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At What Age And Why Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs?

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When your chickens lay their first egg, you couldn’t be prouder of them. The excitement and joy of raising your own food is something incomparable to anything else. But after a few years, your faithful layers will start to slow down. It might have you thinking about your chickens in their old age. At what age and why do chickens stop laying eggs? You might be surprised to find the answers.

The Egg Production Myth

Most of us have heard or read somewhere that backyard chickens only lay eggs for 2-3 years of age before they retire. They start by 18-20 weeks of age and then suddenly stop. But this isn’t the case. Most hens lay eggs reliably for the first 2-3 years and have a steady decrease in eggs. It isn’t even uncommon for a 6-year-old chicken to lay an egg occasionally. So, where does this myth come from?

This myth comes from egg production factories. Money-wise, it makes sense to cull a chicken after the first 2-3 years when their egg production has dropped. They will then replace these chickens with younger birds that are ready to lay their first egg. But we are backyard chicken owners, not a company trying to make money.

What Is The Average Lifespan Of A Laying Hen?

It might shock you to know that chickens have a long lifespan. Most chickens live 8-10 years. And some chickens live even longer. In fact, the longest-lived chicken is the famous Matilda, who lived to be 16 years old. So what can chicken keepers expect in these long lifespans?

At What Age And Why Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs?

So now we can cut right to the chase and talk about when you can expect your older hens to retire. After the first lay, your hens will be reliable and high producers for the first 2-3 years. But they won’t stop egg laying overnight. Once your hens hit that three-year mark, though, they will have a steady decline of eggs.

Egg Math

As we mentioned, those first few years, your hens will lay on a regular basis. Then your hen will start to lay fewer eggs and have a decline of about 10% per year. But the chances are, you won’t even notice this drop in the number of eggs at first. Let’s do a little egg production math.

If your hen lays five eggs per week, she might only lay 4-5 eggs a week at four years old. When she turns five, she will still have a decent egg production of about 3-4 eggs per week. And at the ripe age of six, she will drop to 2-3 eggs a week. That means your hen could lay until she is six or seven years old. But there are a few exceptions to this rule.

Breed Matters

One of the biggest factors in how long your chickens produce eggs is their breed. Some chicken breeds are designed to have a high output for the first 2-3 years, like the Golden Comet. And they really do stop suddenly or have a steep decline of eggs. These breeds also have very short lifespans of about 3-5 years, so it makes sense that they stop laying earlier than others.

And on the opposite side of the spectrum are breeds that lay fewer eggs but lay longer. These chickens might only give you three eggs a week and take the winter months off. But they can lay for 7-8 years!

And of course, there are breeds like the White Leghorns that lay high volumes of eggs and lay for long times. So you will have to decide what is best for you and your goals when choosing a breed.

How To Find Hens That Have Stopped Laying Eggs

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which chickens are laying eggs, especially if they are all the same breed. So how do you know your chickens have stopped? There are a few signs to look for in your hens to see which ones are still producing.

The first thing to look for is the color of your chicken’s combs. Most laying hens will have bright red combs. But once your old hen has stopped laying, the comb will turn pale pink. However, this can also mean several things. So you don’t want to rely on this test alone.

The next thing to look for is a dry vent. The laying hen’s vent will be open, pink, and moist. But if your hen is retired from laying, the vent will be small or almost closed. It will also be noticeably dry and pale in color.

And the last test is to measure the distance of the keel and vent. The keel is the very end of the breast bone in the lower abdomen. If your hen is laying, the space should be about 3-4 fingers. But if your hen isn’t laying eggs anymore, that distance will be 1-2 fingers.

What Time Of Year Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs?

Now it’s important to remember that most chickens have a natural break in the year. One time is when the hours of daylight decrease in winter. Your hens will stop laying eggs to conserve energy. And by late summer and early fall, most chickens will go through a short time molting their old feathers for new feathers. This takes a lot of energy and protein, so you can expect a sudden stop in eggs if your flock is all the same age.

If you prefer to have winter eggs, you can get breeds like the Rhode Island Reds, known to lay all year round. Or you can try to add artificial hours of light with supplemental light in the chicken coop. But even in old age, these breeds take a break in cold weather. You never know, once it’s spring again, your old hen might lay again.

Why Did My Hens Stop Laying Eggs?

At what age and why do chickens stop laying eggs differs from breed to breed. But if your chickens are over 5, they are considered in old age. So it’s not unreasonable to assume that they have stopped laying. But what about a young hen?

There are several reasons why younger chickens have stopped laying. Here are a few of the most common reasons. And the good news is that they are easily fixed.

Illness

The biggest reason most young hens stop laying eggs is due to disease. If your chickens aren’t feeling well, they can’t produce the eggs you love. Instead, they are conserving resources to heal. So if you notice a chicken suddenly stop laying, do a thorough check to clear her of illnesses. The best way to resolve this issue is to cure your hens of the underlying disease. Once you have healthy chickens again, their egg production will shoot up.

Diet

If your chicken is fine physically, the next thing to check is her diet. Chickens in their laying years need a well-balanced diet. Hens will need a complete layer feed, oyster shells, grit, and lots of foraging materials. If your hens eat too many treats, they won’t get the proper nutrients they need to lay eggs.

The most common deficiencies in chickens are calcium and protein deficiencies. Calcium is crucial for eggshell development, so without it, your hens won’t lay or lay shell-less eggs. And eggs have 6 grams of protein, so without it, your hen’s can’t lay.

How do you fix these problems? Oyster shells should always be available for an added calcium boost. But if your hens still aren’t eating it, you could always sprinkle some in the feed. Another great source of calcium is recycled eggshells. Your hens will love it, and it puts the shells to good use.

Feeding a quality layer feed will also give your hens the 16% protein they need to lay. But foraging for bugs and slugs is another crucial step for feeding a balanced diet. If you can’t let your hens free range, you might consider planting a garden in the run to attract bugs to feast on.

Stress

Miller 4 Pack of Large Wall Mount Egg Nesting NEST Boxes with Perch for Chicken COOP Hen House Poultry

And finally, the last reason your hens will stop laying is stress. If your hens are too crowded, extremely cold winter or pecking order unrest, you can expect a drop in eggs. Another problem is not having enough nesting boxes for your growing flock that stresses hens. It’s a good idea to make sure you treat your hens like queens. Only the best treatment will give you the best eggs.

If you give your hens all of this, your hens will produce eggs with no problem. It’s everything they need, and no fillers. And it’s all-natural, so you are giving only the best to your girls.

What Is The Best Thing To Feed Chickens For Eggs?

Prairie's Choice Non-GMO Backyard Chicken Feed - Layer Formula, 25lbs

They say that chickens can continue to lay predictable eggs throughout their lives if you give them a wholesome diet. So, what types of things should you feed?

If you give your hens all of this, your hens will produce eggs with no problem. It’s everything they need, and no fillers. And it’s all-natural, so you are giving only the best to your girls.

What Should I Do With Chickens After They Stop Laying?

At What Age And Why Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs wouldn’t be complete without talking about retired hens. And that depends on you. We don’t see any reason to cull old hens that stop laying. We think they are just as valuable as pets, security to the flock, and even broody hens.

But that is up to you. If you wanted, you could still eat old chickens in stews or similar recipes. Just remember that they won’t be as tender as young hens. Or you could wait until they die naturally before processing them for meat. There is no wrong answer here.

And that’s it. We hope to have busted some myths and adequately prepared you for aging hens.

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At What Age And Why Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs?

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