Chickens lay eggs consistently for 2 to 3 years for most breeds. After that time, they slow down and eventually stop laying altogether. Old age is one of the reasons why chickens stop laying eggs. I want to talk about this, and some other reasons as well.
I had a flock several years ago when I was living in a different location than the Lone Raven farm where I am now. Determined to protect my free-range chickens, I would hang out on the porch, or the lawn every chance I got. I would make certain to be home before dark if I was out, and if any birds decided to sleep outside, they would be carried into the coop, one by one.
No matter what I did, I couldn’t stop a fox from killing all of my chickens. At one point, the fox ran right out in the yard in the middle of the day and took a chicken right in front of me. I ran as fast as a 50-year old, out of shape man could, yelling my head off at the fox, and son-of-a-gun if that fox didn’t drop Autumn (the chicken’s name) before it ran away.
Autumn survived one more fox attack before the fox finally got her. The fox was raising kits. That is why she was out during the day. Actually, it could have been the tod or the vixen. They both help rear the young ones. That’s just what they do – can’t hate ’em for it.
What Happens When Chickens Get Old?
The aging process is no different in a chicken than it is in most creatures. As the metabolism slows down and ovulation decreases, or ceases altogether, egg laying dwindles to a halt. This usually occurs after 3-years of age. There’s nothing you can do to slow down time, but you can make moves to help your chickens lay longer. More on that later.
Now, you might think that old chickens are useless, and should be ignored, eaten, or euthanized. In fact, older chickens are still very useful. They are wise. They have been around the barnyard for a long time, so they are good at watching out for predators.
Older chickens eat a lot of bugs, like disease-carrying ticks! There are a lot of ticks in my area, but I have to get out into the weeds to find them because my girls, of all ages, don’t miss a thing when it comes to food.
Chickens are easily stressed, scared, surprised, disturbed, etc., hence the phrase, “You’re such a chicken!”. When a chicken is stressed, egg production can drop for a period of time. Depending on the cause of the stress, the chicken will get over it and start laying again. If the stress is chronic, say in the case of lack of food and water, the chicken won’t lay again until the food and water is returned and remains consistent.
Causes of stress can be your dog constantly harassing your chickens. Fortunately, my dogs get along very well with my chickens, so I think they may actually bring comfort to the flock. I wish I could speak chicken so I could find out.
Another cause could be extreme heat. Heat stress can be chronic depending on where you live. If this is the case, you will want to do something to cool your chickens.
Removing a rooster can be a stressor to your laying hens. Don’t think they aren’t sociable enough to care about the loss of a flock member. During the fox attacks of yesteryear, the girls laid very sporadically.
That brings us to predators. Any predator attack can cause egg production to drop for a period of time. Usually it’s less than a week.
When do Chickens start Molting?
Molting is when a chicken loses its feathers and grows newer, high quality feathers to help the chickens winter properly. It’s not cold that brings it on, but the amount of daylight the chickens receive that triggers the molt. It happens every year in the fall.
Egg production decreases during the 8-16 weeks of the molting period. You can help get your birds through the molting period with nutrition. When you notice your chickens losing feathers, switch to a complete feed with 20% protein, probiotics, prebiotics and key vitamins and minerals. This helps the birds stay healthy, and it speeds recovery.
Disease and Injury
If your chickens are suffering from mites or lice, it can have an effect on egg production. If your chickens have a severe illness like Avian Influenza, you’ll be lucky to have chickens, let alone eggs.
Keep a close eye on your chickens if they start sneezing persistently, constantly preen, seem lethargic, or stop laying eggs. These can all be signs of illness or infestation. A veterinarian will have to take a look at your chickens if you can’t figure out what is going on with them.
Chickens can stop laying eggs for many reasons. Knowing the possible reasons can help you to know if it is a situation that you can remedy, or if you simply have to let it run its course.
A Couple of Sidenotes
Some chicken breeds lay better than others. A couple of strong laying breeds are White Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds.
By keeping your chicken coop clean and free of any infestations or predators, the stress levels of your chickens will be kept in check, and your chickens will lay consistently.
Older chickens make fine pets. By working with them for just a few minutes every day, they will grow to trust you and really enjoy your company.
And finally, when all else fails, chicken and dumplings, chicken soup, and chicken & biscuit are all fine meals. Old birds are not suitable for the frying pan, roaster, or barbecue. They are just too stringy and tough.
If that’s too rough for you, and I completely understand if it is, you can always give your birds away.
Thanks for reading this. I always appreciate comments. Leave one below if you would like to. I’ll get back to you in less than a day, for sure.