Do Laying Hens Lay All Year?
Many newbie chicken keepers will wonder if they can gather eggs from their hens all year. The good news is, with proper conditions, your hens are capable of laying eggs in the winter. There are a few things to take into consideration if you would like fresh eggs year ’round.
Chickens, like most birds, normally would not lay eggs all year. But you can trick their bodies into thinking it’s summer by keeping a bright light on a timer in their coop in the winter. For best results, have the timer turn the light on early in the morning and turn it off again late in the evening. Hens need approximately 15 hours of light each day to keep their reproductive system active. If you live close to the equator you shouldn’t need to trick your hens, because you will have the proper daylight hours to keep them in laying condition.
Without proper nutrition, your hens will stop laying and use the calories, vitamins, and minerals in their food to keep their bodies healthy. Be sure that they have a good quality layer ration to provide the nutrition they need for egg production. Extra protein is great if their production is slowing down and you can’t find another reason for the reduction in eggs.
Are They Molting?
If your hens are going into a molt, they will stop laying until the molt is complete. This can take anywhere from 2 months to 3 or 4 months. There are some feed formulas available that help provide the extra nutrition they need to get them through the molt quickly. You can also cull the molting hens if they are getting older or you don’t care to feed them through this process.
You’ve probably hear of crop rotation, but how about ‘flock rotation?’ A good method of keeping eggs coming on a regular basis, is to keep hens of different ages in your flock. If you start out with all of your hens at the same age, it is likely that they will all go into a molt around the same time too, leaving you with an empty egg basket. Instead, start with a good number of pullets for your family and when they are 6 to 10 months old, get your next batch of pullets started. They should start laying and be in full production before your first batch of hens goes into molt. At that point you can decide if you want to cull the older hens, feed them through the molt, or sell them as stewing hens on Craigslist. (Be aware that in some areas, it will be more difficult to find anyone who wants your older hens.)
Try Raising Ducks for Eggs!
If you have trouble keeping your chickens laying well over the winter, try raising a few ducks for eggs. Sometimes ducks will lay better in the winter compared to chickens. My 5 Pekin hens are giving me 4 or 5 eggs almost every day!
Gather Those Eggs Often!
Unless you keep your chicken coop heated (which is not a good idea), you should check several times a day for eggs and bring them in the house. You don’t want those precious eggs to freeze or they will be difficult to mix and will have a somewhat rubbery texture when cooked.
Do you have laying hens? Do they lay eggs all winter? Have you found a method to encourage better egg production in the winter?