ASK the Editor: Six months old and not laying

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I have 2 new brown leghorn pullets that are six months old and appear full grown. They have not produced any eggs yet, and I am wondering if this could be because of shorter days coming just when they would start. Will I have to wait until after the winter solstice?

Probably not. Some chickens that are raised later in the season do tend to wait a little longer before laying their first egg and yours are obviously affected by the shorter days (decreased daylight) but they are still relatively young. I would expect you to get an egg or more in the winter season.   Most healthy laying hens don’t COMPLETELY stop in the winter, they just decrease in productivity. Egg production will slow down or stop (depending on the breed of hen) after the first molt which starts as winter approaches.

Chickens will lay at 18-20 weeks if everything is perfect, but they may start later depending on loads of different things — including health, weather, or just because they want to.

Some factors that affect egg-laying include:

  • Decreasing day length
  • Molt
  • Broodiness
  • Flock health
  • Age
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stress

If your hens are not laying or are poor layers it sometimes helps to ask someone living in your area who has chickens if their egg numbers are down, because if they are —  you maybe doing everything right, but the weather conditions might be effecting them.

In addition, if you have bad winters where you live, you might want to look into artificial lighting techniques.  I’m not a big proponent of using artificial methods (chickens need rest from egg-laying) but some people have been able to do this successfully without over-stressing the birds. Perhaps some of our more winter-bound readers will weigh in on this subject.

Just remember, hens are not vending machines. They are living creatures that are affected by all sorts of external and internal stressors.  There may be many reasons for a non-layer and chickens don’t read same books we do 🙂

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