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Do you use supplemental lighting in the winter?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I'm curious as to what people here are doing.  So far, I haven't, but I'm getting tempted this winter.  

 

I have 10 hens at are 3 1/2 years old, and one that is a year and a half.   Only the one younger hen is still laying.  Some of the others have not laid an egg since late July when they starting molting.  By September, only three of the older hens were still laying.  At the end of September, those last 3 layers began molting and ceased laying.  I was hoping that the early molters who are now beautifully feathered, would pitch in little before winter set in, but no such luck.   I'm not running a commercial business or anything, but I'm a bit dismayed that some of my birds may be going from August to next March without laying.  

 

My thought would be to wait another 3 or 4 weeks until the last molters was done and then, if no one was laying yet, add supplemental light.   I don't want to stress them, but I hate to think some hens are only going to be laying eggs for 4 or 5 months out of the year.

 

Thoughts?

post #2 of 8
It's quite normal for older hens to take that much time off, you didn't mention what breeds, a lot of my older hens aren't reliable layers anymore, I've never tried lights as I like a more natural approach, you will probably need replacement hens soon. Someone with more light experience will come in on that.
Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
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Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
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post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

My hens are Buff Orpington's and Speckled Sussex.  I realize now, what a mistake it was to start with such a large batch of chicks.  For the first year I was inundated with eggs, now I don't have enough.  I should have started with 2 or 3 and added a couple more each year.  I fear I am going to have to bite the bullet in the spring and cull a couple of the most unproductive hens and raise up a couple of replacements so I'm not in this same predicament next winter.  

 

But, I'd love to keep these hens for as long as I can.  I can't really justify keeping 10 hens as pets, but if I could get even 4 to 6 eggs per week out of these hens during the fall and winter months, I would be totally happy with that.  

 

Edited to clarify that when I wrote I was hoping for 4-6 eggs per week, I meant 4-6 eggs out of all 10 hens combined, not 4-6 eggs out of each hen.  


Edited by Morrigan - 10/29/15 at 1:07pm
post #4 of 8
Both those breeds do start to slow down quite a bit by 4, and will most likely stop by 6 with an occasional egg. You sure could try lights and see what happens, though I've always found the electricity used to run lights is more than buying organic free range eggs for a few months, but we don't use a lot of eggs either.
Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
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Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
Reply
post #5 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldhenlikesdogs View Post

It's quite normal for older hens to take that much time off, you didn't mention what breeds, a lot of my older hens aren't reliable layers anymore, I've never tried lights as I like a more natural approach, you will probably need replacement hens soon. Someone with more light experience will come in on that.

I agree.  I started keeping really detailed records a couple of years ago on each hen's production.  This is what I found from tracking two buff orpington hens:

 

1st year - 5.2 eggs/wk.  Total production = 230 eggs

2nd year - 3.6 eggs/wk.  Total production = approx. 130 eggs 

3rd year - 2.0 eggs/wk.   Total production = 44 eggs

 

I only kept one of the BO through the 3rd year to see what her production would be.  She only produced eggs from March 4 to June 11, for a grand total of 44 eggs the 3rd year.  This is a very small sample size, but I'd definitely cull BO at the age of 2 1/2 years.  The most cost-effective time to do this is when they stop laying at the end of summer or early fall.  That way, you're not feeding them all fall and winter.

 

I'd recommend keeping the 1 1/2 year old hen, along with maybe 3 of the older hens, but only the ones that have a very good laying record.  The best layers usually molt late and fast, so that may be a good indication of who to keep.  If any of these hens are good broodies, you may want to keep them as you could use them to hatch out chicks next spring, or you could foster day-old chicks to them.  A good broody will save you lots of work, and she's a joy to watch with her chicks.   

 

I agree that supplemental light may not have a substantial effect on production, considering their age, but it wouldn't hurt to try.   


Edited by song of joy - 10/29/15 at 1:54pm
The joy of the Lord is my strength!
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The joy of the Lord is my strength!
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post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much for your replies.  I had always assumed I wouldn't have to worry about replacing my hens until then were at least 5 years old, but sadly, I think I'm seeing with my BO's what song of joy experienced with hers.   That start strong but fade fast.  

 

One of the Buff Orpingon's is a very good broody -- she's the hen in my avatar -- and was also one of the last one's to molt and gave me beautiful eggs through September.  I will definitely keep her, along with the Speckled Sussex who were still pretty solid layers through last summer and were among the late molters.  The rest I'm going to have to phase out, although it breaks my heart.  I let myself get too attached.  :(

 

Luckily, and thanks to my broody, I have one poult who is five months old, who I hope will start laying soon and give me some eggs over the winter.  

 

This may be a subject for another thread, but I would interested in breeds who have more staying power with the egg laying over time. 

post #7 of 8
From my experience most hens follow the same type of laying drop off, some breeds like sex links will give you more at the get go, but all are pretty much done by four, that's why large producers cull all hens after the second lay cycle.
Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
Reply
Chickens, muscovy ducks, turkeys, donkeys , goats, dogs, fish, parakeets, a parrot, and a cat.

Chickens and dogs are healing to the soul.

I brake for squirrels.

Some of my birds.
http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/my-wisconsin-flock
Reply
post #8 of 8

You need to start adding light earlier in the year, drastic and abrupt changes in light can cause stress and possibly undesired effects.

Here's a pretty good article on supplemental lighting that covers the basics

 

I use supplemental lighting but have yet to fully assess it's effects, pros, and cons.

On the third winter with it but started with a mostly adult flock fall of 2013 and started lighting 'late', those adult birds did not molt that fall but did the next spring/summer.

 

This year I started the lighting in late Aug/early Sept and increased 30 minutes a week until they are now up to 14-15 hours.

Will continue to adjust timer, comes on only early morning to mid afternoon, to maintain the 14-15 hours..

All but 1 of 6 the yearlings(~18 months old) are molting and not laying as of now, wondered if the light deters molting but I guess it doesn't, remains to be seen what will happen over the winter. 8 pullets from this years hatch have slowed down a bit, but still covering feed costs for all - which is essential in my household.

 

My plans are to harvest older birds for meat every fall before their second molt, as well as hatch new birds every early spring.

So I will always have some meat in freezer, a batch of yearlings and a batch of pullets going into each winter.

 

My goals and management may vastly differ from yours, but that's how I use supplemental lighting.

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

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Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply
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