying has worn off they're due for a winter break. :lol:

They're not hiding the eggs--their indoor quarters don't have any hiding places. :)

How weird to have to buy eggs!

Thanks, everyone. :)

I was forced to buy eggs too! The fall molt took a long time and they were on strike for >2 months I think.... I hate store bought eggs!

But my girls just started producing again, slowly.........., I am soooo happy! :) Is it bad, I ate the fresh ones and left my hubby with the store bought?

Daydream Believer
Jan. 5, 2011, 07:34 PM
My hens came into laying age in late November. I got a couple of eggs a day increasing into December. I put lights out there in their coop set to go off at 8 pm and wow...I'm getting 8-10 a day now. That is from 20 hens of an age to lay eggs...just over six months old....a mix of Orpingtons, Wyandottes and White Rocks.

I don't really think of Red Stars, Black Comets, and whatnot as breeds...they are hybrids bred to be egg laying specialists just as broilers are hybrids to grow fast and big. They are small and not really suited for anything else. I get the notion that most of you would not think of eating your hens on here, but at least a dual purpose bird has that "other" use as a stew hen when her productive days are over. Being in business, I have to keep that in mind however hard it will be one day to cull the older hens from the flock. If I can, I'll find them homes and sell them as older layers rather than slaughter them.

I personally prefer the dual purpose breeds...I like the variety and think 4 eggs a week is enough. It takes a lot out of a hen to lay more than that and I want the girls to be able to subsist mainly on pasture/forage and not have to be heavily fed on mash to sustain their laying. I am also staggering my hens in age also so that they will not all molt at the same time. I'm selling my eggs so I don't want to run out all at once.

I introduced my Welsummers to the flock today actually and it went pretty well. They are 12 weeks old and have a few months before they will lay but I needed to get them out of the shed/small pen and foraging and learning what their job is. It's amazing how having the older hens out there scratching all day made them bolder and more interested in what the other girls were doing.

In about three months, I'll start another batch of pullets to be the third wave of layers. I have not decided on a breed yet but like the White Rocks I have a lot...they are strong layers. I am thinking Barred Rocks this time or maybe RI Reds. I keep the batches different breeds so I know how old they are just by breed.

BLBGP
Jan. 5, 2011, 07:55 PM
Do they still squat for you? My EE took three months off (started with her molting) but about a week ago she ran over the me and squatted (which she hadn't done all those months). That day she started laying again. I agree that sometimes the ladies need some time off to get the system back in order. I know I wouldn't want to lay an egg every day, either. ;)

BLBGP
Jan. 5, 2011, 08:00 PM
In about three months, I'll start another batch of pullets to be the third wave of layers. I have not decided on a breed yet but like the White Rocks I have a lot...they are strong layers. I am thinking Barred Rocks this time or maybe RI Reds. I keep the batches different breeds so I know how old they are just by breed.

RIR's are great layers. My girls (18 months old) still rarely take a day off and we generally get an egg a day from them. Our Easter Egger is not as prolific but has a very fun personality and adds a nice colorful mix to the basket. :)

foggybok
Jan. 5, 2011, 09:02 PM
RIR's are great layers. My girls (18 months old) still rarely take a day off and we generally get an egg a day from them. Our Easter Egger is not as prolific but has a very fun personality and adds a nice colorful mix to the basket. :)

Our RIRs were champs, egg laying machines...., but alas they are not good at evading predators.... I lost all 6 over the year (OK, one we lost because DH accidently broke her leg.. :( ). On the other hand, the Ameraucanas are not as productive, but they have great survival skills (aside from the rooster that got carried away byt the resident bald eagle....). Next spring I'll get more of them. I like the green/blue eggs and I won't worry so much about them when they are outside during the day....

deltawave
Jan. 5, 2011, 09:15 PM
Hmm, you know, they might just be squatting less than normal. I'll have to pay closer attention. I didn't realize they were seasonally anestrous, like mares! :lol:

RiverBendPol
Jan. 5, 2011, 11:45 PM
I'm going down there with the cayenne tomorrow morning! We hate store bought eggs!!

bathsheba8542
Jan. 6, 2011, 09:30 AM
I read on backyardchickens.com that hens going in to their second year stop laying when the light changes and they molt. Mine definitely stopped, and I gave them a 2 month break with no addition of light. Now, I have a timer set so there are a few more hours of light in the morning, and I keep a red heat lamp on. I did leave a white light on 24 hours for a few days, but the hens started acting slightly wackier than normal, so I figure nature is telling me something.

Calamber
Jan. 6, 2011, 05:01 PM
Well, I like spicy eggs! :lol: It might be worth the experiment just to force myself to do something so entirely against my nature. Sort of therapeutic. :lol:

Perhaps they just do need a rest. Happy to provide it for them! I shall turn off the lights and just chill.

As to soothing sounds . . . hmmm, mine must not be very happy, because they sound VERY indignant most of the time! :D A little peaceful clucking is normal, yes, but JEEEEEZ, the minute one of them moves in such a way as to disturb another the BOKBOKBOKBOKBOKBOKBOKKKKKK! kicks in. Bunch of . . . old hens! :lol:

Chickens are a little odd but they should not be so disturbed by one another that they get riled up over just their space being intruded upon. At roosting time yes, they get grumpy over their spots/neighbors too close etc. Maybe they don't quite have enough space for the number of hens. The sound that always used to get under my skin the most was that PICK AX! sound that they sometimes make after laying, they are so proud (or relieved). Chickens are fun, you have to admit.:lol:

ponygirl
Jan. 6, 2011, 09:09 PM
My birdies take the winter off every year. It's normal :)

Mine too and I'm in Florida. :lol: I know when they are close to thinking about starting up again though- they do the squatting, stomping grapes move with wings out if I pass by them.