I recently had a question posed to me by someone who is starting out with a backyard flock. His hens laid an egg each on the first day, but it has been several days now, and nothing. What’s up? He describes his coop, and I get the impression that he is doing everything right, but still no eggs.
To answer his question, I started describing how eggs develop in the hen, and then thought…..others might want to see this….so, for Andrew, and the rest of you….here is how an egg is made:
The yolks are made in the ovary of the hen. They are stimulated to grow by a hormone cascade that is started by the hen sensing an increasing day length. As long as the hen is old enough to be sexually mature and has the nutrition and health to allow her to build the yolks, they are all but inevitable. For Andrew’s question, I would suggest he give the birds an increase in day length….maybe 15 minutes every week for a couple weeks. There is another factor though…..
It takes 5-6 days for an ovum to grow into a yolk and be released. Now…if a hen is stressed (by moving homes, illness, etc, etc), and she goes “out of lay”, she will need to re-start that process of yolk growth. If she is ready to begin again immediately, it will take 6 days before she lays again (5 days of yolk growth, and 1 day for the rest of the egg to be produced). If she takes a couple of days before she feels good again, it will take 6 days from then. In professional barns, even with pretty much ideal handling and preparation, most pullets don’t start laying until the middle to the end of the week after they get into the laying barn.
This “reset” is not uncommon. It will also happen if the birds have a health setback, feed or water interruption or have decreasing day length. This is different than the bird taking a day off. Hens develop a group of eggs at a time. The number of eggs in this “clutch” is variable, and the more the bird has been selected for egg production, the longer she goes before reaching the end of her clutch. After the clutch is done, the hen takes 1 or 2 days off until the next yolk is ready to become an egg. The clutch started off as the number of eggs a hen would lay each year….ie she would lay an egg a day until she had the nest full (5-7 eggs), then stop and sit on em until they hatched. Now, clutches can be as long as 100 eggs without taking a day off.
So….basically….if a hen gets “bumped” out of production for any reason, it will take her a minimum of 5-7 days to start back to laying eggs. If she is “in lay”, she may take the odd day off. In order to stimulate a flock to lay eggs, keep the day length increasing, and don’t let it decrease. Beyond that, the hens will do the work, once they are comfortable and settled in.
Mike the Chicken Vet