10 Good Reasons Why Hens Stop Laying Eggs

If you’re keeping chickens for eggs, naturally you want them to keep right on laying them so you have a steady supply. Whether you and your family are eating them, you are selling them, or using them for a breeding program, maintaining output is important.

fresh dirty eggs in chicken nesting box
fresh dirty eggs in chicken nesting box

But, as productive as chickens are, there are plenty of things that can get them to stop laying. When your girls are on strike, and you’re desperate to get them going again it can be a truly frustrating time. But you don’t have to wonder about “why?” or lose your temper if you know how to assess your birds and their environment.

Keep reading, and I’ll tell you about 10 probable reasons why your chickens have stopped laying eggs.

Breed Limitations

The first thing to keep in mind, and one thing that many people overlook, is that different breeds of chickens have different limitations when it comes to the amount of eggs that they lay. Some chickens, like Australorps, are extraordinary layers capable of producing 300 eggs yearly for at least a couple of years.

Other breeds are somewhat more modest, like the Rhode Island Red and Faverolle. Although most of the time, the girls will lay on a schedule, sometimes they’ll go through dry spells, or they stop producing before starting back up again.

Then you’ve got some chicken breeds that lay very few eggs comparatively, less than 100 yearly.

That means you should expect only a single egg from them every few days at most, and it’s not unheard of for them to go longer stretches without laying at all. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong, but it’s just the way it is!

Acute Stress

Acute stress may result in a cessation of egg laying. If a bird has been under attack, is getting picked on by other chickens, is kept in overcrowded conditions, or is constantly too hot or too cold, she can halt laying eggs until her conditions improve. This is an instinctive response.

As a rule, unless a hen has been severely traumatized, once you remove the stressor and give it some time to calm down and get back to normal, you should expect it to resume laying.

Obviously, anything you can do to eliminate stress in the first place is a good thing.

Nutritional Deficit

A major instigator of stoppages when it comes to eggs is poor nutrition. Laying hens need more calories and more nutrients of every kind, particularly protein and eggs to keep the eggs coming.

If a hen’s body doesn’t have the resources to produce eggs, she’ll stop laying to keep herself alive, and even then, she’s probably going to be in bad shape. Getting her the nutrients she needs will restart the flow of eggs.

Keep an eye on your flock during feeding time, and make sure none of your hens in particular are getting bullied or shoved away from the food source.


Dehydration is a biggie when it comes to laying stoppages. Chickens, just like every other living thing, need water to survive, thrive, and stay healthy. If any of your birds are dehydrated, you can expect the rate of egg production to first slow and then stop entirely.

Remember: eggs require tons of water to produce since the yoke and white are mostly liquid themselves!

As mentioned above, hens need lots of extra nutrition and resources, including water, to maintain peak productivity so make sure they have unlimited access to plenty of clean, cool water at all times.

Although it is rarer than scuffles over food, you’ll want to be sure that no other chickens are acting as bullies and keeping hens away from water sources, too.

Illness, Injury, or Mishap

A common cause, but one that might have severe consequences. A chicken that is sick or physically injured might stop laying eggs due to stress alone, but sometimes, the mishap has to do with the eggs themselves.

An impartially formed egg show, or an egg that breaks internally, can actually stop up a hen’s oviduct. This blockage will quickly become infected and turn into a fatal wound if not corrected at once.

If your girl seems normal but suddenly stops laying you need to investigate to make sure this hasn’t happened. Minor injuries can be treated and dealt with yourself, especially if you’re an old hand when it comes to caring for chickens.

However, if you suspect that you are in over your head or you don’t know the true extent of an injury, don’t hesitate to contact a vet right away: a timely and professional intervention might be the only thing that can save a bird’s life!

Australorp broody hen with three baby chicks
Australorp broody hen with three baby chicks

Broody Behavior

Another everyday and instinctive cause for stoppage is broody behavior. This is when a hen decides that she has enough eggs and wants to hatch them to raise her chicks.

This is instinctive, and usually happens when they have between 9 and 12 eggs on hand, but it can occur with far fewer. And, yes, she’ll still do it even if the eggs aren’t fertilized, meaning no chicks are even possible!

This is a seriously annoying problem, and one that most chicken keepers try to prevent and selectively breed to minimize. And once again, different breeds show remarkably different tendencies towards broodiness; Silkies, Cochins, Brahmas, and Orpingtons are all known to be quite broody, and Orpingtons notoriously so.

Broodiness is an advantage if you want a hen to raise chicks on her own, or surrogate eggs, but it’s a disadvantage if you want a steady supply of eggs for eating or selling.

Rooster “Attention”

If you have a rooster, or multiple roosters, in your flock they can inadvertently interfere with egg production by giving your hens too much attention – if you know what I mean.

Sometimes referred to as overbreeding, meaning can be a rough, painful, and even dangerous affair for hens. If there’s a size disparity between a hen and a rooster, or multiple roosters giving the same female attention, she can get hacked to pieces!

This stress and uncertainty of when she’s going to get jumped will often lead to a hen that will retreat from the flock and try to stay safe in a dark corner of the coop or somewhere else.

This, naturally, will lead to a cessation of laying. It can also create a psychological barrier that is difficult to overcome, so it’s in your best interest to give hens protection from roosters.

This is best done by managing the number of roosters in your flock or, if necessary, exiling or culling any particularly aggressive roosters, and have a reputation for roughing up hens.

Insufficient Daylight

Believe it or not, adequate light levels are very important for egg productivity. That’s because hens are closely attuned to light levels as seasonal indicators for when it is best to lay.

In wintertime, when days are shorter and typically there is more cloud cover, many hens will take this as a signal to lay fewer eggs or even stop laying altogether. Any breeds that are known for halting egg production in the winter, this is why.

Likewise, some breeds are known to lay in the winter, meaning they are less sensitive to light levels overall. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want hens to get no less than 12 full hours of sunlight daily to keep them laying.

And this isn’t merely psychological, either: hens rely on certain hormones for egg production, hormones which are secreted in quantity associated with greater light levels.

If you want to maximize winter production or just beat a period of gloomy weather, daylight spectrum light bulbs can be used to artificially stimulate this hormone.


Nothing lasts forever, and that includes the egg output of a chicken. As a rule, a hen will only have 2 to 3 good years of egg-laying where she can be depended on to lay the maximum number as quickly as possible, after which her production will slow, tapering off in time.

Now, she will keep on laying after this time, but an aged hen that is 5 or 6 years old might lay only a quarter of the eggs she did, yearly, compared to when she was younger, and really senior hens might stop laying entirely. There’s not a whole lot you can do about this; that’s just the natural progression in the life of a hen!

Parasite Infestation

A sometimes sneaky cause of laying stoppages, internal and external parasites can result in injuries, aggravation, or chronic health problems that can disrupt the laying cycle.

Various kinds of intestinal worms, external itch-causing critters like fleas, mites, and lice, and a lot more can sap the energy of your girls and drive them mad.

Worse, the injuries these nasty little buggers inflict can potentially become infected, turning into a systemic health problem that will further reduce or halt eggs from forming and potentially even endanger the life of the afflicted chicken.

The good news is that parasite infestation tends to be highly treatable as long as you are checking on your flock regularly for signs and symptoms and administering medicine and preventative as needed.

Also, maintaining a high standard of cleanliness and sanitation around the coop and run goes a long way towards preventing infestation in the first place.

hens stop laying pin image

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