It’s spring! As chicken keepers we should all be enjoying the increase of egg production with our flocks. The fall molt has long been over, the summer heat has not yet started and the longer daylight hours should be triggering a laying effect with your flock.
This is prime egg laying season. This is the time when you will get the largest amount of eggs from your hens. So if you’re egg basket is not brimming like you’d expect, here’s a checklist of 8 things you can do to encourage more eggs from your hens.
- Commercial layer feed Chickens need a balanced diet in order to lay eggs. A commercially produced layer feed is the fastest and easiest way to encourage your hens to lay regularly. These feeds are perfectly formulated to provide everything a chicken needs to lay an abundance of eggs.
- Calcium supplement A calcium supplement like oyster shell or dried, crushed eggshell should be offered free choice. The production of an egg shell everyday drains the hen’s system of calcium. If not supplemented, her body will begin to leach calcium from her bones.
- Clean nest boxes When a chicken looks to lay an egg, she is searching out a potential spot to raise young. A filthy egg box is not only unsanitary for eggs meant to be eaten, but it discourages hens from laying in them. She will not want to potentially raise her young in soiled bedding.
-To keep boxes clean, collect eggs often to prevent broken egg messes.
-Discourage chickens from sleeping in nest boxes by providing ample roosting space and by placing roosts higher than the nest boxes. Chickens will instinctively choose the highest (most protective) spot to roost.
-Clean and replace nesting material often. My system is to check the nest boxes each day. If one is soiled, I cover it with a fresh layer of pine flakes. (Four large fist-fulls of flakes is enough to cover the floor of one of our boxes) Then once a week I dump the whole nest box and start over.
- Provide enough nest boxes But not too many. Providing too many nest boxes will encourage your hens to sleep in them. They will defecate in the boxes while they sleep and make a mess (see above). One nest box per 4 hens is a good ratio and will keep them from laying on the floor of the coop.
- Fresh, clean water available at all times. An egg is approximately 74% water, 12% protein and 11% fat. For a chicken to lay an egg she must be well hydrated. You may notice that in extreme heat, egg numbers may dwindle. Try your best to cool your chickens by providing shade, fresh water and cool treats like frozen fruits and vegetables.
- Lay off the non-protein snacks and scratch grains Scratch grains and kitchen scraps are a nice treat to chickens who are bound to a grass free run. But they should remain just that…a treat. Scratch grains are not a balanced food source like a formulated feed. If your chickens fill up on scratch, they will not be getting the protein they need to lay an abundance of eggs.
- Collect eggs daily or twice daily to discourage broodiness in hens. If too many eggs collect in the nest boxes this signals the instinct for your hen to go broody. Broody hens stop laying, and once she’s in the zone, it can be a hard behavior to break.
- Health check If all is in order and your chickens aren’t molting, broody or taking a break during the winter then you should be getting lots of beautiful eggs. If there’s still a shortage, it might be a health problem. Check for symptoms of disease. Unusual dropping consistency or color, lethargy, change in comb color etc. Check for internal parasites like worms in droppings and external parasites like mites at the base of feather shafts.
Chickens can also have internal problems like being egg bound, or problems with their reproductive tract. Always check with a veterinarian if anything seems off with your flock.
Healthy, happy chickens lay the most eggs. So give your flock the few simple things that they need, and they will thank you with healthy, delicious eggs!