How to Increase Egg Production

by Merissa on June 17, 2011

in Homestead Hints

How to Increase Egg Production

How to Increase Egg Production

Out here in the country, life revolves a little differently than it does in the city. We put hard, long hours into making our homestead a self sufficient haven for our families. Homestead Hints will be a series following things that we've learned over the last several years on how to make our homestead living a little better. Welcome to the Little Homestead on the Prairie...

Walking through the soft, sometimes crunchy grass, you head up the path to the chicken barn. The path under your feet is starting to get well worn from your shoes walking it everyday. A slow breeze lifts the hair off your neck and tangles it up a bit as you get closer. The grasshoppers are already singing their summer song and a bird and its friend fly out of the tall grass on your left.

You finally reach the chicken barn and you pull open the old wood door. The hinges complain just a bit as you open the door all the way. You can hear the faint clucking of the chickens outside in their fence and the few that are in the chicken barn give you a quizzical stare.

You reach the nests, piled high with soft wood shavings. You get closer so you can reach in and collect the eggs but then to your surprise....there isn't any.

Your thoughts are:

  • Somebody stole them! (Ok, not rational, moving on...)
  • The chickens stopped laying!
  • The chickens are laying them elsewhere!
  • The chickens are eating them!

Let's move through these one at a time, to learn how to increase egg production. (minus the first one)

1. The chickens stopped laying. Although unlikely in this case that the chickens would stop laying all at once, after a few years it does happen. If your chickens are a few years old and you are noticing egg production waning, it's probably a good time to get rid of the chickens. It's good to rotate your chickens about every 2- 4 years, depending on if they aren't laying or have slowed down on egg production. Chickens can lay longer than 4 years but if you planned on butchering the meat won't be very good, it will be too tough and stringy.

2. The chickens are laying the eggs somewhere else. This is also unlikely in this case because they wouldn't all start doing it all at once. Although I have found eggs in other places than the nest it doesn't happen very often. If you've created a good nest for them with wood shavings or something soft they will keep coming back to it and laying their eggs there. However, if they don't have a good nest they will find somewhere else to lay and it's not a pleasant surprise when you walk through the tall grass and step on a pile of eggs.

3. This is the most likely scenario in this case. It's hard to stop them when chickens start eating their own eggs but fortunately there are several different things you can do to prevent this from happening, and hopefully to stop them if they've already started. First, never ever feed chickens egg shells. Chickens do need calcium in their diet to create the shells on the eggs but feeding them their own shells is not the way to do it. Buy a bag of oyster shells at your farm store. They are only around $12 - $14 for a 50lb bag and that will last a long time. In fact I think we bought ours over a year ago and we still aren't out yet. Just mix a little in with their regular feed each day to get them to lay nice, hard shelled eggs. This will also prevent them from accidentally cracking if they eggs get dropped too hard when they are laid, and when a chicken finds a cracked egg, they will peck at it and eat it. Eating eggs could mean that the chicken has a lack of protein in their diet. You can check this problem by looking at the color of their beaks. If they are purple or have a purple tinge to them you can be sure they need more protein. Free range chickens have less of a chance of getting a protein deficiency because they are outside and can eat more bugs. To get more protein in their diet you can also feed them clabber, which I talked clabber definition.

Chances are that if you have chickens, one or more of these things will happen to you over the years and it's good to know how to increase egg production. Eggs and chickens are an excellent source of protein or a little extra income and are fairly easy creatures to keep. But like anything else, there are tricks to keeping them, and keeping them well.

Learn more about Homestead Living and Raising Backyard Chickens!  Here are some other great articles on raising chickens:

Have you had any of the above happen to you? Did you learn how to increase egg production? Do you think chickens are a worthwhile animal to have around?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 CKay K June 17, 2011 at 10:11 am

I do not have chickens beings I live in RC limits but could an animal like a skunk or coon be getting in to eat the eggs, I hope not as typically if they eat the eggs they could/would kill some chickens as well. Hope you find a remedy to your solution soon.
CKay

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2 Merissa June 17, 2011 at 10:16 am

It’s possible that a creature could get in during the day but our chicken coop(and most that I know of) are pretty sound to prevent that. It’s also one of the reasons we have a dog!

However, animals can still find their way in, and not necessarily to get at the eggs. Last year my parents lost 40 chickens to a mountain lion.

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3 Charity June 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Hi Merissa! Great post – as always. We just got our first set of peeps in May. THey are doing exceptional and I am now starting to let them out (watching them right now as we have hawks and trying to get them to know the property too) and they are loving it. I recently found that some of my chickens were opening their mouths and one was sneezing. I started looking up research and thought that they had gape worm. But thankfully they do not. I’ve heard a lot about how chickens can get worms quite easily and do to 4x a year worming program. Well I A. don’t have the $$ for this and B. don’t want those chemicals. After doing some research, I decided to feed my girls minced garlic a few times a week and put food-grade diatamaceous earth in their feed. Supposedly this builds their immune system up and the diatamaceous earth (food grade only) is good at keeping them wormed. They are happy little pullets and I also use the food grade earth and take an old gardening glove 2-3 times a week and dip my hand in it and wipe their feathers. They do dust themselves, but I just want to do some minor things ot keep them healthy. The food grade earth is very inexpensive and one 5 pound bag will last 6-8 months. You only need minimal amounts. Also, the “opening mouth” thing with the chickens too was just yawning. I tend to overanaylze things and realized they are just normal healthy little girls doing what pullets do. I can’t wait to get them free range and earing all those ticks and bugs. They are truly are easy and fun to have. I hope this info helps some mroe people out – ps – the gape worm is supposedly pretty rare in chickens I hear, too.

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4 Merissa June 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Thanks for all the info! I’ve heard about using food grade diatamaceous earth for chickens but I haven’t tried it yet. Glad to know it’s working for you though!

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5 Pamela June 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I don’t have chickens but it was such fun reading about yours. I could see you walk up the path, hear the door complaining as you opened it. Great writing.

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6 Valorie August 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm

You might also have a snake. We were missing eggs too. Found a 5 1/2 foot chicken snake had taken up residence. Needless to say…snake dead. Eggs are once again in the nest. By the way, Diatomacous Earth is awesome. I sprinkle it on the litter in the barn once a month for mite control, and they get it in their food too as a wormer. It also serves as a fly population reducer here on the farm.

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7 Rachael May 17, 2013 at 8:26 am

You suggested in your “what to do with eggshells” post to feed chickens eggshells. In this one you say never to feed them eggshells. Confusing.

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8 Merissa May 17, 2013 at 11:01 pm

In general I would not feed chickens eggshells. However they CAN be feed to them as long as they are thoroughly cleaned first and no trace of the insides remain. Otherwise chickens will get a taste for their own eggs and eat them all the time :(

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9 h2olovngrl December 3, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I sometimes feed my girls their shells, but I grind them up REALLY small and mix it with scratch or food. I don’t think they’ve made the connection yet.

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10 Roma Seiker December 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Love your writing! I’m too lazy to wash and smash egg shells for our fluffy butts, so I do oyster shell. I don’t even use much oyster shell, as their shells are plenty hard. I have one hen who will spend an hour or more scratching as much bedding out of the nest as possible before she’ll lay, so I really watch her in case her egg is cracked when she drops it (it has cracked a couple of times). If she wasn’t such a good layer, she’d be soup.

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