Egg production or the lack thereof, is a big concern for most folks with chickens. We love our fresh eggs and we want them daily! It helps to have a realistic expectation of what a chicken can produce and for how long.
Many people think that chickens produce an egg a day, everyday, but they don’t. Most laying hens produce 5 eggs a week for 2 to 3 years. But, during that time they will take a little break for a few weeks in order to molt. There are many factors that play into your hens producing consistently at these peak production rates.
Get rid of the roosters! Too much horseplay will reduce laying because they are stressed. One rooster is plenty for up to 15 hens. If you aren’t planning to hatch any of your eggs then a rooster isn’t necessary at all. The only other benefit of a rooster, if he’s a good one, is that he will keep your hens calm and help guide them to yummy tidbits when they are out foraging.
How old are they? If your hens are 8 months to 3 years (some say just 2 years) then they should be meeting these regular production rates. Peak production is the first 18 months of laying. Older hen’s production goes down significantly after the 3 year mark. You can keep them or cull them but don’t count on them for regular eggs.
Feed, vitamin and mineral intake are all significant factors in egg production. Laying hens need at least 20% of their diet to be protein. Lay pellets can be bought that are 20% protein; if they free range they’ll also get protein from greenery and hopefully a good compost pile to play in too. Vitamin and mineral supplements are a good way to ensure the proper intake of trace minerals and vitamins, even if they free range, because no soil today can provide all the necessary nutrients.
Water must be tested. If you haven’t had your water tested you need to do this. Your water may contain high rates of dissolved calcium which would cause reduced production and make laying much harder for your hens. How much salt is in your water? This matters because insufficient salt causes production to go down. If you’re worried about your fluoride and chlorine intake you probably don’t want high contents of those for your hens because this gets passed on through the eggs. Water testing kits are available at county extension offices.
Pests such as lice, mites, worms, rodents and predators all cause loss of production. Treat lice and mite infestations on a regular basis with Ivermetin. Dust your coop with diatomaceous earth regularly to keep re-infestations down.
There are several good wormers available as at your feed store or pet store. It’s also important to keep your coop inaccessible to rodents, opossums, raccoons, dogs and other predators this is crucial to keeping your hens happy, safe and producing. Close holes, cracks and crevices that could permit unwanted visitors and make sure coop doors can’t be opened by raccoons. Those coons are clever little critters, always looking for eggs and chickens, so make sure you use child-proof hooks with the springs to keep them out.
Weather is another factor that affects production. When it’s cold, add a light to your coop so that you ensure your hens are getting 14 to 15 hours of daylight. Chickens burn more calories when it’s cold in order to stay warm so be sure to increase their feed and treats accordingly. Another aspect of weather that negatively impacts your hens is rain: don’t let rain into your coop if you can help it. Hens really don’t like getting wet and a drenching will really stress them out. Make sure they’ve got somewhere that is dry and keeps them off wet ground too.
Comfortable nesting makes for happy chickens and more eggs. If you have clean inviting nests with comfortable bedding your girls will want to nest and lay. Fresh hay, newspaper pellets or shredded paper all make for great nests.
Know your breed. Are you raising laying chickens? If you’re raising a meat chicken and expecting it to lay at these production rates then you’re going to be disappointed. If you are raising laying hens but their not adapted to your climate they won’t meet maximum production either. For example, a Turken is better adapted for cooler climates and won’t lay as well in hot climates.
All-in-all a happy, comfortable chicken is going to reward you with regular eggs for a long time.