Do Chickens Lay Eggs in the Winter?

      45 Comments on Do Chickens Lay Eggs in the Winter?

See also How To Get More Eggs From Your Laying HensΒ and How to Feed Your Laying Hens for the Best Egg Production.

 

Do Laying Hens Lay All Year?

Do hens lay eggs in winter? 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.

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6 month old Cornish X pullet.

The Minorca on the left is going into molt and the Cornish X hen is my best layer right now! That really surprised me. πŸ™‚

 

Daylight Hours

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.



organic feed ingredients

Nutrition

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.


s chickens eating

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.


Flock Rotation

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.)

Duck Eggs!

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 them eggs to freeze or they may crack and become difficult to beat and gain a rubbery texture when cooked.


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45 comments on “Do Chickens Lay Eggs in the Winter?

  1. Pingback: How to Tell If a Hen Is Laying Eggs - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

  2. Pingback: How to Feed Your Hens for Best Egg Production – The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

  3. Pingback: How to Get More Eggs from Your Laying Hens – The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

  4. Patricia walters

    My chickens appear to be moulting and they are only 18 wks old and it’s not Autumn yet is it due to the hot weather and will this stop them laying

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Patricia,
      Are your chickens 18 weeks or 18 months? At 18 months they would likely be moulting, but at 18 weeks (4.5 months) they would not be going into a molt. If they are only 18 weeks old, there may be another problem, such as insufficient nutrition (protein is necessary for feather growth), mites, or something else.

      If they are 18 months and they are going into a moult, then you will definitely see a decrease in egg production. Each hen that is moulting will take at least a couple of months to start laying agin. Feed them a higher protein ration to help them regrow their feathers.

      Best wishes!

      Reply
      1. Patricia walters

        Hi Lisa
        My chicken are 18 wks not laying yet we have checked no mites they are only losing a little now what would I feed them with protein in my husband thinks it’s the changing weather that could be contributing to losing feathers I’m a first timer never had chickens before

        Reply
        1. Lisa Lynn Post author

          Hi Patricia,
          Weather changes shouldn’t affect your chickens feathers.

          If you are feeding your chickens a good quality grower feed or chick feed with 18% protein or higher, you shouldn’t have any issues with proper protein. If your chickens are getting only scratch grains, they might be deficient in protein.

          If that isn’t the problem, you might want to read this article from Hobby Farms about other reasons for feather loss besides molting…

          http://www.hobbyfarms.com/livestock-and-pets/chicken-feather-loss.aspx

          I hope this helps!

        2. Patricia walters

          Hi Lisa
          I will get my husband to check for fleas parasite and red mite my hens was vaccinated before I got them my husband thinks it’s a settling in problem as they seem to be losing less plumage none are bold the food we feed them on is farm industry layer pellets and corn

  5. Klaas

    Hi
    I have 150 laying hens that i bought last year December at point of lay but now they are not laying at all i have dry many things but nothing changed i have got a day light from four in the morning till eight in morning i have got nutrition and all kind of medicines nothing helped and i am staying QwaQwa in the easten free state and is freezing now i don’t know what to do now they still eating as usual i am dying of laying mash i need to get advice
    Thanks
    Klaas

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Klaas,
      Does the light illuminate most of their coop? If it isn’t bright enough, it may not stimulate laying. Make sure it lights up the nesting area too.

      Usually chickens will lay for close to a year after they first come into production. Is is possible that they were older than just point of lay when you bought them? Were the eggs full sized? If they were laying a lot of full sized eggs when you first got them, they may have been laying for awhile already. If they are older than you think, they could be going into a molt. They will start to lose feathers and stop laying if they are.

      Make sure that they always have fresh, unfrozen water to drink. If they don’t have access to water, they will stop laying.

      Have they been stressed by anything? If chickens are by moving them to a new place, dog attacks, etc…they are likely to stop laying.

      Best wishes. Let me know if any of this helps.

      Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Emily,
      Don’t give them a light on a timer over the winter if you want the hens to have down time. If they just have the natural daylight, they will most likely go on vacation.

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    yes I was wondering about my chickens, they stopped laying eggs and i’m not sure if they are molding are they an its winter time and they were popping eggs out like crazy and I was feeding them the right food and still am and now, they are not laying I have no idea what’s going on so I think they are molding for now.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      If they are going into a molt you will soon see their feathers falling out. They will usually molt somewhere around 18-20 months old and then about every 12 months after that.

      Another thing that will affect their egg production is the availabiltiy of water. If their water is frozen and they only get fresh, liquid water once a day, it could lead to few or no eggs. And if there are fewer daylight hours they will also slow down production.

      Reply
  7. Eddie

    My hens are approaching 5 years old. I have always just let the natural light cycle dictate when they lay. Of my three hens, the same one always starts laying first and the others usually follow a month or so, later.

    My hens are my pets, so their egg laying is just incidental – I have fun having them around. I age their droppings and use it in my compost bin after the the droppings have aged a bit.. In a month or two I have top quality compost for my garden.
    People ask me what I will do with my hens when they either stop or significantly slow their laying – hinting to me that they should end up in the stewpot. I ask them when their dog gets too old to play fetch or interact like it used to if they are going to toss their dog into the stewpot?

    Usually I get a shocked look to the latter; but really, we humans really play games in terms of arbitrarilly designating what creatures are ‘disposable’. I’ve often been amused by the ‘human life is sacred’; after all, who made THAT up? Humans! It is a self-serving notion that serves our interest in continuing in a species. πŸ™‚

    Although I eat meat, I also believe (and am conflicted with) that every creature deserves to live the full measure of its’ existence. There is an old adage/teaching (I think it is Taoist) which says if you pluck up one blade of grass,, ten thousand worlds will come with it.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Eddie,
      I can understand keeping chickens for pets. They are fun to watch and all have their own ‘personalities.’ If I just had a few and wasn’t worried about production, I’d probably do the same. I can understand the conflicting feelings about eating meat but understanding an animals right to live. It’s a tough choice to make, but I do eat my chickens and so I don’t let myself get attached to them.

      Reply
      1. Eddie

        Oh, I absolutely understand that part of it. I don’t sustain myself with carrot sticks , myself. For me though, since I raise them as pets, I could no more use them as food than I could my dog or cat. My uncle has a farm in Indiana and became very attached to a pig and couldn’t part with him, although his original idea was to raise the pig to market size and send it off for slaughter. Amazing how very bright pigs are; never realized it until my uncle showed some vids of him and his pig, interacting like it were a dog.

        As I said in my post, I always feel conflicted by eating creatures – just like Benjamim Franklin did – until Ben was said to make the observation that other animals (and humans are just a different species of animal) ate other animals. So Franklin decided that he was just as much as part of the natural order as any other animal. My problem is that I’d make a terrible vegetarian – I’d starve to death (not that much on my veggies). I always playfully tease any vegetarian friends that at least what I eat at least has the mobility to try and run away – something a plant can’t do. πŸ˜€

        I am new to chickens… had mine for 5 years (just three) and raised them from day old chicks. Until I got to have hens/chickens of my own it never occurred to me what interesting little sentient beings they are. I remember the first year or two, I always wondered if they had any clue that I had likely eaten a very distant ‘relative’ of theirs. Apparently not. πŸ˜‰

        They follow me around and recognize me like any other of my more conventional pets. When I am cleaning their areas and the outdoor run they follow me around like a dog or cat. When I am working on something in their coop or covered run (I have an indoor and outdoor run) they’ll sometimes sit beside me while I work. I guess cause they’ve ‘known’ me since they were barely old enough to stand up.

        I eat poultry and an occasional burger (never much for steaks, etc) and some fish. I always thought that on the old (and new) Star Trek series it was kind of cool that they had that notion of a replicator. Replicating anything you wanted to eat without needing to kill something to do it.

        I always kind of liked the notion of some American Indian tribes practice of thanking the ‘spirit of the animal’ that they were eating. It didn’t take away from the fact that they still had to kill the game, but, I don’t know – the thought that they took time to think about the life that had to be removed from the earth in order for them to have sustenance was admirable.

        Again, I totally understand and am certainly not going to throw rocks at fellow meat eaters while I live in my own ‘glass house’.

        Even still, wish there was a better way….. My hens, though, will be with me to their last breath. Will miss them when they pass; they really are characters (something I had never considered before I owned chickens).

        Reply
        1. Lisa Lynn Post author

          We had chickens as a kid, and although I enjoyed having them…I never really thought they acted like individuals. Now I can totally see it. πŸ™‚ And I really do understand how you can get attached to them! Enjoy your hens, Eddie!

  8. Liss

    *I have three 14 month old hens and they are still laying eggs without the extra lightning. I feed them corn and laying pellets and also hang a cabagge in their coop. I also give them 1/2 can cat food (white fish) every other day specially when temps get really cold at night. They have been laying non stop.

    Reply
  9. Happyanna

    Hi we are new chickens keepers. We only have 4 chicks and have had them since March. They have not molted or stopped laying eggs from day 1. We feed them layers and kitchen scraps. They don’t have extra light some days only 7 hours daylight. They free range when we are home and have a fair sized pen for when we are out. Not sure why they are still going they must be happy chicks πŸ™‚

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Happyanna,
      Sounds like you DO have some happy chickens πŸ™‚ They typically go into their first molt around 18 months (this varies) so you should have eggs through the summer. How well they lay in winter will depend a lot on the amount of bright daylight they get, and how well they eat and the temps. Sounds like you have a good mix going on! Keep up the good work!

      Reply
  10. Farmboy

    I have been raising free range layers off and on for 30 years . I have never provided extra light in the winter , and have always had eggs , albeit a few less. They have one feeder of layer ration and one of multi-grain scratch . I also give them kitchen scraps whenever I can . Unless it is very cold I let them out to pick at whatever grass is growing in the cold . I also keep a small area cleared of snow so they will get out and pick around , and importantly , get lots of sunlight. The younger layers hardly slow down at all.

    When I had cattle in my barn they loved to pick through the manure and bits of leafy greens in the hay. The color of the yolks varies according to how much greens they eat.

    Currently I have Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Colombian Rocks, White Leghorns, and Red Sex Link , and some older hybrid brow layers. It is minus 15 C today and windy , so they will have to stay inside today.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Farmboy,
      Sounds like you have a great set up and some happy chickens! I’ve never had much luck with egg production in the winter, unless I have lights on for 14 or so hours a day…wish I had better results!

      Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  11. Tapanga

    I have found feeding the hens a little more protein seems to get them through the molt faster. I give them dried or live meal worms and a little calf manna for extra protein. Seems to work. They love the meal worms and they are pretty easy to either purchase or grow your own. All of the extras is along with their diet of Layer feed, grass clumps and a handful of spinach.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Tapanga,
      Thanks for the info πŸ™‚ We have some feed stores around here that sell ‘feather fixer’ feed with a higher protein content. I haven’t tried it, but feed mine sunflower seeds when they are molting.

      Reply
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  13. Bonnie Allen

    I have no idea what we are doing right but we get 20+ eggs a day from our 26 chickens. We have a light in their coops, but it doesn’t really do all that much and they spend most of their time outdoors anyway. We are feeding them Layena and I also grind up their own shells once we’ve eaten the eggs and feed them back to them. I also give the pumpkin every once in awhile as a treat and I talk to them a lot. How in the world am I getting so many eggs in the dead of winter?????

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Bonnie,
      I wonder, how old are they? They might be right in the prime of their laying at this point. Or maybe you have a very sweet voice! πŸ˜‰ It sounds like your hens are very lucky to be in your care…best wishes for continued egg production!

      Reply
      1. Bonnie Allen

        They are all first year chickens. We bought them last March and they started laying around September and have never stopped! It’s just my husband and I so we have a large amount of eggs to sell and give away. Some of them are huge, almost bigger than my palm. I’m not complaining, but it seems strange when everyone else’s egg production has declined.

        Reply
        1. Lisa Lynn Post author

          Hi Bonnie,
          Your hens are in their prime. With the light on in their coop, they are at their best laying now. Next year they will most likely go into a molt and your girls will not produce nearly as many eggs. If you want to keep production up, I suggest getting some new pullets in the spring to pick up the slack when these ladies are taking a break.

          Happy chicken keeping!

  14. janet pesaturo

    I don’t use artificial lighting because I like the idea of letting them rest for the cold winter months, but then I feel badly if I buy eggs in winter, because that means someone else’s hens are laying under lights all winter. So we just don’t eat many eggs in winter. That said, I have found that production is pretty good year round without supplemental lighting, in my flock of mixed ages and breeds. We can usually squeak by with purchasing only 1-2 dozen eggs in winter, before ours resume laying. I wonder how much of a difference the lighting would make in my flock…

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Janet,
      I know that when something happens to my lights (bulb burns out, or when we had an issue with the electricity in our barn) the production drops off dramatically overnight. When the light is back on the production goes back up in a couple of days.

      For me, my chickens are livestock and I eat them when they are no longer laying well. I know that’s not for everyone, but it also is the reason that I use the lights. I hate to buy eggs from the store and haven’t bought eggs in several years.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  15. Kimi

    I have 6 girls of laying age (3 New Hampshires, 1 Silver Laced Wyandotte, 1 Cuckoo Marans, 1 Easter Egger), I’m getting 2-3 eggs a day from 2 of the NHs and the CM. The other NH was molting and took on 2 orphaned chicks during it. She’s done molting but not done with the mothering. The SLW looks to be nearly done with her molt. The EE laid 30 eggs in about 6 weeks and hasn’t laid another since.

    I’m not going to put in artificial light, I want to see how it goes. I’m going into my first winter with them, the first eggs were laid in late January. We are in the city and there is a streetlight a few yards from their coop and even though the coop is closed up, I think some light does get in. It’ll be interesting to see if that works for them or what.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Kimi,
      Feeding 6 hens through the winter isn’t too bad, cost wise. I hope you get some more eggs soon! I’m guessing that the street light won’t have a great affect on them. It needs to be brighter than that…but let me know if you see a difference. πŸ™‚ Best wishes!

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Thank you Lisa! Three eggs today from my three that are for sure laying. My SLW’s comb is still pale, and her tail feathers are just coming back so I’m pretty sure she’s still in a molt. Then I have a rooster and two 8 week old chicks, so it’s not that bad here. I also don’t think the street light makes a difference and it’s a constant here anyway.

        I ferment their feed and that does help keep the costs down a bit too.

        Reply
  16. Rachel E.

    Our 16 hens have slowed down egg production dramatically. We have 8 older hens and the rest are newer. We are only getting about 6 eggs a day. It’s crazy! We are a family of 8 with 7 of us eating eggs. I think I will have my husband change the timers on the lights. We also use the red heat lights at night to prevent the freezing temps from freezing the water. The hens have not been traumatized, they aren’t molting, and they are eating fairly well. So, we aren’t sure what the problem is.

    As for our 6 ducks (five layers), we aren’t getting any eggs. We aren’t sure what has happened. We were getting an average of 4 eggs a day, then it dropped to two. Then all of a sudden, none. At first we thought something was eating them, but there is nothing that could do the job without breaking something. They are not molting either. They are about 7-8 months old. What do you think the problem is? Should they be getting more food? We decided to go ahead and start butchering the ducks because of it. (That and they are smelly and messy.)

    Any advice you can give would be great.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Rachel,
      If I remember correctly, your ducks were hatched this spring and started laying in late summer, early fall…is that correct? It would seem that they should still be laying. I don’t know about the age of the chickens…are they older? Is it possible that they will start going into a molt soon?

      After their age, the next thing to look at would be their feed. I assume that they get a layer feed that is formulated for supplying the proper nutrition for laying hens. Ducks should have a higher protein content than chickens for their feed (I give some split peas that I try to scatter out for the ducks while the hens are chowing on the laying feed)…so they may not have had as much protein as they need. Do you give the flock free choice feed? Do they get a lot of corn or high fat feed? It is possible that they could be getting fat. Fat hens don’t lay as well…strange, but true. So if they are getting too much scratch or corn, that could be affecting them.

      Do you have the timer coming on for at least 15 hours a day? If you lengthen their daylight hours by setting the timer to keep the light on for 15 to 16 hours a day, you should see an increase in production pretty quickly, if that is the issue affecting them.

      Put a pan of oyster shell in their coop to make sure they have enough calcium. Check to see if they have started hiding their eggs in a new place. Clean out the nesting boxes and add fresh straw or wood shavings. Check your birds for mites and check droppings for worms. Spend a little time watching them to see if they are sneezing, lethargic, or acting sick in any way.

      If you can’t find any other reason why they would have slowed down in production, it could just be that they are not going to lay well in cold weather. Some breeds lay better in cold winters…some aren’t so great for cold climates. I’ve read that Turkens, Buckeyes, and Ameracaunas lay well in winter. You may want to consider a different breed.

      I hope that this helps. Let me know if you find a reason for the drop off and if they start to lay better again! Best wishes!

      Reply
      1. Rachel E.

        Lisa,
        Thanks for your comments. It’s great to hear the advice of seasoned chicken people.

        Our first batch of hens are approximately 14 months old. I am pretty sure the eggs I do get are from our newer hens which are approximately 8 months old (maybe seven). The ducks are also that age. The egg disappearance is mysterious to say the least. One time, my kids (who hate the ducks) refused to bring in the duck eggs for about three day. They even proceeded to clean out the duck coop – leaving the eggs in! Then, three days later after they told me there were several eggs in there (I assume ten) I went out and found none. I knew an animal had quite the feast. Not sure what animal. There were no broken eggs at all. Nothing.

        We have had some eggs since then, but about a month ago – they stopped laying. I looked for evidence of an animal. The ducks haven’t been injured. No windows damaged. No evidence of spider webs broken where there isn’t a screen. (We use an old playground house for the coop.)

        Anyway, The feed I use is the same I have used from day one. It looks like the same stuff you show in the picture with the blue label, but it’s Countryside Organics. I suppose I could buy some extra stuff to throw in. I feed my chickens leftover meat from the stew pot (skin, meat, etc.) I have heard in the old days it was normal to hunt an animal and feed it to the chickens for protein over the winter. So, this is why I provide it. I have told my husband we need to adjust the lights for the hens. He said no problem. So, we shall see what happens.

        Thanks again.
        Rachel

        Reply
  17. Deb Berning

    I’m letting my hens rest during winter as is advised to do. No need to make their bodies work so hard and take calcium from the bones. I don’t have hens to make money, few do, but for the health of my family.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Deb,
      I understand. If I had fewer hens, it wouldn’t be such a drain on the pocketbook to keep them on vacation. Right now I’m feeding 24 adult chickens, 6 ducks, and 19 young chickens (some are roosters that will go in the freezer when they are large enough). I made the decision when I started raising chickens, that they would not be pets, but rather livestock. So I try to keep my poultry project costs down. There are times when I think I’d like to switch to having them more as pets, but we eat quite a bit of chicken and I don’t ever want to buy it from the store again.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

      Reply
  18. countrygirllifeonthefarmr

    I know several people that use the lights during the winter but I let my hens rest during the winter months. I like to think they enjoy that vacation time and I let my hens “set” in the summer and those babes that hatch in May and June usually start laying in December through the winter and when they take their break in the spring my older hens pick up where the young ones slow down production. I must say too that I have four or five hens going on six years of age and don’t lay every day but when they do they usually produce much larger eggs. I love having chickens on the farm for their eggs and their beauty!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Country Girl,
      Sounds like you have an excellent system worked out! I haven’t had much luck with broody hens…they seem to get tired of setting half way through or some such nonsense. πŸ™‚ I think my chickens all want to come live with you! Here they don’t get past their second molt. The cost of organic feed is just too high to keep my older hens. Plus, I do like me some chicken soup!

      However, I completely understand how folks get attached to their chickens. I have a couple that will be really hard to butcher.

      Reply

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