Shop Winter Tips

Chicken winter months and some helpful hints on how to keep the eggs coming.

Most chicken breeds will lay eggs for at least 2 to 3 years before needing replacement.

Older hens usually produce fewer eggs, but larger ones. In a production flock, this is a problem because consistency of supply and size is important.  In a home flock you may or may not notice the decrease. 

Chickens will stop laying every year in most cases due to weather, hot or cold, molting and shorter days during  the winter months.  They will begin laying again during the spring.

Some quick suggestions to help keep the hens laying in the winter months

Move all your chickens indoors once egg laying begins to drop off a bit. You will have to mimic the summer environment to the best of your ability. This means you must provide warm (but well ventilated) housing and mimic the seasonal lighting conditions, rather than subjecting your hens to the shortened daylight hours of winter.

 Some quick fixes to start.

  • Install lighting in coop, put on a 14hr timer to start. turn on well before sunrise.
  • Boost protein in diet.  Choice of Wheat, oats, alfalfa pellets, and sunflower seeds can be fed as a treat, mixed into the daily feed or in its own separate feeder. 
  • Make sure they have plenty of Oyster shells and Grit in standalone feeders.
  • Keep coop extra clean or use a deep liter system.
  • Install heat lamp.  This may not be the best choice due to fire hazard.
  • Add water heaters to the water.  Add water supplements, Vitamins or Apple Cider Vinegar.
  • Experiment with some of the reasons hens stop laying.  See list below.

 

 When all else fails, give them the winter off and wait for spring where they will begin laying again...

 

Here is a list of hens that lay longer or better in the winter months. Learn more [Here]

Strong layers...

  • Ameraucana
  • California White Leghorn
  • Plymouth Barred Rock
  • Red/Golden Sex-Link or Black Sex-Link
  • Rhode Island Red
  • Sussex - good cold hardy hen

Other breed suggested choices include:

  • Black Autrolorps
  • Buckeye
  • Delaware
  • Dominique's
  • Favorelle
  • New Hampshire Red
  • Orpingtons - good cold hardy hen
  • White Leghorn
  • Wyandottes
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Some other reasons chickens stop laying are:

Light - Normal during the winter months.  Install lights to give them 14 to 17hrs of needed light.  Turn on early before sun comes out and keep on after sun goes down.  Start with 14hr timer, increase if needed.  Around spring time boost up an extra 30mins to get an early start.

Cold weather - Normal during winter months.  Move indoors. 

Water - [Alternate] Vitamins, electrolytes, garlic, apple cider vinegar, a dash of cayenne pepper in the water.  In extreme cold areas Install water heaters.  

Heat/humidity - Make sure water stays cool.  Add electrolytes in water "a dash of sugar is a natural and works fine". Install misters or supply frozen feed/treats. 

Broodiness - Natural stage when a hen wants to hatch out some chicks.  Some breeds do this more than others.  Collect eggs more frequently to prevent.  Make sure nest box doesn't have too much heat or to dark.  Don't let them see eggs or chicks.

Stress - check for possible predators.

Age - 2 to 3+ years.  As hens get older the egg production will decline. One advantage of older birds is that they will be more calm being familiar to you and the environment. Lay larger eggs.

Diet - Give them a boost of Protein and greens.  Most up the amount of scratch "Chicken candy", Soy and corn.  Some other good alternatives are Wheat, oats, alfalfa, and sunflower seeds.  Hang cabbage in the coop, this will keep them busy and active.

Calcium and Grit - Calcium to produce eggs and grit to help digest food.

Weight - Make sure their body weight gain and loss doesn't fluctuate too much. 

Molting - Happens every year, very normal.  Chickens will lose their feathers and grow new ones.  "Might shock you first time seeing".  Normal molting time is 4 - 12 weeks but can last months.

Parasites/Worms - Inspect and treat.  Adding garlic and/or Diatomaceous Earth to the water. Use Diatomaceous Earth externally.

Disease - Inspect and treat.

Coop - Make sure to extra clean daily or more during the winter months or use a deep litter system.  a Deep Liter System is a  layer of straw or alfalfa on the bottom of the coop.  As it gets soiled sprinkle some Diatomaceous Earth, then add another layer of straw/alfalfa to prevent the floor in coop getting cold.  Completely clean out as needed.