I quite often have conversations with chicken keepers who are new to bantams. It almost always starts the same way, they say something like "Over the last several months I have purchased some bantams and have had no eggs yet. What's going on, my big hens are laying"
Reasons your bantams are not laying eggs:
- Bantams are mostly seasonal layers, certainly more so than large fowl chickens.
- Bantams are mostly bred for show and as such are not selected for their egg laying ability.
- Bantams are more prone to broodiness and can take weeks to break off and return to egg laying.
- Bantams take longer to mature, Silkies are particularly slow but most types take 30 weeks+ to come into lay.
- They have a damaged ovary. Chickens only have one productive ovary and if it is damaged they will never lay.
- Being small, bantams are often on the receiving end of bullying and stress can stop laying.
- Illness is stopping them from laying. Bantams tend not to be vaccinated.
- Flock stress factors like excess summer heat can stop hens laying.
- Parasites can drink enough blood to make chickens unwell and weak.
- Trauma. An injured chicken will likely stop laying till it recovers.
Bantam hens, like all other hens, can stop laying eggs for any number of reasons. Often bantams will stop in very hot or cold weather, when they are sick, old or stressed. Mostly though, it's because they tend to go broody and sit on eggs instead of laying them.
Firstly always check that either your chickens or something else is not eating or stealing the eggs.
Below: Are your chickens laying eggs, but they are not where you expect. Bantams are good flyers and your eggs may be in the hedge.
Most bantams lay only in the spring, summer and early fall, not in the winter much at all. Bantams are more sensitive to light than large fowl chickens and as a consequence tend to be more seasonal layers.
Silkies aren't bred for laying ability and so will seem to be very poor layers compared to breeds that were bred strictly for egg production. The genes that give you fluffy feathers, extra toes and vaulted skulls often carry reduced productivity along with them.
Bantams in general and Silkies are also inclined to broodiness and often difficult to break them of it once started. They don't lay eggs during this phase, so it contributes to their overall poor egg performance and it may drag on for a month or two before they start again.
Laying eggs is a complicated process, and as chickens only have one productive ovary, if it is damaged they will never produce and egg.
Their small size can make them a victim for the rest of the flock. Crests are a prime target for feather pulling and the results can see a bantam that never starts to lay because she is being bullied off food and water and subject to a stressful situation every day.
Below: A bantam on a nest laying an egg.
Parasites can have much more of an effect on bantams as they are much smaller and less able to cope with a parasitic load.
Chickens are all more susceptible to heat than the cold and in summer birds with fluffy feathers, feathered legs and crests can suffer in the heat. Silkies in particular can overheat in a flash.
A chicken that has suffered trauma, like an accident or a run in with a dig or predator , may not lay for weeks afterwards. Predators around the coop disturbing the chickens at night can affect egg laying.
If bantam chickens stop laying suddenly then it is likely a shock to the system or illness that is the problem.
Bantams that stop laying eggs in spring may be suffering a nutrient shortage or have gone broody.
If your bantam chickens stopped laying eggs in summer then it is most likely the heat, external or internal parasites that are to blame.
Bantams eggs and laying FAQ:
When do Bantams start laying eggs?
Bantams start laying eggs at 30 weeks+ , much later than large fowl chickens.
Why has my chicken never laid an egg?
It has a damaged ovary or is a genetic mutant that is unable to produce eggs.
How long do bantams moult and not lay eggs?
The moult last between three and six weeks and could start as early as October. It should have finished by December leaving your flock with nice fresh feathers to protect them against the winter cold.
Do some bantams not lay eggs?
All bantams hens should lay eggs but if their ovaries have been damaged then they will not produce any eggs and some show types are so highly inbred they only produce a handful of eggs every year.
How to get bantam chickens to lay eggs again:
- Be patient, they need to be 30 weeks old and have more than 12 hours light every day.
- Feed them a balanced ration with not too many treats.
- Reduce flock stress factors.
- Provide shelter from both cold and hot weather.
- Treat regularly for internal and external parasites.