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Is it healthier to let them stop laying during the winter?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by sashurlow, Nov 4, 2011.

  1. sashurlow

    sashurlow Songster

    Aug 18, 2009
    West Rutland, VT
    So our 18 month chickens (2 Barred Rock, 2 Buff Orphington) have slowed down for the winter like they should be doing. My wife and I are considering a light to increase the production but it leads to the question... Is it healthier to let them stop and recover or keep them going without a break?

  2. sheaviance1

    sheaviance1 Songster

    Apr 7, 2010
    You will get a lot of differing opinions on this topic.

    You actually worded it in your opening statement "have slowed down for the winter like they should be doing".

    I let mine have a break in the winter because it is natural for them to do so, but, I don't depend upon them for their productivity either. That is my personal choice.
  3. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    Yup, completely a personal decision.

    Some folks see the chicken as domesticated and thus, while we care for them affectionately, the purpose of domestication entirely is that the once wild bird becomes a valued livestock and provides food for us. All animals were once wild and lived in a "natural" state. Once we domesticate them, we change them. It is what we do. We selectively breed them and raise them for centuries for the purposes of meat, milk, wool, feathers, for our food, drink and clothing.

    The cow doesn't produce milk for us naturally. The chicken does not lay eggs for our food, but solely for their own reproduction. Everything we do, have done, and ever will do with domesticated animals is to a large degree "un-natural".

    The decision to light or not light is a husbandry decision of what you wish and think best for both yourself and for the critters under your care.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2011
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    You'll probably get various opinions in this. I don't provide any light so that's where I am coming from. I don't depend on selling eggs so I can allow them to stop laying. Besides, I always have some pullets that started to lay in late summer or fall. These may slow down a little, especially when it gets really cold, but normally these lay all winter without light so I don't run out of eggs for my use.

    I find that the egg shells lose a lot of color the longer the hen lays. After the chicken molts, the egg shells are back to a real pretty brown. They just look better. They are also noticeably bigger. I've read that the number of eggs that are laid drops if they go a long time without a molt. I have not really noticed that, but I only have a few chickens. If I were a commercial operation with thousands of hens laying, I'd probably notice.

    Commercial operations don't keep hens laying forever. They control the molt by controlling the light. It can vary some, but a normal sequence is to keep the chickens in mostly dark until they are old enough to lay decent sized eggs. Then they switch to 14 hours of light to get them started laying. After a while, they force them to go through a molt to get the larger eggs. They make more money with the Grade A Large eggs so that is the target. Then they let them lay for a year or more without a molt. But at a point, they either feed them through another molt or get rid of that batch of layers and bring in fresh chickens. If they could, they would keep the chickens laying for several years solid without a molt. Whether it is number of eggs or egg quality that drops, and I suspect it is both, they find it more cost efficient to get rid of that batch and feed a new batch of chicks up to laying age or feed them through a molt while they are not laying than to just keep going.

    If you are looking at longevity in your hens, I think a molt really helps them. If you are going to replace them when they get inefficient, adding light probably makes sense. It depends on your goals.
  5. MontanaChickenLady

    MontanaChickenLady Chirping

    Sep 16, 2011
    Beautiful Montana
    For me, my hens are not factory birds.....and I feel they deserve the down time as a reward for all of the great eggs they've given us. This is our first winter together and I'm very curious as to how they will do with egg laying.
  6. Judy

    Judy Crowing Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I think you got some very good answers. The problem is that the commercial operations don't care whether adding or not adding light affects the chickens' overall health or longevity, as you can imagine by the description above, so no one is going to fund any research, and we are left guessing.
  7. BrokenRoadFarm

    BrokenRoadFarm Chirping

    Jun 10, 2011
    North Central NC

  8. Cindy in PA

    Cindy in PA Crowing

    Jul 8, 2008
    Fleetwood, PA
    Quote:Why do you seem to say chickens don't molt if you provide light? I have had chickens for 19 years, provided 14 hours of light every winter & always had chickens molt in mid fall like they are supposed to based on their hatch date. Providing light does not keep them from molting & resting.
  9. aoxa

    aoxa Crowing

    Quote:Why do you seem to say chickens don't molt if you provide light? I have had chickens for 19 years, provided 14 hours of light every winter & always had chickens molt in mid fall like they are supposed to based on their hatch date. Providing light does not keep them from molting & resting.

    I was wondering the same thing [​IMG]
  10. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Crowing

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    For me in a sunlight deprived area and all too aware of effects on health both physical and mental it causes see no reason not to supplement a little extra light. Ensure it's a cool white or full spectrum and 12 hours is more than enough. If happy healthy birds is your goal then give them some added vitamin D via supplemental lighting. "Naturally" wild chickens were not found in the northern New Hampshire where the shortest day is 9 hours.

    This year with our rooster whom keeps me from letting the girls out until 8 am I'll be only giving them 10.5 hours of light. We let them out between 7:30 and 8 so will have lighting go 7:30 to 6, off for mid part of day.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2011

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