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November 12, 2015

Why Chickens Stop Laying Eggs and Molt in the Fall

Many backyard poultry owners start wondering why their birds stop laying eggs, particularly when the weather starts turning colder during the fall season. This is usually associated with chickens beginning to molt.

What is Molting?

A molt is a natural process where birds stop laying eggs. It commonly happens in the fall, as it is associated with day length as opposed to the temperature getting colder.

The optimal day length for a chicken to keep in egg production is 14 to 16 hours. So when the day length decreases below that 14- to 16-hour threshold many of your chickens may begin to molt.

What that means is that your birds are going to stop laying eggs. It’s going to give their reproductive tract a chance to regenerate, to take a rest and regenerate new tissue.

Why Chickens Lose Feathers During Molt

Along with the molting period, you’ll often find that your birds will lose some of their feathers. They’ll shed some their older feathers and then begin to grow new feathers in their place.

Don’t worry…this is a very natural process.

If you provide your flock a natural light cycle, which means that the only light your birds get is from the sun, this will happen most often in the fall.

Can I Keep my Birds Producing Eggs or Prevent Molting?

One way you can keep your birds producing eggs or prevent a molt from happening is to provide supplemental lighting in your chicken house. If you do this, your goal should be to provide 14 to 16 hours of light with 16 hours of light being most optimal.

Most of you are likely keeping your backyard poultry because you’re interested having fresh eggs everyday.

Again, don’t worry…a molt is a natural process. It’s something that birds will go through if they don’t have any extra light and it isn’t harmful at all. They will grow their feathers back and they’ll begin to produce new and higher quality eggs in the spring.

Nancy Jefferson
Nancy Jefferson
Nancy is a poultry nutritionist with Kalmbach Feeds with a PhD in food and animal science from West Virginia University. She resides in Crown City, Ohio with her husband John, where they raise beef cattle and keep a flock of backyard chickens. Nancy enjoys watching her chickens scratching and pecking around and collecting fresh eggs to feed to her family. She is a regular contributor to the Feed Your Flocks blog, where she provides tips and information to help backyard poultry owners get the most from their flocks. Read more about Nancy