Let me take a guess.
You’ve got hens, and although most of them are laying eggs, there seems to be one that just isn’t.
Ringing any bells?
Before jumping to any conclusions, here’s what you should be checking for first, if it’s possible for a hen to NEVER lay an egg, and what you can do to help.
Hen Never Laid An Egg? Things To Check First
Before concluding that your hen may never actually lay an egg, there are a few basic things you should consider first:
- Is your “hen” definitely a “she”?
- Is it possible your hen is still too young?
- Are your hen’s basic needs being met?
- Are you hen’s laying in the right spot?
These seem simple, but often the simplest explanation is the most likely!
Is It Definitely A “She”?
Just because you buy your chicks as “pullets”, doesn’t guarantee they are pullets. Because the venting process for sexing chicks isn’t 100% reliable (subject to human error!), there’s always a chance that the “hens” you’re getting, aren’t actually hens.
We have several guides on how to tell the difference between hens and roos at various ages, with the most common characteristic differences across all breeds being:
- Size of comb & wattles.
- Hackle feathers, or different plumage colors/patterns.
- Overall size and posture.
- Behavioural differences
If you’re convinced one of your hens isn’t laying, be sure to take a closer look at them just in case they are actually a rooster!
The Age Of Your Hen (Late Bloomers Exist!)
Although most breeds of hens will start laying from between 5 – 7 months old, much can come down to the individual chicken.
Some hens start laying earlier, some hens take months longer.
If your hen is still under 12 months old, there’s a good chance they are just taking a little longer to reach their point of lay.
Patience is a virtue, after all.
Basic Conditions Being Met?
Generally speaking, the younger the chicken, the more vulnerable and sensitive they are to external conditions such as diet, housing, climate, and stress.
With this in mind, it’s important to do a quick sense check to be sure:
- Your hens are receiving enough protein for their age (as well as all the other necessary nutrients).
- They have an adequately sized coop, with enough nesting boxes for your flock size.
- If you’re facing fairly cold or warm weather, be sure to make any adjustments so your chickens remain comfortable
- Be sure your hens are as free from stress as possible (from predators, new environments, new flock-mates, etc.)
Laying In The Right Spot?
Although the nesting box is supposed to be an ideal place for chickens to lay their eggs (private, clean, warm, etc.), not all hens get the memo!
One of my Silkies first started laying their eggs in a small, empty fire pit, and it took us a few weeks to find the stash!
It’s normal. If hens don’t make a connection with the nesting box, they will often hide their eggs elsewhere, so it’s worth taking a good look around the yard in case you’ve missed a spot!
Is It Possible For A Hen To Never Lay An Egg?
If you’ve done a check of the basics and you’re still convinced your hen has never laid an egg, then you’re not alone.
As uncommon as it is, it IS possible for a hen to never lay an egg and be physiologically incapable of producing one.
This can be caused by:
- Genetic Defects: It’s possible for hens to be born with the inability to produce eggs. Some of these hens may also show further issues and unfortunately may pass away young due to related internal issues.
- Disease Or Illness: Diseases or chronic illnesses can interfere with a hen’s normal egg production. If your chicken has been born with an illness or has developed a disease (examples include Avian influenza or parasitic infection) there is a possibility they have lost the ability to produce eggs altogether.
What Can You Do?
Whether your hen is destined to lay or not, your approach really shouldn’t change.
Stick to the fundamentals of raising chickens and they will be as happy and as healthy as they can, for as long as they can:
- Always provide chickens with cool, fresh water.
- Adequate protein in their feed (Ideally an optimized layer feed to ensure they are getting all vital nutrients and minerals too!)
- A safe space with plenty of access to direct light (which stimulates egg development)
- A big enough coop with enough nesting boxes available
- And of course, a little tender love and care won’t hurt!
Chances are, eventually your hen will lay an egg (unless your hen is actually a Henry!).
The short and sweet of it is, that it is physically possible for hens to never lay an egg. However, this would be due to a genetic defect, illness, or disease.
The more common reasons your hen has never laid an egg are:
- They are just a late bloomer (up to about 12 months sometimes)
- They aren’t getting enough protein/nutrients
- They are actually a rooster!
- They are just laying somewhere else in the backyard!
Happy (and patient) backyard farming everyone!