If your egg basket seems to be a light there are variety of things that could be contributing.  There are many factors that affect egg production in chickens, here are some of the most common:

DAY LENGTH: First and foremost day length is one of the biggest factors affecting egg production.  As the days get shorter nature is telling your chickens it’s winter and maybe not the best time to be hatching chicks.  Egg production will naturally slow as the days get shorter, and ramp back up as the days get longer.  You can add light to help keep production up – 16 hours of daylight is optimal.  A 25-watt incandeschent bulb (or equivalent) per 100 sq. ft. of space is sufficient.

chickens roaming

AGE: Chickens start laying eggs around 18-20 weeks of age.  Years 1 and 2 are their most productive years and after that individual egg production is lower.  By years 4-5 egg production is significantly lower, and most chickens will stop laying by the age of 6-8.

BREED: Some breeds are more prolific layers than others.  Leghorns, Australorps, Rhode Island Reds and Easter Eggers are some of the more prolific layers that can produce up to 300 eggs in thier first year.  Silkies and Bantams are not so prolific – many of them will lay less than 100 eggs in their first year.

NUTRITION: Nutrient intake can have a large effect on egg production.  Without proper nutrition it can be difficult for chickens to maintain year-round production.  A complete layer feed should make up at least 9o% of the chicken’s diet.  These diets are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of a laying hen, but can only do so when fed in the amount needed to meet those requirements.  No more than 10% of the hen’s diet should be other things – scratch, mealworms, table scraps, sunflower seets etc…  If a chicken can only eat so much you need to make sure you’re not diluting the nutrition of the layer diet by filling them up with other, un-balanced food sources.   Calcium is ONE OF the most important nutrients related to egg production –  layer diets should contain approximately 3.5% calcium.  Many of the ‘other foods’ that are given to chickens do not have sufficient calcium for egg production and therefore when given to much the hens don’t eat enough of the balanced layer diet and don’t end up getting enough calcium.  Oyster shell can be offered in a separate feeder to help avoid a calcium deficiency.

WATER: Without sufficient water birds will eat less and and can quickly shut down egg production.  It only takes a few hours without water to affect egg production.  This can happen easily and quickly in cold temperatures if water is allowed to freeze.  Also, it is good to keep in mind that anything added to your flock’s water can affect how much their drinking.  Adding too much apple cider vinegar, or to many electrolytes can cause the birds to drink less.

ILLNESS & PARASITES: When birds are ill or dealing with internal parasites egg production will slow.  If identified quickly many ailments can be treated.

TEMPERATURE: Extreme temperatures can affect egg production.  Extreme heat is typically more of an issue than extreme cold.

MOLT: Molt can occur at any time during the year, but typically happens in the fall or early winter.  During molt egg production is at a minimum.

STRESS:  Many of the factors listed above can cause stress in your flock which affects egg production.  It is always a good idea to evaluate the enviroment and determine other stressors in the area if egg production has slowed.  Things like changes in routine, loud noise, new birds, over-crowding, aggressive birds, predators, weather, can all be stressors for birds and could slow egg production.

There are a few tricks to identifying which birds are laying or not laying eggs.  When they are actively laying their combs and wattles will be enlarged and very red (or boldly colored for breeds with black combs and wattles).  When they are taking a break from laying their comb and wattle will be shriveled and pale.  Identifying the birds that aren’t laying can be helpful when trying to determine why production might have slowed.