Chicken problems

Asked July 9, 2013, 1:26 AM EDT

We purchased 21 hens last fall that were 8 months old. When we first got them, they didn't miss a beat, and we were consistantly getting 16 to 21 eggs a day. The last few months, the eggshells have become brittle; one chicken has laid a shell-less egg; they are pecking at each other and pulling out each other's feathers; and now we are more consistently getting 11 to 14 eggs. We feed them laying pellets, grain, and we have tried giving them oyster shell and beans and yogurt to strengthen the shells. Someone had suggested they needed a rooster, and so we got one, but that hasn't helped. What should we do? We have also applied Rooster Booster on the pecked areas to try and stop the pecking, but the hens are still at it. How do we strengthen the eggs and get our supply back up? And how do we get the chickens to stop picking on each other?

Lane County Oregon poultry

1 Response

Hens normally reduce production and shell quality as they age. With the recent hot weather, egg production will further decline.

Laying hens should be fed a prepared laying feed, which you are doing, and a minimum of supplementation. A few grains are okay, and free-choice oyster shell should be available constantly, but beans and yogurt are not digested well by chickens and can cause problems if fed long-term. I would not feed the beans and yogurt.

Picking is often problem in chickens. It will start and stop without any apparent reason. It is often considered a behavioral "vice" in chickens and could be a nutritional problem or result from a stress such as the hot temperature or lights that are too bright—in other words, there are many possible causes.

Antipicking ointments can help, however the most effective method to control picking is to trim birds' beaks. Carefully removing about 1/4 of the upper beaks of all the chickens will stop the picking. The results will be that birds will not eat for a couple of days, which may reduce egg production for a time due to the stress. The beaks will grow back in a couple of months, at which time picking may resume.