If you’ve ever wanted to figure out how to get your chickens to lay more eggs, you aren’t alone. I’ve had this problem many times myself – often, due to a change in the seasons – and have more than once found myself researching how to boost production.
There are a lot of factors that can affect how many eggs your chickens lay. Some common reasons include too much protein in the diet, not enough calcium, and boredom from lack of stimulation.
If you’re looking for ways to get more eggs from your chickens, read on! I’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Know Your Timeline
One of the best tips to pay attention to when raising chickens for eggs is that chickens don’t start laying as soon as they hatch out of their own eggs.
It takes time!
In fact, most hens won’t lay their first eggs until they are at least 18 weeks of age. Some “late-blooming” breeds won’t even start until they’re 24 weeks or older.
Although there are chickens of some breeds – typically hybrids, like Golden Comets – that can start laying eggs as early as 16 weeks, most will be 18 weeks or later.
So be patient! Also, keep in mind that chicks that hatch later in the year (like in summer or fall) may delay laying until the winter has passed. Typically, chickens only follow the 18-24 week “deadline” if they hatch normally, in the spring.
While you’re marking your calendar for the expected laying times, also keep in mind that there are normal times around the year for chickens to stop laying once they’ve already started, too. For example, molting.
Chickens molt once a year (usually when they are at least one year old). When chickens molt, they lose their feathers to grow new ones – and typically, the laying shuts off too, until those feathers grow back.
You can’t do anything to avoid the molt, but knowing when to expect it (typically in the fall, for about a month) can help relieve some of the stress. You might consider feeding your girls a higher protein diet during this time, too.
Mind the Feed
The good news about raising laying hens is that you don’t have to go absolutely bonkers trying to find some new, cutting-edge feed for your chickens. You just need to give them a basic, quality diet.
Often, chickens don’t lay enough eggs (or any eggs at all) because something in their diet needs to be tweaked. Try feeding your girls a steady diet of premium laying mash or pellet along with occasional supplements like fresh vegetables, fruits, and other treats.
If you change their feed to a new blend, do it gradually. Changing feed formulations all at once is a surefire way to shock and overload your chickens, making them less likely to lay abundant quantities of eggs.
You may find that upping the portion sizes for your hens can help, too. Try offering feed-free-choice by using automatic feeders, rather than only feeding your hens a few times a day.
By providing your chickens with food at all times, they’re more likely to eat more and consequently to lay more, too.
If you don’t already, make sure you have multiple feeding stations set up around your coop and yard. That way, if you have a large flock and find that certain members are bullying others, this will guarantee that all of your chickens can access the feed.
Check out our articles on what you can and cannot feed chickens:
- Things Chickens Can Eat, and 20 Things They Cannot
- Free Ideas to Feed Your Chickens
- Herbs To Feed Your Chickens
Add Some Treats
Although the easiest way to modify your chickens’ diets to get them to lay more eggs is to simply provide them more of their regular, high-protein and high-calcium feed, you can also supplement with treats.
You don’t need to go crazy with this, but there are a few treats you can feed that will help your chickens lay more eggs – something that can be especially helpful as the winter months approach.
Some good options include:
- ✅ Mealworms and earthworms
- ✅ Cooked eggs and eggshells
- ✅ Leafy greens
- ✅ Watermelon and other watery fruits
- ✅ Japanese beetles
- ✅ Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
- ✅ Scratch grains
- ✅ Warm oatmeal (a great treat in the cold winter months!)
- ✅ Cracked corn
If you decide to feed treats, only do it about once a day, and limit the number of treats your chickens get.
You don’t want them to fill up on treats at the expense of the more balanced diet their layer feed provides. Instead, consider feeding treats just once in the evening, after they’ve eaten their fill of their regular feed.
Keep Things Clean
Think about it – how relaxed would you feel if your toilet was overflowing and your house was a mess? Probably not very.
It’s important that you keep your chicken coop and run as clean as possible. This will ensure that your chickens lay lots of eggs – and that those eggs stay clean.
Even if you’re utilizing a low-maintenance style of coop management like the deep litter bedding method, make sure you’re at least going in and adding fresh bedding on a weekly (or more frequent) basis.
Tidy Up Those Nest Boxes
How are your nesting boxes looking? Ideally, you should have at least one nesting box for every four chickens, but if your girls are struggling to lay the right amount of eggs, you may need to add a few more areas for them to do so.
You also need to make sure these spaces are clean. Chickens don’t like laying eggs in a dirty environment – we can’t blame them!
Plus, eggs that are dirty or laid in inadequate amounts of bedding are more likely to be cracked and broken – which increases the likelihood that other hens will decide to eat those eggs, too (something I’ll address in more detail later on in this article for you).
Give a Girl Some Space!
If your chickens are feeling cooped up – see what I did there? – they are far more likely to lay fewer eggs.
Consider allowing your chickens room to free-range, if you don’t already. Even if the number of eggs doesn’t increase, the quality sure will. Free-range chickens lay eggs that are higher in vitamins and minerals – and that taste better, too.
Laying an egg requires a shocking amount of calcium. Make sure your laying hens have access to a calcium supplement.
This can be mixed directly into the feed or, if you are raising your hens amidst roosters, whose bodies can’t handle the extra calcium, you can just provide a free choice calcium supplement. Oyster shell is a good choice.
This will encourage your chickens to not only lay more eggs, but to lay healthier eggs with strong shells, too.
Regularly Inspect Your Birds
Many times, a hen will refuse to lay eggs because she has some sort of health problem going on. Check your hens regularly to inspect them for various health problems.
Does she have any cuts? Broken bones? This might help you get an idea of any conditions that need to be taken care of before your hen can start laying again.
Upgrade the Coop Security
Make sure your coop is secure and protected from predators. A stressed hen is a hen that won’t want to lay a lot of eggs. Make sure animals like raccoons, rats, cats, weasels, and foxes can’t get into your coop or run, and don’t forget about those aerial predators, either!
Often, flightier predators like hawks and owls can stress your hens without you even knowing about it.
Provide Fresh Water
Chickens need lots of fresh water to lay eggs. Make sure you refill and clean waterers every single day and, as with the feeders, make sure there are multiple watering stations available to your chickens so that they don’t have to compete. It might be a chore to maintain these watering stations, but it will be worth it when it comes to getting more eggs.
Have you checked the weather lately? If it’s super cold or super hot, that could be the reason as to why your chickens aren’t laying eggs like they used to.
Although you can’t control the weather, there are steps you can take to make your girls more comfortable and turn the laying back on. Provide plenty of shade and ventilation in the coop in the summer, and try dropping some ice cubes in your chickens’ waterers.
In the winter, ventilation is still important – and you might want to try feeding some warm treats at night to make sure your girls stay toasty warm.
Check for Parasites
There are all kinds of internal parasites that love nothing more than feasting on your chickens. Check your birds regularly to make sure they don’t have mites or lice – these external parasites can wreak havoc on your chickens, too.
They’ll often manifest as itchy, red areas on your chickens’ bodies or areas where feathers have been plucked and the skin pecked raw.
You should also take the time to check the coop for mites at night. This is when these red-brown pests are most common. You can use a parasiticide to get rid of mites, but often, keeping a clean coop is the first line of defense against both internal and external parasites.
When in doubt, consider adding a dollop of garlic or a drop or two of apple cider vinegar to your chickens’ feed. This is a harmless way to ensure that parasites will stay away from your chickens to begin with.
Upgrade Your Breeds
There are some chicken breeds that are far better than others when it comes to laying lots of eggs. If you’re just not happy with the eggs your chickens are laying, it might be time for an upgrade.
Some good options to consider include:
- White Leghorns
- Golden Comet (and other sex links)
- Rhode Island Red
- Barred Plymouth Rock
- Golden Laced Wyandottes
- New Hampshire
Cull When Necessary
Sometimes, hens just get old. Although a chicken can live for nearly a decade when properly cared for, if your sole goal is egg production – and not in raising a chicken as a pet – you may find that you have to cull members of the flock.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to kill the chicken – you can always just choose to find it a new home at another farm. Nothing wrong with sending the chicken to the stewpot, either!
Make Sure Eggs Aren’t Being Eaten
One of the most common reasons why egg production drops – or seems to drop – is that eggs are being eaten. It could very well be that your chickens are already laying an appropriate amount of eggs but that those eggs are being stolen by hungry hens!
There are several reasons why hens might eat eggs. Unfortunately, once a hen gets a taste for rich, creamy egg yolk, she’s unlikely to stop eating eggs – meaning you might have to cull her or find her a new home if you want to protect your cache.
Hens often start eating eggs because they are deficient in calcium. Feeding chickens raw eggs can also lead to egg-eating compulsions (but cooked eggs should be okay, since the eggs are in an unidentifiable form).
Boredom and a dirty coop are two other culprits behind egg eating. Make sure you provide your flock with opportunities to free range and entertain themselves, and keep the coop clean at all times.
Try a Light
This method of getting your chickens to lay more eggs is somewhat controversial, but if you’re raising eggs to sell, or just really don’t want your chickens to stop laying eggs during the winter, you may have to give it a try.
Hens will naturally drop off in their laying abilities during the winter months, when there is less daylight. They will lay far more in the late spring and summer months.
To get around this natural tendency, many people choose to put a light in the chicken coop. This can add additional hours of sunlight to an otherwise short, dark day.
Look for Hiding Spots
If you’ve tried out all the tips on this list and still can’t figure out why your hens aren’t laying eggs, it may behoove you to stop and think for a moment.
Perhaps your chickens aren’t not laying eggs – perhaps they’re just laying them where you can’t find them!
Sometimes, squirrelly little hens will hide their eggs away, laying them in odd spots. This can be due to too much competition for the nest boxes, pressure from predators, or sometimes, for no reason at all.
Take a good, long look around the chicken yard and see what you can find. Then, revisit these tips on how to get chickens to lay more eggs.
While it may take some patience to get to the bottom of your issue, with time, you’ll get those girls producing tons of tasty eggs for you once again!
Rebekah is a high-school English teacher n New York, where she lives on a 22 acre homestead. She raises and grows chickens, bees, and veggies such as zucchini (among other things).