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Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Yoyo with chick, Jan 16, 2014.
Any tips on getting hens to produce eggs in the winter?
I've read that you can add cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to their food. I have never tried this but I have seen it written in a few different places and on this site.
I also read that you can use a light to create longer day light.
Adding light is the only scientifically proven way. Here's a fact sheet from the University of Connecticut: http://www.sp.uconn.edu/~mdarre/poultrypages/light_inset.html
However, it's so far into the winter that adding light won't help you this year, since light levels are already increasing. It takes weeks to slowly bring light levels up, and then weeks after that for the light to stimulate the pineal gland until it causes the chickens to start laying again. Something to consider for next year, though.
My experience had led me to the following conclusions: 1. The hens need at least 10 hours of sunshine/daylight to lay consistently, and 2. They need the temperature to average about 40F. With these two factors, the hen should be laying at or near her capacity. With that in mind, all hens are different, and alot depends on the breed, the strain, and diet as well.
As WalkingOnSunshine said, light will stimulate the hen to lay. That has been proven.
All that said, there are benefits for the hen to take some time off from laying during the winter. Feathers regrow, her system gets a break, and I think they are healthier overall, just my personal opinion. I keep track of temperatures, daylight hours and eggs produced. I do not use artificial lighting nor do I heat the coop. You will note that egg production will fluctuate greatly, and at least with my flock of Dominiques, you will get a drop in production following large temperature fluctuations, hot OR cold, indicating that they like a more stable temperature range.
Here is the chart from last year.
Maintain a steady amount of light. Longer hours of light is better than shorter, but the big factor is to not have a drop in length of light. Technically it is the length of darkness that has the effect and starts the molt, but hours of light is the way most people think about it.
Try to keep a stable routine. They don’t like change, whether it is temperature or just the daily routine. Don’t add or take away flock members since that affects the pecking order. Don’t let them run out of food or especially water. Feed an appropriate feed. The commercial hybrid layers usually get about 16% protein feed which works. You can feed a little higher protein feed if you really want to, but don’t feed less.
Keep a breed known for laying well in the winter. Some hens will quit laying and go through a molt when the nights get longer, but start up again when the molt is finished, regardless on light or other conditions. Some will wait until the days get longer in the spring to restart laying even after they have finished the molt. Production breeds are better at this that decorative breeds.
This will vary some but domesticated chickens that lay well (production breeds) normally lay for about 12 months after starting, then production suffers. They will normally lay fewer eggs or lay abnormal eggs, like the egg white can get really thin and watery. They may even go through a mini-molt and pretty much stop laying until their body recharges. They have charted how many eggs a flock of hens lays based on how long they have been laying, with light and everything else managed. Usually at around 12 months egg production has dropped to around 50% to 60% of peak production. That’s why commercial egg operations often replace or molt their flocks at this age, to get production back up to where it is profitable. So manage how long they have been laying.
It’s not unusual for a pullet that starts laying in the summer or early fall to continue laying throughout the winter, regardless of the light. Not all do but a lot do. So keeping young layers in the flock can help.
Those are the only scientific things I can think of. Good luck!
Too true. Most people don't realize that light hours begin to decline at the beginning of *July* (at least here in Ohio) so you need to start adding your light in the summer and not wait until October when the hens have already stopped laying for the year.
Yup. Look at my chart above. It shows the decrease in daylight and the cooresponding gradual drop in lay rate