What causes chicken to delay egg laying?

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My chickens stay for a long period of time before they start laying. What could be the problem?

Many poultry farmers particularly those keeping chickens for a long time become puzzled when the hens suddenly stop laying eggs. This happens at times when the birds appear quite healthy. This phenomenon is called moulting. Moulting is process of shedding or renewing feathers. During the moulting period, the reproductive system of a bird comes to a complete rest from laying eggs. The bird builds up its body reserves of nutrients. Moulting is a natural process where the chickens shed their feathers and grow new ones to protect themselves from cold or to maintain their ability to fly through growth of new feathers. Under normal conditions chickens may moult once, twice a year or rarely once in two years depending on breed and conditions under which they are kept. The main factors that bring about moulting are physical exhaustion and fatigue, completion of laying cycle (birds lay eggs for certain period of time). Most poultry farmers lock up their chickens in their sheds to restrict movement especially after planting their crops at the beginning of the rainy season to prevent them from damaging the young crops. The restriction is not accompanied with adequate feeding of the birds. The birds’ conditions deteriorates to a point where the nutrients they receive cannot support egg production because the little feed available to the chickens is used for body maintenance and nourishment of their feathers. Feathers contain proteins and are more easily grown when laying stops because of an unadequate protein for both egg laying and feather production. Chicken, therefore, require adequate and good quality feed to replace the feathers and build up their body condition to start laying eggs again.

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