View Full Version : Will getting a rooster really help?

May. 20, 2011, 09:33 AM
My hens, just two years old and supposedly a good, sturdy laying breed (Buff Orpingtons) have dried up. Not a single egg in weeks. They eat better than I do, plenty of fresh food, layer mash, calcium, grit, vitamins, bugs, table scraps, you name it. Plenty of turnout. I don't think they're hoarding their eggs somewhere because if I keep them in their run for days on end, still no eggs. No evidence they're eating them. Just . . . done producing.

Friend of a friend's wife is an avian vet and suggested putting a rooster in with them might get things . . . flowing again. :lol: I really DO NOT want a rooster! But the alternative appears to be four useless hens. :sigh:

Oy. Options, anyone? This vet thinks she can find homes for them, which is great. But if they could be useful members of the farm again that would obviously be nice. I hate buying eggs at the store! ;)

May. 20, 2011, 09:46 AM
No, I don't think it will help. You have to really want a rooster to put up with the hassles. Now I love roosters, and I think they're beautiful and I don't mind the crowing, and I love watching them take care of their ladies, but a rooster will tear up your hens.

May. 20, 2011, 09:48 AM
Are they molting? Our previous flock used to molt every summer. They continued producing eggs until about age 8, when they were finally eaten or died of natural causes. Our current chickens are still youngsters, so we haven't had the first molt. Here is a good article on hens who are not producing.


May. 20, 2011, 10:18 AM
Keep an eye on them for molt- if they did not molt last season they are due for one, and will stop producing while they do this...the other question I have- Is your hen house snake proof? Snakes will eat your eggs, and if you have snakes in your hen house your ladies will not be happy and may get upset enough to stop laying.

May. 20, 2011, 10:21 AM
A rooster won't help...I think that's an odd suggestion! If they stop laying they can still be "useful" if you compost their manure ;). I have old hens too - they've slowed down their laying but they're pets, so they stay until it's their time.

May. 20, 2011, 10:49 AM
Were they broody over the eggs? One of ours refuses to lay when she goes broody, plus they don't lay when they're molting.

May. 20, 2011, 11:17 AM
That's odd. My hens are the around the same age as yours and they are still egg laying machines. I picked up 14 eggs yesterday out of 15 hens (I have one that went broody and has hatched out one chick so far). I have roosters though. If you were closer, I would let you free lease one to try out the theory.

I'm tempted to think you might have a molt situation going on. Mine molted a few months back and did not lay then. Have you tried feeding them a laying pellet or crumble?

May. 20, 2011, 11:18 AM
The suggestion to add a rooster is interesting.
Does the avian vet think it will jumpstart hen hormones & inspire egg production?

I'd add a rooster only if I was assured I could rehome the SOB if he got "roostery" - a hormonal male chicken can be not only annoying but downright dangerous.
Especially to guests/strangers and small children.
They develop a habit of attacking & flogging with their wings not to mention they possess a wicked pair of spur talons.
The chicken BB Backyard Chickens is full of tales of people injured by roosters.
And the most popular solution for resolving the issue is Freezer Camp, i.e eat the offender.

My rooster is just now entering puberty (9mos) and I have to be vigilant as he's already gotten snarky with a visiting friend.
And yes, he will do some damage to hens mating them - one of my girls is sporting a teeny baldspot & another has lost some back feathers from his practicing mounts.

So far my boy seems to acknowledge me as Top Bird, but if that ever changes he is G-O-N-E.

Watermark Farm
May. 20, 2011, 12:19 PM
I always have a rooster for my flock and he is brave (protects hens from hawks), gallant (spends his whole day finding bugs for his girls), and a hassle (constantly chases hens around for sex). He tolerates children carrying him around; he is a real gem. However, I would not think a rooster would inspire hens to lay more eggs, but who knows?

My part-time free range chickens typically keep laying eggs until they are 6-8 years of age, sometimes longer. I have all breeds.

Could they be molting? Or eating their eggs? Check their beaks for dried egg yolk. Once you get an egg eater, the rest follow suit. It's a really tough thing to stop.

May. 20, 2011, 02:14 PM
you haven't heard any 'I just laid an egg' cackling all this time? if not I vote with the molting -- if you have heard cackling then I vote with the snake

May. 20, 2011, 07:04 PM
They molted months ago. I've had about six eggs since then. :sigh:

I am not around enough to hear them cackling.

Snake? Hmmm, maybe. But dang, you'd think there would be an occasional egg left--I check daily. They sit in their nest boxes, but nada. No bits of shell, no yolky beaks. :sigh:

May. 20, 2011, 07:12 PM
Something is eating your eggs. Snake, rat, hen, who knows, but something is eating your eggs. I love roos, and wouldn't trade my good ones for the world, but I doubt they help my girls lay. In fact, some of them probably inhibit the laying due to their propensity for raping on laying biddies. A roo will, however, be aggressive towards intruders. That may be all it takes to start seeing some eggs again.
ETA: I think you may have mink up there too. They can pretty sneaky, as can weasels.

Daydream Believer
May. 20, 2011, 09:06 PM
I agree on the egg eating. Hens will do it. I had to destroy one hen not long ago who was taking several eggs (at least) a day. I finally caught her in the act and that was it, lights out. Can you try a change of scenery..put them somewhere else, change nest boxes, do something to change their routine. See if they lay an egg or two then. Sometimes doing that can upset an egg eating hen. I generally did not find remains of eggs either but I'd find yolk on the other eggs she didn't eat that were in the same nest.

It is certainly possible that something else is getting eggs also or that they are molting. Buff Orps are broody suckers and make sure one hasn't' hidden a nest somewhere. One of my Buff Orp hens did that recently and there were 14 eggs in it by time I found it. I had to throw them all out as I had no idea how old they were. At least my broilers could eat them so it was not a total waste.

May. 20, 2011, 10:46 PM
I wonder if I isolate one hen at a time that will help me find the potential egg-eater. Or maybe I can put my foal watch camera in the nest box! :lol:

Thanks for the shared wisdom.

May. 21, 2011, 05:39 PM
You can also clip back the top part of their beak (very carefully!) so that they can't crack it. I've three Red Leghorns that wait for my Aracuna to lay so that they can go for her egg. A little judicious snipping and no more egg breaking. But the hens usually just eat the inside and leave a good part of the shell there and there would be a wet spot. If you don't have any of that then you don't have egg eaters.

I vote for snakes. We've big TX rat snakes here that will eat every egg in the roost in one night. I've just gone to checking the nests in the morning and at night.

Oh, another thing...what are you feeding your chickens? I switched feeds because all of a sudden I had no eggs. And voila, oodles of eggs.

May. 21, 2011, 07:40 PM
They get the same layer mash I've always fed, plus scratch grains I mix up (wheat, sunflower hearts, flax, corn, millet), calcium, fresh fruit and veggies plus they forage outside most days.

I'm not letting them roam until I figure this out. Checked several times today, no eggs. I even put a store egg on the nest box, so if that's still there tomorrow it's a hint to the "no production" vs "somebody's stealing them" theory. :)

May. 22, 2011, 02:00 PM
So I had a lovely dream last night wherein I opened the nest box to find a few dozen snakes writhing around. :dead: I killed them. Anyone care to interpret? :lol:

I put a store-bought egg in there to test the "somebody is eating the eggs" theory. The egg is still there, alone. ;) Maybe the hens and snakes don't like store eggs, either?

I'm going to leave them confined rather than set them ranging for a week in case they were hiding eggs. If that fails, I think I'll have to call it premature henopause. :D

May. 22, 2011, 08:13 PM
but my DH is..He has 5 Red Star hens that have continued to lay throughout the winter and now into spring pretty regularly. He believes that they must have sufficient protein in their diet in addition to laying mash in order to lay eggs so he gives them sunflower seeds and fish meal every day plus garden vegetables. Maybe try that if the other theories don't pan out.

I know I know it sounds completely batty but we also play intellectually stimulating games with our chickens. DH plays "jump grub" with them..ie he finds a grub in the manure pile and stands in the middle of the flock and says "ready girls?" and throws it up and they leap up and catch it like a jump ball. It's hilarious..We also put single golf balls in each nest at night and they move them around into different configurations.. They will even fly or hop up to the second level of nests with their golf balls (yes we've seen them) tucked under their beaks and collect them into one nest. We really need a hidden chicken cam like they do with eagle's nests to catch them in their wiley ways.

Our chickens are also seriously bad a$$...They are so tough if someone they don't know goes into the pen to change the water they will attack like velociraptors! The new Dobie tried running up and barking at the cage and they all rushed at him with their wings out and squawked "Bring it!" at him so he fled.. LOLOLOL...shoulda had a camera. Totally youtube worthy...

May. 22, 2011, 08:20 PM
If that fails, I think I'll have to call it premature henopause. :D


Watermark Farm
May. 23, 2011, 11:47 AM
Deltawave, you're supposed to be able to check their vents and tell if they are laying or not. I've never done this, so maybe Google it or check in a chicken book. This is how egg raisers cull non-laying hens.

That's a really good idea to put the storebought egg in there to see if they are eating them.

May. 23, 2011, 01:10 PM
Ewwww. :dead: I got into this specialty for a reason. :lol:

May. 23, 2011, 01:33 PM
Call me ChickenSpoiler, but I have gotten into the habit of feeding my hens a breakfast of cooked oatmeal (protein) w/scrambled eggs (protein) including the shells (calcium) & plain yogurt (more calcium).
Their scratch is a 50/50 mix of whole oats & BOSS, fed as a treat.

My 2yo hens laid straight through Winter - not every hen every day, but enough so I never went eggless.
Now that the warm weather is here, I am getting Buried Alive in eggs - 4 to 6 per day!

Sorry DW, don't mean to brag, but it seems like no matter how many eggs I use (2 for the hens every morning) or give away I still have 1/2doz waiting :eek:

Try feeding your girls some extra protein and see if that helps.
You can feed canned mackerel (it reeks) or tuna or sardines if you don't want to waste The Precious (eggs).

& MediaMD:
Not just your girls.
I had a friend visit with her JRT.
Standing on the 2nd level of my back proch dog started yapping at thte freeranging hens.
One of my Delawares looked at him, then started up the stairs with a
"You wanna piece of this?" look in her eye.
For their size, they are fearless :lol:

May. 23, 2011, 06:49 PM
What's the weather like where you are? Has it been dark and cloudy for a while? You could try leaving lights on 24/7 for a few days and see if that helps.

May. 23, 2011, 07:13 PM
They have a light on from dusk until 11pm. Our summer days are VERY long up here. Light before 6, dark at 10pm in June. :)

More protein I can try. :yes:

Daydream Believer
May. 23, 2011, 08:12 PM
They really should not be done laying at 2 years old. Their production will fall off at that age but most hens should lay longer than that. They lay bigger but fewer eggs mostly.

Hopefully you can figure it out. Cold weather is really stressful for them....so if you've had a late Spring maybe that is doing it. Do they have access to green grass and bugs and stuff to stimulate their foraging? The green plants might help also. If nothing else it makes the eggs healthier to eat for us with higher Omega 3's.

Good luck with it. I'm really curious what you figure out.

May. 23, 2011, 09:42 PM
I really am stumped. They laid like CRAZY from September of their first year right up until about November of last year. Fourteen solid months. Then I got maybe a few eggs a week out of the four of them through the winter, then NOTHING since I'd say March. :(

One thing I do recall is as the egg production dropped off I did get a few oddly-shaped eggs and a couple with not much liquid in them. Sort of like the shells were half empty. These were rare, a scant few.

Going to buy them some ground veal (their favorite) and maybe switch brands of layer mash, why not? Yes to fresh grass, fruits, veggies, grit, calcium, sunshine, fresh air, etc. This winter they had less of a heated coop than the past winter but still a heated area in their pen. It's been warm for several weeks now outside of the odd cold evening (low 40s) and steady 60-80 degrees during the day. Their weight is good, their combs are shocking red, eyes bright, loud and boisterous and squatting all over the place.


Daydream Believer
May. 23, 2011, 09:48 PM
That is so weird. I will be curious how long my Buff Orps lay. I only have six of them. I mostly have Wyandottes and Welsummers.

Good luck with it. I hope you can get them going again.

May. 25, 2011, 07:02 AM
They really are the gurus of all things Chicken, there's even a specific Forum for "Chicken Behaviors & Egglaying"

Like COTH, all kinds of poultryfolk post there so you'd be sure to get some feedback.

If I get a chance, I'll post your problem there & see what they say.

May. 25, 2011, 07:42 AM
Hmmmm. Perhaps an early summer party for twelve, with a nice slow cooked BBQ chicken dinner is in order....

May. 25, 2011, 03:57 PM
You can do what I did when mine quit laying late last fall... I cooked one of the meat chickens I'd raised & took a drumstick out, showed it to them and said "This is what happens to slackers around here!". :lol:

May. 25, 2011, 04:09 PM
I read on Backyard Chickens that cat food can be fed to up the protein. Also, I remembered that when I was younger, my father had bought a ton of broken rice from a rice farm because it was cheap and the pigs and chickens could eat it. Our chickens starting laying like crazy when eating the rice. Maybe because of the calcium content of rice? IDK.

May. 25, 2011, 04:10 PM
That is so weird. I will be curious how long my Buff Orps lay. \

I have two. Both are broody.

Judging by the number and depth of the peck marks on my hand, one spends her time sharpening her beak.

Jeannette, formerly ponygyrl
May. 25, 2011, 10:07 PM
Have you checked saddle fit?

May. 26, 2011, 07:08 PM
TWO eggs tonight!!! :D

May. 26, 2011, 09:48 PM
They read my suggestion :cool::lol:

May. 27, 2011, 10:13 AM
I let them browse COTH during the day. :lol:

May. 27, 2011, 10:42 AM
Put a couple eggs (marked store eggs) in the laying boxes and see they disappear! If so, something is eating them. If not, maybe it will inspire your girls to lay.

May. 27, 2011, 12:50 PM
cindylou, I did that. Nobody's eating them. :)

May. 27, 2011, 01:37 PM

Hopefully something here will explain why your girls are on strike.
If it helps (Misery loves Company?), I have a friend with a "flock" of 2 Barred Rock hens a little over a year old.
One is laying, one was, but stopped a couple months ago for no apparent reason.

ETA: WooHoo! You gots eggage!
I predict once they get started all will join the fun & you will be awash in eggs.

May. 27, 2011, 05:12 PM
Where else but COTH can you learn stuff like this just by scanning a list of threads?

Hate to imagine the FB version of this discussion. :eek:

May. 27, 2011, 05:25 PM
Have you checked saddle fit?