How to Get Eggs from Your Laying Hens All Winter
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. The number of hours of daylight signals the best time to lay eggs and hatch chicks. This occurs in the spring and summer when the days are long. However, you can trick their bodies into thinking it’s summer by keeping a bright light on a timer in their coop in the winter. Some people choose not to do this so their hens may take a break in winter. That’s fine but it really doesn’t stress your hens out or cause them to stop laying at a younger age.
Hens need approximately 15 to 16 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. The further you live from the equator, the shorter your days will be in the winter and the earlier in the fall you will need to turn the light on.
Increase ‘Daylight Hours’ to Get Eggs All Winter
For best results, have the timer turn the light on early in the morning and turn it off in the late morning or when you close them in for the evening. Having the light turn off suddenly in the evening may cause some stress if your flock isn’t able to find their roosting spots in the dark.
Place the light in the middle of the open area of your coop and hang it securely from the ceiling. Keep safety in mind and be sure your cords, outlets, and lights are all functioning properly. A GFI outlet should be used for safety and if you have old wiring in your barn make it a priority to update it.
Use an LED light bulb for long life and low-energy use.
Never leave the light on in your chicken coop 24 hours a day as this can cause stress and bullying in your flock.
Good Nutrition for Year-Round Egg Production
Without proper nutrition, your hens will stop laying and instead use the calories, vitamins, and minerals in their food to keep their bodies healthy. In winter they need extra calories to stay warm. Try including corn or black oil sunflower seeds as a snack during cold weather for a carb boost.
Be sure that they have a good quality layer ration to provide the nutrition they need for egg production. Try a formula with marigold extract or add some green leafy veggies as snacks to boost the color of their egg yolks.
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 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 (remove them from the flock) if they are getting older or you don’t want to feed them through this process.
You might also like to read How To Get More Eggs From Your Laying Hens and How to Feed Your Laying Hens for the Best Egg Production.
Flock Rotation for Year-Round Egg Production
You’ve probably heard 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 to the house. You don’t want the eggs to freeze or they may crack and become difficult to beat and gain a rubbery texture when cooked.
Plan Ahead to Get Eggs All Winter from Your Laying Hens
Make sure you have everything you need before the daylight hours decrease and the egg production slows down. It can take a couple of weeks to get your hens back into production.
Here is a list of what you’ll need to prepare for winter egg production:
- Light fixture & LED light bulb
- Water tank de-icer
- Corn or sunflower seeds for extra calories
Make sure that the light fixture, timer, and water de-icer you use are safe for your barn conditions, and follow all safety instructions when setting up.
Slowly add a little corn or sunflower seed to your chickens’ feed. You don’t want to make sudden changes to their diet.
Let me know in the comments if you have any tips to share or questions!