Egg Production Drop in Free Range Flock - Fight it or Not?

davemonkey

Songster
7 Years
Nov 25, 2012
394
35
108
Liberty, TX
I'm curious as to how many free range folk provide artificial light in the fall/winter to keep up egg production, or if it's an issue for many, or if any folk just let nature run its course....

My free range flock (I am in Southeast Texas) has pretty well cut us off from eggs (yes, I checked all the bushes for hidden nests). I'm debating whether to fight this with artificial light, or just let it be. Any advide or input from other free-range folk on how you manage your flock in the fall/winter would be most appreciated.

Thanks!
 

ChickenCanoe

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Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Nov 23, 2010
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They're probably going into a molt. If that's the case I don't fight it but let nature take its course.
Any eggs not laid during fall/winter will be laid down the road.
Forced to lay with light will yield more eggs now and less later.
It depends on you and how much you need the eggs in relation to feeding non-laying birds.
 

davemonkey

Songster
7 Years
Nov 25, 2012
394
35
108
Liberty, TX
They're probably going into a molt. If that's the case I don't fight it but let nature take its course.
Any eggs not laid during fall/winter will be laid down the road.
Forced to lay with light will yield more eggs now and less later.
It depends on you and how much you need the eggs in relation to feeding non-laying birds.

Thanks so much for the helpful insights! Okay...I'll likely just ride it out and wait till they start again. Any idea when that might be? Will they wait until next Spring?
 

ChickenCanoe

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Nov 23, 2010
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St. Louis, MO
It really depends on the breed and their age. There's also individual differences within breeds.
Most DP and egg breeds will take about 2 or 3 months off.
My Penedesencas lay like mad spring, summer and fall but stop for most of the winter without extra light. They started molting much earlier this year so I hope that means I'll get eggs through the winter.

Think about average DP breeds like Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes, Welsummers and Orpingtons that lay about 200 eggs a year. While laying they usually put out 5 or 6 a week, if they did that all year, that would be almost 300 a year. The disparity is because of that molt and recovery period.
Boosting the protein, vitamins and minerals during that time helps. I usually switch to a grower feed and provide oyster shell for those that are still laying.
 

donrae

Hopelessly Addicted
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Jun 18, 2010
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How old are your birds? If they're from this spring, they should continue to lay through the winter (production breeds, anyway) without supplemental lighting. If they're from last spring, it's time to take a break for the winter. I don't light my birds, I found they'd just perch above the light and sleep anyway! I just add new chicks each spring/summer so I have fresh layers coming up to take the slack from the older hens that take a break for the winter.

If they're young layers, you might try confining them for a few days and see how many eggs you get. You'd be amazed at the places they can hide eggs.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
9,352
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western South Dakota
when they all quit at once...... I have always found it is a secret nest. Sit out there, or lock them up for a while so that they get back into the habit of laying in the nests. Then you can let them out, and they will or should anyway still use the nests.

If you want eggs all year round, and don't or like me can't have the added light, just make sure you don't have a single aged flock. If you have 2 year old + hens, yearling hens and pullets, they won't all go into molt at the same time and at least you get some eggs.

Mrs K
 

davemonkey

Songster
7 Years
Nov 25, 2012
394
35
108
Liberty, TX
How old are your birds? If they're from this spring, they should continue to lay through the winter (production breeds, anyway) without supplemental lighting. If they're from last spring, it's time to take a break for the winter. I don't light my birds, I found they'd just perch above the light and sleep anyway! I just add new chicks each spring/summer so I have fresh layers coming up to take the slack from the older hens that take a break for the winter.

If they're young layers, you might try confining them for a few days and see how many eggs you get. You'd be amazed at the places they can hide eggs.


when they all quit at once...... I have always found it is a secret nest. Sit out there, or lock them up for a while so that they get back into the habit of laying in the nests. Then you can let them out, and they will or should anyway still use the nests.

If you want eggs all year round, and don't or like me can't have the added light, just make sure you don't have a single aged flock. If you have 2 year old + hens, yearling hens and pullets, they won't all go into molt at the same time and at least you get some eggs.

Mrs K

Sorry for getting back here late. Thanks for the feedback. The layers were "born" just about last Christmas...and I have some pullets coming of age next week, and then a couple more 3 weeks later. I've searched and searched for hiding places and not found any, but I have to do a project in the yard anyway tomorrow, it'll be a good day to keep them cooped and see what happens.
 

MANNA-PRO

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