Fall-winter, molting and egg laying

sumi

Égalité
Staff member
Premium member
8 Years
Jun 28, 2011
39,107
23,964
1,252
Tipperary, Ireland
It's that time of the year when the older ladies are molting, the days are getting shorter for those of us that live in the northern hemisphere and as a result we see a drop in egg production. What are you all doing to ensure you have eggs over fall/winter? Do you supplement light in the coop? Are you storing up surplus eggs? Did you raise pullets over summer to come into lay now and how is that working for you all?
 

Trish1974

Araucana enthusiast
Mar 16, 2016
2,834
6,331
522
North Central IN
My Coop
My Coop
My flock is 2 1/2 years old. I do not supplement lighting; I just let them do their thing naturally. I'm already seeing a drop in egg production and one of my EEs is already molting. I'm selling my last carton of eggs Monday and then I will start hoarding eggs for myself. I'm the only person in my household and I don't eat many eggs to begin with. Every fall I make sure to save enough to make my famous homemade noodles for Thanksgiving. If I need eggs after that for baking, I will buy them from the store. But I never, NEVER eat a store bought egg (as in fried or scrambled). They are so nasty! Its like comparing a store bought tomato to a tomato fresh out of the garden...two totally different things!
 

Lady of McCamley

Crowing
8 Years
Mar 19, 2011
7,002
4,649
462
NW Oregon
What do I do for winter prep/molting/egg laying and eggs to get me through winter?
I take a multi-prong approach.

I manipulate my flock so that I always have a set of pullets that come into lay by July or August that gets me through the first winter while the 2nd year hens are molting. (Note: in the northern latitudes, it is very important to get those chicks hatched so they come into lay by August or mid-September latest, otherwise you can end up with no eggs until spring.) So I am refreshing the flock each year. With a group of fine broody hens, who like to go into brood February through May, I have a staggered bunch of new pullets that are ready to lay through winter.

I also have an extra fridge where I've stored eggs. They can stay quite fresh with bloom and refrigerated....for about 7 months.

I have also over the years refined my flock for sustainability through selectively breeding and keeping my own "mixed" breeds that tend to be more stable layers (and pretty egg colors too). While the commercial hybrids lay like crazy, they are pretty played out by the time they are molting. By 3 years of age, most of them have died from internal issues. I like having larger eggs than the first year pullet size. That helps me keep large eggs too.

I find keeping "mutts" more sustainable. It's actually the way the old time farmers did it. Rotating flocks and keeping the best layers and healthiest. Over time, you see an overall stable flock that is fairly disease, mite, worm, free, and while aren't the super layers, do lay steadier throughout the year.

I also use fall time as time to reassess the flock and thin out the aging birds that are no longer productive. (Sorry, my land is too small to keep everyone for forever. Also, older hens tend to be mite and worm magnets for the rest of the flock). I have done everything from butcher to give away. Usually a note on Craigslist for free older hens gets me several interested persons.

I don't do supplemental lighting. I burned a coop down with an extension cord and flood lamp my first flock, years ago, and don't have the inclination nor dollars to run real electrical lines to the coop. Word to the wise, if you supplement lighting, be sure you are SAFE. Chickens stir up an incredible amount of dust that can actually ignite around hot light bulbs, let alone bump lights into bedding. Never leave a bare bulb exposed. Even outdoor rated extension cords can pose a hazard.

One winter I tried little battery charged closet lamps, which did help. You only need enough light to read a newspaper at roost height. However, that became a hassle to keep those rechargeable batteries charged every other day (or spend a small fortune in regular batteries). One night of darkness and you've lost the advantage. So after a few months, I simply gave it up.

I now just let my flock do their natural timing. I honestly think it is healthier for the bird to take the time to rejuvenate with molting.

I try to pamper my girls (and fellas) a bit while they are molting. I often switch over to Nutrena's Feather Fixer which does seem to help them get through molts faster. I find having a protein feed of at least 18% helps. I have supplemented with cat food, but that often is simply an extra step and expense, and my flock didn't seem to particularly like it.

I do use fall time to reassess my coops for rodents. After the fall gardens have ceased, natural foods reduced, and the ambient rodent population prolific, I find I begin to lose feed to the little beasts faster. I've tried everything from traps to herbs to, uhem, even having the boys shoot with air rifles (yes...there are that many at times). I've finally resorted to generation 1 poisons as they take repeated ingestion to do the trick. That prevents unintentional poisoning of pets and wild life.

And finally, I use the reduction in eggs as a chance to worm the flock. Be careful not to use fenbendazole as it has shown to cause feather regrowth problems. I either use Wazine or Ivermectin.

Then a good shaking out of the coops, and I'm ready for winter. I clean the coops and sprinkle poultry dust in corners. If they are really gross (which they don't tend to get as I reuse my empty feed bags as coop liners), I apply a solution of hydrogen peroxide. Make it strong (about 30%) using something like Oxyclean. It will literally bubble up that icky caked on crud on the floors. Let it sit, and it will also disinfect. Reapply my coop liners, fresh pine shavings, another layer of poultry dust, and my birds have a nice coop for winter.

I deep litter in the runs, pulling coop shavings into the runs. Fall and Spring, I let my gardening friends know I've got more "black gold" for them. It's amazing how many will show up with smiles and buckets to clean my runs for me. (That Tom Sawyer streak of mine).

Overall, that's what I do.

LofMc
 

azygous

Crossing the Road
10 Years
Dec 11, 2009
17,849
20,871
912
Colorado Rockies
Fall is a disappointing time for my egg customers, and it's a touchy period for my aging fleet of layers. I've found that I have more egg related health issues along with loss of appetite and overall crabbiness. The chickens also tend toward these behavior changes.

I just got through serving the flock a big helping of canned mackerel to supplement their protein levels during this time. If the amount of feathers in the coops and runs are any indication of new feather growth, the chickens can use all the help they can get from high quality animal protein.

The egg issues I see at this time can be partially attributed to age. My youngest layers are age three to five. The older layers include some from age six through eight, although the eight-year old has forgotten how to make a shell around her eggs, but she keeps trying anyway.

As my hens get into molt, their egg quality suffers. This is a good argument for giving layers a fall vacation, not introducing supplemental light, and allowing them to spend all their resources on feather making, and this rest period pays off in higher quality eggs when they resume laying after January.

The main egg issue I see at this time is a higher chance of shelless or thin shell eggs. This increases the risk of egg binding. I'm presently treating the three-year old for an internal egg collapse episode. It pays off to keep an eye open for this as there's a greater chance of a successful outcome if you can start treating it early.

My patient has come through her ordeal with flying colors, and I have high hopes she will continue to lay eggs. At the first sign of a reproductive issue, I treat immediately with calcium citrate with D-3. Often that helps with contractions and gets the egg moving or in my hen's case, moving the stuck soft shell down and out. This time I used castor oil introduced into the crop via tubing along with some warm water, and I believe it produced the dramatic recovery my hen has experienced.
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
10 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,164
12,240
707
Southeast Louisiana
My main goals are meat and to play with genetics. Eggs are merely a nice side benefit, I don't do anything special to get eggs in the winter. Since I play with genetics though I am hatching chicks every year and consistently keeping replacement pullets (and usually a cockerel). As a result I get eggs in the winter.

I let my hens molt as they will, I do not extend lights. I do not change how I feed them, they all get grower with oyster shell on the side year around. In the winter I shut the window at roost level to keep cold winds off of them when they are sleeping. The only other seasonal change I make is that in summer I use white bowls for watering so they will stay cooler and black bowls in the winter to take advantage of solar heating to keep water thawed when the sun is shining.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
71,281
72,506
1,557
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
What are you all doing to ensure you have eggs over fall/winter? Do you supplement light in the coop? Are you storing up surplus eggs? Did you raise pullets over summer to come into lay now and how is that working for you all?
Yes, I use lights, ramp 'em up in December after most molts are done.
No, I do not store eggs.
Yes, hatch new pullets every year. Works pretty good, tho there is always a time(right now) when the pullets are not yet all laying(shoulda hatched earlier) and most hens have already stopped laying to molt.
 

texsuze

Songster
7 Years
Dec 17, 2012
142
172
154
Texas Hill Country
No supplemental lighting here, just au natural. Most of my hens are molting right now, some having started in August. Another hen has just won the Gold Medal in the Broody Olympics ;), but after stepping off the podium, is now in full molt! Two of my seven girls are laying on a daily basis, so husband is being supplied with his daily breakfast. My girls are pure pets--eggs are icing on the cake--so my emphasis is different from some folks.

Once the welcome rain abates, coops will get a good cleaning and sand in one run will be removed/replenished.

My protocol for hen replacement is: keep my flock very small and only introduce newbies when one has passed away, and I have space and ability to locate the breed(s) I'm looking for.
 

dunnmom

Crowing
Mar 30, 2016
1,557
2,364
302
Oklahoma
In the two winters since I got my chickens, they didn’t lay much, if at all during the cold season. They’ve tended to stop laying to molt in late fall (which takes forever because they are soft molters) and not resume laying until nearly spring. I don’t mess with their lighting, I just let them take their break. I do give them extra snacks to help them stay warm, and insulate their coop. They did molt earlier this year than the last two, so maybe we will see some eggs this winter.
 
Top Bottom