Hello and Happy Holidays everyone. I thought I would share my experience that I am having this year with the Winter molt and shell less eggs.
This year has been well above average temperatures for our area. Normally we have our first snow in October and the snow only melts in May. We have not had any snow as of yet and the temps are running way above normal. The flock has a light in their coop that is turned on the morning around dawn and we have been putting them to bed and turning off the light around dusk.
As a result of the warm temps our chickens are in various stages of a late molt. Fearful for the quick change in the weather I started introducing Feather Fixer to their feed. Normally under normal temps the girls tend not to venture out in the cold weather and stay in the comforts of the lighted coop.
We have 4 Rhode Island Reds in our flock. I have noticed that the Reds have a problem sometimes processing their calcium which affects their egg shells. We have 4 areas that they can consume crushed oyster shell at their leisure in the coop. I note that sometimes they consume a lot of calcium resulting in over calcified eggs with ridges and bumps or in the alternative weak egg shells. This is the only breed on our flock that has had an occasional egg problem. None of the other breeds are experiencing this problem. None of the flock is sick either where egg problems may result from illness such as infectious bronchitis or the like.
I note that even though the Reds are in various stages of molt, they are still laying eggs while the other breeds are not laying during their molt. I noticed that their shells have also become weaker and that 3 of the 4 had started laying sporadic shell less eggs. I initially tried to implement Feather Fixer by Nutrena for the rest of the flock to increase their protein levels to help them through the molt and fearful of the eventual artic winter blast for our featherless girls. We have 3 areas that they can feed from. I was layering the feed with Feather Fixer with their normal Layer feed by Nutrena. However, this seemed to have an adverse effect for the Reds since the eggs they started laying were thin shelled which eventually led to shell less.
My researched indicated that Vitamin D was critical for the absorption of calcium. They were previously on an electrolyte vitamin water supplement. However, I noted that the Vitamin D in the supplement was low to other supplements available. I placed them on an alternative Vitamin supplement designed especially for layers with a higher percentage of Vitamin D. I have also been allowing the girls to free range supervised to enjoy the Sun and to help with what appears to be a Vitamin D deficiency.
Ruby, was experiencing the most problems with the shell less eggs. She started having difficulty expelling elongated membranes ranging normally in size from 3" to 6" long which was stressful for her. The longest membrane that she expelled was nearly 12" long, followed by a huge bright orange yolk. This was stressful for the both of us. I was back to my research. We have an unheated high tunnel which I grow vegetables for the girls in the Winter. I usually provide them with a great Organic mix, including Spinach. However, further research indicated that the Vitamin K in Spinach can deter or prevent the absorption of Vitamin D. So no more spinach for the girls for now.
I am thankful to report, that putting them all back on the Layer feed, allowing extra protein through their meal worm treats for the girls who are molting, coaxing them to free range outside in the Sun, holding off the spinach, and switching to a vitamin supplement with a higher Vitamin D percentage especially designed for layers has resulted in perfectly formed shelled eggs for all of our Reds. Miss Ruby layed a beautiful hard shelled egg this morning. I am so grateful that all is back to normal.