How To Get Chickens To Lay Eggs During The Winter
Yes, you can get nearly, or even full egg production from your chickens during the winter. The topic recently came up on the blog. I thought it would be useful to make an article on this for some who may find it useful. I’ll copy/paste some of the comments, and let you know what I did with my chickens for winter egg production.
First, a reader here asked…
Need some chicken advice,
I have 12 hens. 8 are 2-3 years old and 4 are almost 5 months.
No EGGS. For almost 4 weeks. Had one older girl go broody at that time and that’s when they all quit.
Is there something I can add to their feed to start them up again?
Any tips will be greatly appreciated. Store bought eggs are ICKY!~ MadFab
Given the time of year right now (October), I suspect the poor egg production might partially be due to fewer hours of sunlight right now. Egg laying will drop off, or even stop altogether if there’s not enough hours of daylight.
(The chickens mentioned above that are only 5 months old are too young to lay eggs, though probably soon – this depends on the breed.)
As I write this (October), the total hours of daylight is currently about 11.5 hours, more or less depending how far north or south you live. During the end of December it will only be around 9 hours, again depending where you live. Whereas in the middle of summer you might be looking at between 15 and 16 hours of daylight in the ‘lower-48’ U.S.
Tip: You can check https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/ and enter your location to get the details.
So, how many hours of daylight do chickens need?
Depending on the source of information, you might say that chickens need at least 12 hours of daylight to lay eggs. However 14+ hours is better.
The solution is pretty simple. At least it was for me… I get nearly full egg laying production all winter. Add some artificial light.
When it gets dark out, chickens instinctively go into their coop to roost (or wherever their roosting spot is). I put a light inside the coop. A 800 lumen LED bulb. I got a little fancy and put it on a timer.
I adjusted the timer with two on/off cycles. One for the evening and another for early in the morning. The combination of which provides a total equivalent of daylight + artificial = ~14 hours.
So it would come on before it got dark out (actually a few hours before), and remain on for several hours after sunset before switching off. Then on again before sunrise to give them some more artificial light. Then off sometime after sunrise when they would all be out of the coop anyway…
This apparently makes Happy Chickens. And eggs continue all winter.
Okay, with that said, here are several comments from other readers who responded to the initial question above:
The birds will quit laying whit less than 14hrs of light, or too low a light level. Use a daylight bulb, turn off at night, you may or may not get them to start laying again till spring.~ 0ldhomesteader
Have mine on a timer to go off at 9.pm. and it comes on before dark, makes it easier to count beaks to made sure all made it in…~ The Original Just Sayin’
Last year I had a similar problem. When doing some cleanup around the bushes next to the house I found a whole clutch off eggs. Maybe they are laying somewhere else? Last weekend I heard a noise while I was on the deck and opened up the grill to find one of the new girls settled in looking like she was going to lay an egg right there.~ DoubleTap
I have always used 16% layer pellets to give them a boost. works for me.~ nyscout
Increase their protein. Mine are molting, lots of feathers in the coop. It takes a lot of protein to regrow feathers.. and it is time for a molt as they put in winter feathers.
Some may begin laying if they are not in bad distress after a week of high protein feeds. Meat scraps are in order, and high protein bug/larvae snacks are in order. They also like yogurt and cottage cheese.
The youngest ones may not be quite ready -depends on the breed, and nutrition… the time they begin laying… some start early@5Mo. – like Americana.. and some like Columbian would take up to EIGHT months to begin.. eggs start out small. I have had both…~ The Original Just Sayin’
[ Read: Safe Chicken Coop Heater For Warm & Cozy ]
Having longer light for your chickens in the Fall/winter has been practiced for many years, even before the Rural Electric Associations brought electricity to the farms. As a collector and user of Coleman lanterns I have been searching (in vain) for many years for a Coleman model E20 Poultry House Lantern, made from 1923-1931. Big fount (tank) that they say would run the lantern for 50 hours. They had stenciled on the tank the phrase, “Hens that lay are hens that pay”. These lanterns are not practical these days, especially with solar panels, batteries, and LED cob lights. I’d still like to have one though.
Miner, I just took a quick look at ebay AND an E20 sold in August for $2,200.00. wow!!! If interested look in the sold column. Actually the antique Colemans are very collectable.
Some of the first models go for more than that. I have a couple that are over 100 years old, and I’ve put them into working order. Love to hang a few in the orchard on summer nights and just hang out there.
When my chickens molt, I feed them meat bird feed for a few weeks, along with their mealworm & soldier fly snacks. They also get garden greens, squash and pumpkin, and many of the late garden produce. I don’t use lights to force mine to lay through winter. They rest. And you can just purchase breeds that are prolific layers year round; like 1/2 my hens are Rhode Island Reds. They lay daily all year long. The others lay about 2-3 eggs a week through winter, but are my faves for going broody and raising new chicks in spring and summer. It is important to determine what is best for your homestead and family. You can always save the extra eggs in late summer. Some people scramble and freeze, or freeze-dry, and there is water-glassing, which works surprisingly well. Many options.
Egg production varies by breed, age, condition, and environment as well as light length. Breed is most controlling. Ameraucanas, for example, give about 150 eggs a year. Rhode Island Reds about 260. Would suggest folks look up what can be expected of their particular birds before expending time and resources.
Summer – winter – all the same down here.
Same steady production.
No artificial lighting or heating needed.
Easy – Peasy.
Thank you for this article about the chickens.
I appreciate all the insights ,advice, and tips from everyone.
I use lights early morning on a timer and let natural dark come in the evenings. Make it easier it seems to tend the hens as they are all in the coop late evenings instead of the yard.
I do not raise chickens yet. I get eggs from folks around me and at work sometimes. I have been told by folks that raise chickens that it is good to give them a rest or break once in a while versus having them constantly producing eggs.
This is where I have a conflict because I tend to view animals as pets and I would probably feel the same way about chickens raised for eggs and meat. My wife is even more so than I am about having animals for eggs and meat.
Thanks for the article though. It is fun to read about and it is always good to learn new info.
Good article, Ken! My practices have tended toward the rhythms they’d naturally have, mostly because it’s easier for me, and possibly for them, too. All the many calories that go into egg production during the warmer times of the year are diverted to generating more body heat in the cold times. At least, that’s how it was explained to me, and it makes sense. We still get some eggs in the winter, just not as many. The mitigation for that is to preserve eggs when they’re abundant.
Having said that, I’m considering addressing egg production this winter, given the times. We have neighbors with many children that get eggs from us, and I’d like to be able to keep providing them. I’ll give more protein/fat to compensate for the cold, and provide a heat boost to the coop in the form of deep mulch, a roosting canopy to trap heat at night, and a heat lamp on a timer. Different times, different measures.
Always keep in mind that a hen will only lay a given number of eggs in her lifetime. If you don’t need more eggs, you may choose to not push the issue and let her rest. If the eggs are needed for your family, then many of the above suggestions should be helpful.
I used to feel like I had to provide my wonderful eggs for the neighbors, but I got over it. Eggs are high right now, up over 12%, not to mention feed. You need to keep your family first and think of the future, in terms of productions. Study your breed, so you have reasonable expections. You may need to start some new hens. Remember, this is not a “my pet chicken” site…. Be strong, and good luck. Also, learn how to dress and stew a hen for bone broth , etc.
Ha ha! Chickens are not machines. They are creatures with times, cycles, and responses just like the rest of us. To expect them to be other than they are is to deny the handiwork of God. I love chickens, and think there is not much in nature that is more beautiful than the feathering on our winged co-inhabitants of the earth. Egg laying is part of their reproductive cycle. How many eggs one gets depends on nutrition including water, light, parasite load, breed, living conditions, age, whether they’ve had a trauma, and general health. Depending on the breed, they peak at laying within a couple months of starting to lay. Then they gradually taper off until they go through a molting cycle when they may stop altogether or slow down significantly. Once they’ve refreshed and finished putting so much energy into refeathering, laying usually picks up again. Chickens are a gift – of meat, eggs, fat, ground clearing, and insect eradication – besides beauty, entertainment, and companionship. Something to be thankful for today.
This is a definite factor for the health of my chickens, for about ten years used dry chicken feed and it was inhaled by the flock they often had diarrhea and other problems. Reviewed utube and vet advice about the preservation of all feeds by manufacturers using a layered coating on the grains, 5 years ago I started soaking the grains in five gallon buckets filled 3/4 with grain and topped off with warm water. Let the grains “ perk” for at least a day, the results were amazing first the amount of consumption DECREASED by around 50% (nice money saving). Second the birds started putting on weight and the diarrhea disappeared. Third the egg laying increased or at least doubled. I strongly urge everybody with poultry to try this for themselves. On utube there are people with hundreds of chickens using this simple method.