Chickens will naturally decrease their egg production in winter. There are several reasons why this happens, but there are also ways to encourage them to keep egg production up so you can have eggs all winter long.
The main reason hens stop laying eggs in winter is because of the shorter days. Light is a key factor in laying eggs, because it is triggered by the amount of light that affects the pituitary gland. When there is not enough light, the gland doesn’t produce the hormones needed for egg production.
The simple solution to the decreased amount of light is to add artificial light to supplement the natural light they’re already getting. On average, chickens need about 14 hours of light a day to produce eggs. You can do this by adding a strong light to their coop. You can use electric, battery powered, or solar powered lights. Lanterns work well since they emit a strong light, but it’s not so strong as to bother the hens. Don’t use a heat lamp, because they get too hot and have a high fire risk if it somehow gets knocked over.
Molting occurs around 18 months old for hens, which usually falls around autumn or early winter. Molting means losing their current feathers and growing new ones, which takes a lot of energy. The whole process can take a few months, and while it’s going on they won’t lay eggs because all of their energy is being put towards molting.
Molting is a natural process that shouldn’t be interfered with, but you can always offer extra protein to a molting hen to give them more energy. Adding mealworms or black soldier fly larvae into their regular diet may give them enough extra energy that they continue to produce eggs even while molting.
Foraging is harder during the winter, and on top of that, more of the energy and nutrients from food gets redirected to keeping chickens warm in the colder weather. This means less is being put towards producing eggs.
To counteract this, you can offer more of your regular chicken feed or add a protein supplement like mealworms into their regular diet to encourage egg production.
Stress makes hens less likely to produce eggs, and there are several reasons that hens may be more stressed in the winter.
The cold itself puts stress on the hen’s body since more energy is being put into keeping warm. Being cooped up for longer periods also causes stress, because the chickens will get bored and restless being in such close quarters for extended periods of time.
You can relieve this stress by encouraging them to come outside for a few hours on nice winter days. If there’s snow on the ground, you can put a layer of straw down to provide them with a warmer surface to stand on. If they are still hesitant about coming out, offer mealworms or any other favorite treat to coax them outside.
If the weather isn’t conducive to letting them outside, you can also give them a pumpkin or other type of squash inside the coop to help relieve boredom. Just cut it in half and leave the two halves in the coop, and the hens will enjoy pecking at it for a few hours. This is a two-fold solution, as it helps combat cabin fever while also providing some extra food in the winter. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Looking for more information? Browse our archive of articles:
More Questions? Our customer service representatives are happy to address your questions or provide additional information about products. Please Contact Us.
Please Note: Exotic Nutrition is not in a position to provide specific health and care guidelines on an individual basis. Please visit our animal info tabs or consider purchasing a care guide book for additional information. If you have a health or pet emergency issue, please notify your veterinarian or a specialized technician.