The day you reach into the nesting boxes and find one lonesome egg is a sad day.
Many people with short winter days report egg production that slows, or in some cases, stops during winter. It’s not uncommon to hear the cold days blamed for this slow production, but really it is the short days that cause egg production to change.
Hens need light. They have a gland called their Pineal Gland that regulates their body functions. The Pineal Gland sits behind their eyes and is responsible for the production of Melotonin. Melotonin is used by their body to regulate body functions such as sleep and egg production.
As the days become shorter, access to light become decreased, and their egg production is slowed. Laying hens require 16-18 hours of light each day to maintain maximum egg production. Once the days shorten and we begin seeing days with 12 hours or less, egg production slows.
Many chicken keepers recommend fooling the hen’s body into laying with alternative light sources. Here on the Ranchette, we prefer using more self-sustaining methods.
GIVE THEM LIGHT
Create an environment with a lot of natural light. We designed a coop that faces Southeast and added a wall of windows. The coop becomes filled with light at daybreak giving the ladies access to 10 hours of light on even our shortest day of the year.
Also consider increasing their access to outside. Many chicken runs are positioned where they catch shade for a portion of the day. By giving the hens access to full sun throughout the day, you will increase their access to natural light.
Diversity guarantees stability. Diversify your flock for stable egg production year round. Keep more than one breed of chicken and keep chickens of varying ages. In our flock, we have six breeds and three age groups. We also keep a few extra hens in the winter months to offset the slowed production.
Keep those ladies properly fed and watered. I feed my ladies an all natural layer crumble. Every few weeks, I will mix it up and give them a meat bird feed, which has a higher protein content. This seems to make them happy.
Our flock uses the feed as a supplement. Most of their food comes from roaming the land so their feed just helps make sure they’re getting enough to eat in the cooler months.
When you make a change to your flocks environment, be patient. The effects of those changes won’t happen over night.
Slowed egg production is a natural process. Plan for it. Use these tools to ensure egg production from your flock year round, but still expect to receive fewer eggs on your shortest days. Plan to utilize other food sources over your shortest month when planning your food for the year.
THE POACHED EGG- My Winter Egg
One of my favorite books, by Tamar Adler, says “an egg can turn anything into a meal and is never so pleased as when it is allowed to”.
I believe this to be especially true in winter. During the cold, dark months of winter our fridge becomes filled with roasted vegetables. And, it is the eggs of our chickens that turn them into a meal.
- 1 farm fresh egg
- 1 T. red wine vinegar
- Fill your pot with enough water to cover the egg.
- Bring the water to a gentle boil.
- Add the red wine vinegar.
- Crack the egg into a small bowl and gently add to the boiling water. Adjust the stove temperature so the water remains at a gentle boil.
- Allow the egg to cook for approximately three minutes.
- Remove the egg from the pot with a fish spatula, allowed the excess water to drain. Give the egg a slight shake and check that the egg white is set. If not, cook slightly longer.