I often get asked "What's wrong with my chicken?!" and "Why is my hen not laying any more? Nothings changed!". First it's important to understand that all hens need to take a 'holiday' from egg making on occasion. The exception to this rule may include the hybrid 'Hyline Brown' or 'Isa Brown' chooks, but remember they have a typical lifespan of 2-3 years old. Lets think about that for a moment.
A few brief points to consider why you're hen is not laying:
Reduced daylight hours in winter will reduce or eliminate the ability to lay eggs. A hen needs around 14 hours of daylight to produce an egg. Big commercial companies install lights in their sheds to overcome this.
EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS
Freezing temperatures, extreme heat, snow, consistent bad weather (stress) may reduce egg production.
Vitamin deficiency or low protein diet will stop eggs until the diet is rectified. This is sometimes a trial & error process, their diet is very important if you expect a good egg production! Avoid the 'budget' type layer pellets - its similar to you eating fast food every day.
I mention this again because it deserves its own heading. A hen simply cannot produce an eggs if it is not getting a MINIMUM of 14% protein. Check the ingredient list on your layer pellet to double check, not all reach this level. Try to aim for around 17% - we feed and recommend Laucke Mills Showbird Breeder MP for a complete balanced diet.
FREE RANGING & EXCESSIVE TABLE SCRAPS
Yes, free ranging is very important. Table scraps offer a healthy variety. But if your hen is being a little lazy with her eggs, reduce their free ranging time (maybe only let them out for a few hours after work instead of all day) and only feed them table scraps in the afternoon. By doing this, you're making sure your hens eat their balanced diet of high protein layer pellets, rather than filling up on watery grass and lettuce leaves. Even if they're eating bugs in the garden it may not be enough for your particular hen to produce eggs. Make sure they eat their healthy 'breakfast' and 'lunch' of layer pellets before giving them their 'desserts'!
Growing feathers takes a lot of energy so the eggs will have to wait! Molting generally takes around 6 weeks, so be patient.
too young or too old. A large purebred bird can take 6-9 months before producing her first egg, especially if its winter as she approaches maturity. A healthy purebred hen may continue to lay until she's 7 - 10 years old, however hybrids or cross breeds may not possess this vigour. Isas and Hyline Browns generally stop laying around two years old so avoid buying ex-battery hens as they are already close to 18 months old.
A hen will stop laying once she's decided she has the need to be a mumma!
Over crowding, bullying, new house/owners, dogs, predators (hawks, foxes, snakes), rough handling (supervise children!) etc all aid towards stress, in addition to the points listed here.
DISEASE OR ILLNESS
A hen can't lay if her body isnt healthy
MITES, LICE, WORMS
As above, a regular worming/cleaning routine is vital if you expect eggs for breakfast.
You 'hen' is actually a rooster!
Failing all of these points I know a few people who conveniently leave the axe against the coop door - just as a subtle hint!!