If you’re rearing chickens for their eggs, you will surely agree with me when I say that there is no greater joy than finding fresh golden eggs in your hen’s nesting boxes. A healthy hen can lay up to one egg a day in her prime. There are a number of factors which affect your hen’s egg-laying ability. Let’s look at some of them here to identify what can be done to keep those eggs coming!
- Lighting and Warmth
Your girls will need approximately 14 to 16 hours of sunlight each day to produce eggs. This is not usually a problem during the spring and summer months where the daylight hours are long.
You may however want to install a light and heater to create artificial sunlight for your chicks during the winter months.
To save you time and trouble, I would recommend that you set the lighting on timer so that the light automatically comes on and turns off every day.
- Food and Water
A balanced diet with sufficient amounts of protein and calcium is vital for your flock to lay good eggs with strong eggshells. High quality poultry pellets should be your first choice when it comes to feeding your chickens.
The idea of free-ranging birds may sound nice; however, it is unlikely that your chickens will consume sufficient nutrients to help them produce many eggs on a free-range diet alone. You will find a drop in their egg production if they do not consume enough protein. Supplementing your chicken’s diet with layer feed will assist in keeping your hen’s egg production in tip-top condition.
An egg is made up of 70% water. You should therefore ensure that your hens have constant access to fresh and clean water, especially during the hot months. During winter, take extra precaution in making sure that the water supply does not freeze over; cutting off access to your flock.
Just like us, stress affects our hens too. Barking dogs and environmental changes are the most common causes of stress in chickens. Your hens will put a pause on their egg production if they are uncomfortable and unhappy. To keep egg-laying at peak levels, you should eliminate these stressors as much as possible. For example, keep noisy children and dogs away from the coops.
Every chicken will molt when it is one and a half to two years old. Molting is a natural process whereby a chicken sheds its old feathers and grow new ones. Egg production tends to decline during the molting period as the protein consumed will go towards growing new feathers. You can try adding extra protein into your chicken feed to encourage egg production during the molting period.
Hens will usually only start laying eggs when they’re 5 months old. Egg production will peak at 12 months and slowly taper off after 18 months.
Older hens will generally lay fewer eggs. The upside to this however is that the eggs are usually larger in size. After 2 years of age, hens will go into retirement and stop laying eggs completely.