9 Reasons Why Your Hen Stopped Laying Eggs

Raising chickens is a huge learning experience. My husband and I thought we had it all figured out. They’re just chickens after all! Then, one day, the nesting boxes were almost empty. We thought it was strange but figured it was a fluke. The next day proved it wasn’t a one-time event.

I was pretty baffled. Why did my dependable girls suddenly stop laying eggs? We needed those eggs, so we had to figure it out quickly. What did I do? First, I called my grandma who raised chickens on a farm for half of her life.

Then, I turned to Google. Google is everyone’s friend. There were the answers I needed. I was surprised that there are multiple reasons a hen stops laying eggs! Let’s take a look so we can solve the problem fast!

Reason 1 – Winter Causes Lack of Light

So, if it is wintertime, you’ve already figured out your issue. Many breeds continue to lay through the winter, but the production slows down greatly.

A hen needs 14 to 16 hours of daylight to lay a single egg. In the dead of winter, she may be lucky if she receives 10 hours. It is a natural period of slowing down. Many people like to add supplemental light, but I also pick not to do so. I believe that chickens are designed to have this decrease. Ultimately, not supplementing with light allows the chicken’s egg laying to span over more years.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if you want to supplement. Just keep in mind that changes in weather and light can lead to a decrease in egg production.

Reason 2 – Temperature

Temperature, just like the light, is a huge factor in your hens’ egg production. If you have a sudden spike in temperature, hens can stop laying eggs. Our girls tended to dislike anything about 90 degrees really. I don’t blame them!

Likewise, really cold days can cause a decrease in egg production. Your hens have to adjust to the temperature.

Reason 3 – Diet Issues

If it isn’t wintering time, your next step should be to consider your feedings and supplemental choices. Chickens need a steady diet of fresh food and water. If you forgot to feed your chickens for a day or two (humans do these things), hens can stop laying altogether.

If your feeding schedule wasn’t disrupted, another good step is to make sure that your hens are eating quality food. They also need to have regular access to greens and foraging for bugs. Even though it is fun, avoid giving too many treats. It can stop them from eating their healthy food. Instead, send the kids to pull weeds to feed to the chickens. That’s being productive!

Chickens need a balanced diet, just like you and I! They need to have appropriate amounts of protein, calcium, and salt. Remember, fresh water is crucial for egg production.

Reason 4 – Broody Hens

I love a broody hen, but that broodiness stops egg production. Instead of laying eggs, your hen is now focused on defending and hatching those eggs for the next 21 days or more.

You can try to break a hen of her broodiness, but I prefer just to let her go. Broodiness is a great way to create a self-sustaining flock. Also, it can take days or a week to break the broodiness. Letting her hatch the eggs is less work for you!

Reason 5 – Molting Time

Do your girls suddenly look just plain ugly? It might be time for molting. Molting is normal, but they often look as if they had hard few days. It isn’t a time when your chicken flock looks the best.

Molting is when your chickens shed their old feathers and grow new ones. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of energy and time for a hen to grow new feathers. Sometimes, to compensate for the energy sucker, hens will stop laying eggs.

Don’t worry; molting will be over soon, and eggs will start again soon! Molting often goes along with season changes. Our chickens tend to molt around fall or late summer.

Reason 6  – Age of Your Hens

Hens won’t steadily lay eggs for their entire life. At some point, they enter chicken retirement, or so I call it. Hens lay steadily between six to nine months (depends on breed) up to 2 years old.

Don’t worry; chickens do lay eggs after they are two years old, but it does tend to slow down. It isn’t abnormal for chickens to lay up to 7 years old. We have chickens that are four and five years old still laying steadily, but not daily.

It is up to you whether you want to keep chickens who entered egg-laying retirement. If you only have room for a small flock, it can be hard to keep a chicken that isn’t productive. It is an individual decision; there is no right and wrong answer!

Reason 7 – Pests and Diseases Invade

Another major reason that your hens stopped laying eggs is that there is a pest or disease bother your flock. The two most common issues are lice and mites. A really bad infestation can stop a flock from laying regularly.

There are some signs that your flock is sick. Here are some things to identify:

  • Abnormal poop
  • Not laying eggs
  • Coughing or making strange noises
  • Quits eating or drinking
  • Chickens are unable to stand up

Colds in chickens often produce slim in their nose area. Chickens will breathe with their mouth open due to nose blockage. You might notice their combs turning pale or constant itching.

Reason 8 – Changes in Routine and Life

Chickens are like kids; they love routine and habits. If you change their routine, egg production could change. Changing or redesigning their coop can disrupt production. We added an addition and moved their run; our chickens didn’t like that for a few days!

Another change could be when you introduce new chickens to the flock. Sometimes, hens will go on a strike and stop laying eggs. How dare you add new chickens! Luckily, chickens will adapt if you give them a few days or week.

Reason 9 – Predators

There is a chance your girls are laying eggs, but a predator is eating them. Predators love fresh eggs as much as we do. Snakes are famous for eating eggs. It can give you a startle to find a snake in your nesting box.

If you think this is your issue, the best step is to figure out how predator-proof your coop. Try to add more hardware cloth, extra netting and close up any holes where they might enter. These predators are small and smart!

For us, our issue was that we disrupted their routine. We changed their coop design and added new members within days of each other. Our girls apparently were protesting all of the changes! They started laying again within days. Our breakfast table was thankful for the start up again!

Creating Your Successful Suburban Homestead Dream

Homesteading in the suburbs can feel like an impossible feat. You have dreams of living off the land, raising your own meat, and being self-sufficient. How is doing any of this possible when your neighbors are close?

I understand; I felt this way for a long time too. When we purchased our house on a single acre, that was all we could afford. Land is expensive here with the booming fracking industry. No one wants to cough up land unless it is for a small fortune.

When the homesteading bug bit me, I felt frustrated. I couldn’t accomplish anything with an acre! My husband encouraged me to look at what other people were doing to homestead with an acre. I purchased the Backyard Homesteading book and started surfing Pinterest – isn’t that what everyone does when they feel frustrated?

To my surprise, there are hundreds of suburban homestead articles, and all of them made me realize one thing. I could do this, and you can do too.

A few years later, we are still slowly working on our homestead. Each year, we add something and learn something new from the year before. Homesteading is a personal growth process as well, one that I didn’t expect.

If you are ready to start your suburban homestead dreams, here are my top tips.

Take a Look at Your Land Attributes

Instead of looking at the size as a hindrance, look for the positive features. For example, our front yard is a quarter of an acre, and it receives full sun. It is flat with rich soil, the ideal spot for our garden. I tried to garden in our backyard, but I gave up after a few years. The neighbors might think that turning my front yard into a garden is strange, but it works.

We also have maple trees on our land. We have a hill on our property, which is perfect for sled riding. The back of our property has a spring, heavily wooded area and plenty of shade. What does your property have going for it?

Focus on One or Two Tasks at a Time

If you’re like me, it is tempting to start everything at one time. You want to plant a quarter acre garden, buy goats and chickens, plant a fruit orchard and berry patch, grow culinary and medicinal herbs, and sell at a farmer’s market. Ambitious, much?

Unfortunately, that’s not practical or smart. You will get burnt out quickly. Instead, pick two tasks you want to focus on for that season of the year or even that year. Do you want to get started with vegetable gardening? Build and plant two to four raised beds. Don’t immediately plant 16 or more. Gardening takes a lot of work and practice. Start small and grow.

Do you have the space for chickens? Start off with a small flock. Yes, you will want to buy all the chickens. Learn how to take care of a small flock first.

Don’t Go into Debt for a Suburban Homestead

This one is huge. Debt is a hindrance. We are in the process of paying off our debt. It is unwise to add more debt to your household during the creation of a suburban homestead. Learn how to do things creatively and cheaply, or save up the cash until it is feasible.

Focus on Skill Building

Homesteading is more than just gardening and raising animals. It involves the developing of skills that encourage living a more self-sufficient lifestyle. What type of skills can you develop for your suburban homestead?

·         Learn how to crochet, knit or sew.

·         How to preserve the harvest through canning, freezing or dehydrating.

·         Starting seeds inside of the house.

·         How to forage for wild greens and herbs.

·         Using dried herbs (purchase online until you can grow them) to make herbal remedies, teas, infused oils and more.

·         Make your own cheese.

·         Bake from scratch.

·         Make your own soaps and personal products.

One of the key things about homesteading is that you want to avoid going to the store as much as possible. You are going to use up what you have, or learn how to make it yourself. Why buy cheese at the store when you can make it at home? You might be thinking, how does that help my homestead? When you can get a milk goat or cow, you already will have the skills to start making cheese or processing the milk.

Make Goals and a Plan

This part is huge! Life without goals and a plan is hard. Homesteading without them is even harder. How do you decide where to expand unless you have a specific goal in mind? Here are a few examples.

·         You set a long term goal to produce half of your grocery needs in five years. Each year, you add something new to reach that goal. Each year, you expand your garden, add more chickens, raise meat rabbits, make space for a goat, plant an orchard, and more. A plan allows you to figure out what you need to do each year to meet this goal.

·         You might want to produce more of your own energy and cut out the middle man. So, you have to learn the laws for your city and start investing in solar panels. You might want to purchase and install a wood burning furnace. If you have a spring on land, you might decide to dig a well. A plan is essential.

Get Your Neighbors Involved

Unlike country living, life in the suburbs involves neighbors within close proximity. You can view this as a hindrance or a benefit, depending on your attitude and outlook. Our one neighbors catch our rabbit that is an escape artist. That’s something, right?

Your neighbors can either support or destroy your dreams, so get them involved. Sell them eggs first. If your lettuce bed is overflowing, tell them to come out and pick some. Give them surplus zucchini and tomatoes. Show them that having a small homestead isn’t an annoyance; it benefits everyone.

Hopefully, your neighbors will be interested in joining as well. If so, you are in luck. Starting a neighborhood cooperative is a dream for me. Instead of everyone having the same things, you each trade and swap. I might have a huge flock of chickens, but you have multiple hives of bees. I give you eggs; you give me honey. If your neighbors are interested in what you are doing, don’t hesitate to talk to them about getting involved!

Expect Failures and Setbacks of a Suburban Homestead

As with any dreams and plans, you should expect setbacks and failures. Last year, almost my entire crop of tomatoes died. That hurt and I had to buy multiple bushels of canning tomatoes from my friend. Two years ago, almost an entire flock of chickens were killed by a pack of raccoons. That was a huge setback.

We can mope around, or we can just roll with the punches. Through the hard times and setbacks, you will learn. We learned our chicken coop was not predator proof and adjustments had to be made.

 

Homesteading in the suburbs isn’t impossible. Just like homesteading in the country, it requires planning, lots of hard work and time invested in making it work. With some ingenuity, creativity, and dedication, you can make your suburban homesteading dreams come true, slowly and steady.

 

Step-by-Step Guide: Freeze Fresh Cabbage Heads

For a long time, I avoided growing cabbage because I felt like I couldn’t use it fast enough. We love stuffed cabbage rolls and cabbage roll soup, but we can’t eat a whole garden of cabbage in a few weeks! Sauerkraut isn’t a family favorite. Then, one day I learned that you can freeze fresh cabbage heads, and my world changed.

Yes, it is possible! Learning how to freeze fresh cabbage heads is easy. It takes a few hours, so I suggest doing it on a day you aren’t super busy. However, most of the time is when the cabbage has to drain or soak.

Here are the steps! You aren’t going to believe how easy it is.

How to Freeze Fresh Cabbage Heads

First, you have to harvest the heads. That is very easy, taking 30 seconds per head at most! Then, I bring them inside. After they’re inside, I take off the four to five leaves. Then, they need to soak in water, typically for at least two to three hours.

Even if you think your cabbage was pest free, there is a good chance a few slugs or cabbage loppers found their way into your cabbage heads. I move the heads around in the water. Soaking kills the slugs inside of the heads. See this little buddy who thought catching a ride was a fun idea? He was wrong!

After the heads soak, take them out and let them drain for a bit. Next, you need to cut them into quarters. It is important that you keep the core inside of the cabbage. Without the core, your leaves are going to fall off in the water. You don’t want that to happen; trust me.

While you are cutting up the heads of fresh cabbage, you need to get a large pot of water boiling on your stove. Also, full up a side of your sink with ice cold water. You are going to blanch the heads by moving them from the boiling water right into ice water, which abruptly stops the cooking process.

Once the water is at a rolling boil, put the cabbage heads in. My pot fits three to four at a time. Let each head come to a boil for 3 minutes then move them directly to the ice bath. Continue this process until all of the heads are blanched.

After blanching, make sure all of the cabbage heads are cool to the touch. I drain out all of the water and let them sit in the sink or a colander for a few minutes. It helps drain out all of that excess water! I give each of the cabbage heads a bit of a squeeze to help get out the water.

Now it is time to get them into their freezer bags. If you have a food saver, this task is perfect for it. We don’t, so I stick three in each bag. Make sure to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible. Then, add a label with the date you froze them!

 

Freezing fresh cabbage heads is easy! If you want to have fresh cabbage later in the year, this is the perfect way to preserve it. We use the heads throughout the winter for hearty dinner meals and soups.

How do you preserve fresh cabbage?

Why Does Acidity Matter for Canning?

While canning jellies and jams are one of my favorite activities, it is important to understand how to do so correctly. There are a lot of misunderstandings about what is safe for canning. Today, we are going to look at why acidity matters for canning.

The Role of Acidity in Canning

I get a lot of questions from friends and family about canning. Many people don’t understand the role of acid in canning. The fact is that you cannot can every single fruit out there if you plan to use a water bath canner.
To be considered safe, the fruit you selected must have a pH scale of 4.6 or lower. The lower the number, the more acidic! Why is acid important? Botulism cannot grow and thrive in an acidic environment. To safely can your fruits in a water bath canner, the acid must be present.

Foods that are lower in acids, such as meat or vegetables, must be canned in a pressure canner. Their pH level is higher than 4.6. A pressure canner heats the food to a higher pressure, ensuring all bacteria spores are killed, including botulism.

When canning jellies and jams, acid plays another role. It helps to set and gel. If you want to have an enjoyable, safe jelly or jam, you need acid!

What Fruits Aren’t Safe?

Luckily, most fruits are acidic, such as apples and strawberries. The fruits you cannot water bath safely due to low acid are bananas, figs, melons, dates, and papayas.

Tomatoes, which comes to a surprise for many people, can be borderline. They are considered a low-high acid food. If you don’t want to can your tomatoes in a pressure canner, try adding a form of acid, listed before.

Can You Increase the Acidity?

Sometimes, fruits will vary in acidity. For example, an overripe apple has less acid than an under-ripe one! There are a few ways you can fix your pH level.

·         Add some under ripe fruit to your recipe. For example, if you are making applesauce, add some under ripe green apples. If you are making strawberry jam, add some under ripe strawberries, which also contains more natural pectin!

·         Try adding 1 TBSP of lemon juice for each cup of fruit. If you are making strawberry jam with overripe strawberries, you would need 4 TBSP of lemon juice for 4 cups of strawberries.

If you are curious about the pH level of your selected fruit, click here for my free chart! It contains the pH level of most fruits.

 

 

Why You Need a Broody Hen

I love a broody hen. I know there are dozens of websites that tell you how to break a hen from her broodiness. You won’t find that advice here!

For years, I purchased chicks from the local farm stores. I even attempted to make our incubator and hatch eggs, which didn’t turn out so well. We did great raising chicks, but our last batch lost all of them. It was heartbreaking!

Then, one spring morning, I opened the coop door and discovered a line of hens. You can imagine my surprise! Our hen, Violet, was causing a backup because she decided to lay on a clutch of eggs. You see, no matter how many nesting boxes we provide, our chickens tend to want to lay in the same one. They developed some invisible schedule that worked wonderfully until Violet changed her plans.

At first,  I wanted to stop her, but then I started thinking. There are a few benefits to a broody hen. Let’s take a look.

Broody Hens Create a Sustainable Flock

Raising chickens is supposed to provide your family with the best food and save you money. You may also want to make money by selling eggs. Why would you want to spend money purchasing new chickens each year?

Hens won’t lay eggs all of their lives. At some point, hens go into retirement, or so I call it. They may sporadically lay eggs, but the production greatly slows down. You will need to add more chickens to your flock to continue producing enough eggs for your family and to sell.

If the farm store disappeared tomorrow, how would you continue to have a flock of chickens? After your last hen went into retirement, you might have a stocked freezer but no fresh eggs. Broody hens are the key to a sustainable flock of chickens. Without their natural instinct to hatch eggs, your flock will always require you to purchase chicks.

Broody Hen Does It Best

You might be an excellent chicken farmer, but you’ll never be as skilled as a hen. A mother hen knows best. When hatching eggs, she knows how to rotate the eggs. She knows how to keep them the correct temperature. Some hens also can recognize when an egg isn’t viable and will remove it from the clutch.

Once the chicks hatch, you don’t have to worry about keeping the brooder at the correct temperature with heat lamps. The mother hen provides all of the necessary warmth for her chicks.

The hen will teach her chicks everything there is to know about life outside of the egg. One of my kids’ favorite memory is watching our first chicks learning how to forage while mimicking their mother. It was a beautiful lesson about the cycle of life.

It is a Learning Experience

As a homeschooling mother, I always look for ways to teach my kids. Watching a broody hen do her job and hatch eggs is an educational experience for children. We count down the days on the calendar and wait in anticipation. Broodiness is a beautiful life lesson.

Broodiness Should be Desirable

If your goal is not to create a sustainable flock, broodiness can be an undesirable trait. Their natural instinct is considered a negative, so chicken breeders opt to breed chickens that are less likely to go broody. They pick hens that never go broody and continue the process, weeding out the natural instinct they are meant to have.

Our plan involves a flock that will continue to grow without the need to go purchase chicks anywhere. Nature designed chickens with the broody instinct for a reason. We love to embrace nature’s intentions.

Do you allow your hens to go broody? I would love to hear your experience!

 

 

 

How to Make Dandelion Infused Oil

Did you know that dandelions have a purpose? They do more than dot your yard with pops of yellow. My husband creates delicious bottles of dandelion wine each spring. Years ago, your grandmother might have sent you out to gather dandelion greens for a salad. There is even more.

Medicinal Purposes of Dandelion Infused Oil

dandelion2

Besides the delicious scent, dandelion infused oil has medicinal uses that can benefit anyone. You can leave it as an infused oil or use it to create salves and ointments.

  • helps ease aching muscles and joints
  • calming properties when combined with lavender
  • stress relieving properties
  • excellent skin moisturizer

How to Make Dandelion Infused Oil

Lucky for you, making dandelion infused oil is very simple. It is a cold infusion process that uses the heat and light from the sun to extract the useful properties. One thing to note is that, unlike other infused oils, you only let this set for two weeks due to the high moisture content in the flowers. If you allow it to set longer, you increase the risk of spoilage and molding. Here is the simple process.

dandelion

  1. Pick enough dandelions to fill up your selected jar. I use mason jars. You only want the flowers!
  2. Allow the dandelions to dry for a day or two. As they dry, they will shrivel up, taking less room in your jar. I collected a pint jar of dandelion flowers and only filled up a half pint once dried.
  3. Fill up the jar with olive oil. You want to submerge the dandelions fully. Poke with a spoon to eliminate any air bubbles.
  4. Put the lid on your jar and allow it to set for two weeks in a sunny spot. A windowsill works perfectly. It needs to steep to allow the properties to soak into the oil.
  5. Once the two weeks are up, strain out the oil with a coffee filter. Now, you can use the oil!

Ways to Use Dandelion Infused Oil

Unlike other infused oils, this is not meant to be used for culinary purposes. The best way to apply it is topically. You can apply it directly to your skin or use it in homemade products.

Have you ever used dandelion infused oil? I would love to hear if you have tried dandelions for anything!