Unlimited access >

Chicken Advice for Slacker Hens

My Flock O’ Five is winding up moulting.
Hens look done, rooster still looking a bit ratty.
But nobody has laid for months.
I was thinking they may have aged out.
Oldest is a Barred Rock who’s 6, other hens are an Easter Egger I guesstimate at 5, a Wyandotte probably 4 or 5 & a Cochin who’s 3.
I know none, save the BR, are known as heavy producers.
The Wyandotte was last to give up laying - her eggs have distinctive mottling.
Then last week, I was doing my sweep of their fenced yard & found 3 eggs - 2 def the Wyandotte’s & 1 maybe.
I’d found the odd egg outside the coop before, hence my Search & Destroy.
Not often & nest boxes were being used.
We’d had cool enough weather so I figured they were good. And 2 of the 3 were, last still unused.

My questions are:
#1-Why are they boycotting the nestboxes? :crazy_face:
#2How long after moult is done I can expect eggage to resume? My feeble memory can’t recall (after 10+yrs of chickens :unamused:)

Haha, I couldn’t pass up your thread with that title.

I seem to be the queen of elderly hens- my current flock of 7 (Wyandottes and Speckled Sussex) will all be between 10-11 years old next spring. In my experience, as they get older, their laying becomes concentrated in the late spring through late summer. Even my ancient hens were producing 3-5 eggs/day all spring and summer this year. Once they molt, they’re done until the lengthening spring days get them kickstarted again. With yours in the 4-6 year old range, I would guess maybe they are going to back off year round laying and become more concentrated in the seasons with longer daylight. But I wouldn’t expect them to have aged out completely, just shifting production.

I’ve also found that as they age, it gets harder and harder for them to regrow nice feathers after the molt, so I spoil them with high protein treats through the fall and winter- black soldier fly larvae and sunflower seeds are their favorites. There is a popular bagged birdseed here called “Cardinal’s Choice,” and it’s 3-4 different types of safflow/sunflower seeds, so I use that mixed with regular scratch grains for them. They seem happy and healthy, and at this point they’re pets so that’s my goal for them!


Thanks for the info.
I have become a true Egg Snob & hate being forced to {HORROR!} buy store eggs :dizzy_face:
I’ll look forward to them going back to work in Spring :pensive:

I spoil my hens with a daily breakfast of cooked oatmeal & plain yogurt - telling myself I’m adding protein & calcium to their diet of 16% pellets.
They also get daily BOSS & until recently, Honeynut Cheerios as an afternoon snack.
Lately they’ve let me know the Cheerios are no longer desired.
All kitchen scraps go to them - today chard stems & mushroom trimmed ends.

Mine are pets too, but I’d appreciate at least token repayment in eggs :confused:

1 Like

At their age, maybe they’ll be sporadic enough through the winter that you still have some to eat. Why they are protesting the nest box, only they know :rofl: When mine get that way, I clean out all the hay, vaccuum it out and spray lightly with permethrin to hopefully address any crawly things that might be bothering them, and replace with lots of fresh hay. Sometimes they still prefer the corner of my stalls, but they mostly cooperate.

Funnily enough, I don’t even like eggs, but my husband has two for breakfast every morning. Having to buy eggs over the winter the last couple of years has definitely been a hard adjustment! At least we have a lot of local producers who sell to the co-op grocery stores, and he says they are almost as good as our own.

We also spoil ours with warm oatmeal treats through the winter, and they get kale every day, in addition to our other kitchen scraps. Actually, the dog tends to get first dibs on the scraps (he loves all veggies and fruits), and then the chickens get what he doesn’t, then the rest goes onto the manure pile and feeds the wildlife.


:smile: You better hope your hens don’t find out they’re 2nd to the dog!
Chickens have perfected Stinkeye & aren’t afraid to let us know when we’ve earned it!
I’ve been getting it for the Cheerios.
One of my 1st hens (circa 2009):

& Now, off to TSC for oats & maybe mealworms* will be on sale…

*AKA Chicken Crack


Once older hens molt in the fall they’re pretty much done until Spring. Keep an eye on their combs, they turn pale when they aren’t laying.

Here Chickens are friends not food (except for chickens we don’t know that come in packages at the store :slight_smile: ) so in the winter I… buy eggs.

If you have room you can buy chicks every few years as young hens will lay through winter. The reason production farms stay so productive is they get rid of all their hens during the first molt and get new ones.

1 Like

I’ve had older hens before & most (not all) laid through Winter. I’d gather frozen eggs :grimacing:
Combs are not pale or shrunken on these 4.
But enough feathers in the coop so it looks like this is a really long moult.
Maybe our effed-up weather is at fault.
We’ve been in the 50s, low 60s & today is high 70s :astonished:
Other frirnds😓 with larger flocks are also reporting a slowdown.

Now I’d like to figure out why the nestboxes have become Hot Lava :volcano:

right? My mind pictured some chickens in leather jackets smoking cigs or doobies behind the coop. Rather than hunting bugs and picking at scratch they just nap all day and steal the other good, industrious chickens’ food at mealtime.


Ok, now we need a Cother with good drawing skills to fix this image forever lol

1 Like

Do you have them under lights? Day length drives laying, and if you want them to lay through winter (especially since they’re older) extending the day length is your best bet.

Another thing to consider is if they’re fat. It’s so easy to get them overweight with extra treats.

It’s the season for mites, too, and they were just terrible here this year.


No lights & I checked for pests when the rooster looked Xtra scraggly.
I dust the coop floor & their dustbaths in the yard with Sevin in Spring. Maybe a 2nd course is needed?
I’ve got them confined to the coop today - mostly because I might not get home before dark.
But also to see if that resets anyone thinking of laying to consider a nestbox :confused:

@BatCoach :rofl:


I would dust the coop, boxes, and dust baths with poultry dust every time you clean the coop and/or at least once a month. Mites and lice come in all the time on wild birds.

I’m not using lights this year for the layer coop, I turned them off so they would actually finish molting for once. And they’re still dragging. Next year I’m going to have a plan in place and force molt them in August so that everyone’s fresh.

Not sure why they don’t like the nests if they used to, luckily mine don’t really have anywhere else to hide them.

1 Like

When was the last time you dewormed them? I’ve had egg production drop in summer and not pick up but once I dewormed everyone started laying again. I now routinely deworm them twice a year.

1 Like

these chicks look more like tuff guys than slackers, but the attitude is there LOL.



Dusting in the spring isn’t addressing any mites or lice now, I’d definitely hit the coop with a permethrin poultry dust, especially the nest boxes.

Another option is that you have an egg eater?

Although not laying this time of year is sooooooooo common.


Thanks, All
I’ll dust again & switch to new shavings.
There are sparrows that use the coop during the day & flee when I close it at night.
In 10+yrs & 4 different flocks (mixed old & new due to predator attrition when I freeranged) I’ve never dewormed.
I don’t think eggeating as no shells or other evidence.

No egg today & they were in the coop all day.
I might leave them in a couple more days, but there are still loose feathers on 2 of 4 hens: Wyandotte & Cochin.

@BatCoach Maybe if I promise them the biker jackets?

Coop swept out, new shavings down, dusted with Sevin.
Also Sevin’ed their dustbaths wallows in the yard.
Now we wait… :hourglass_flowing_sand:

1 Like

Mine are 2 and molting for a while now. I am still getting eggs but they have slowed. A few things I do when molting comes or every Fall- Winter to encourage the eggs to keep coming.

  1. Higher protein feed.

  2. Lights on a timer. I set mine to come on at 5am-8am then again at 4pm-11pm.

You may have something getting into your nesting boxes? I know that on occasion mine have gone rogue ( so to speak) and tried laying other places but if I keep the boxes bedded with clean hay they lay there.

Sevin is really advised against for poultry use now. Permethrin dust still does a good job for me, can also get Elector PSP spray concentrate if there’s a bad or resistant infestation.

1 Like

Actually, the stuff I use is a Sevin knockoff (from my feedstore): 8 dust.
Which has permethrin, not the zeta-methrin Sevin has.

1 Like

Oh good! It was the carbaryl that was the problem with it.

1 Like