There’s an egg-laying season?! And do I need to medicate my birds?


Jun 17, 2019
So I am still new to chickens, and recently read/heard two new bits of information...

1. I read an article about molting and no eggs in the winter? This was news to me, but there are feathers everywhere, so maybe we’re at that stage? The article went on to say that having new chicks would help with eggs in winter, but so far none of this year’s chicks have started laying. My two momma hens were born last year. I have two hens born in March, two in June, two in July... and two 1 week old chicks. Will any of these lay eggs before spring? Is there any rhyme or reason to it?

2. Someone told me today about putting medications in their water... I haven’t done that, should I? I haven’t noticed any problems with my birds, but I want to be doing the right thing. Also, we live in Southern CA, and there is the Newcastle quarantine, but I’m not sure meds will help with that.
1. There's absolutely rhyme and reason to it - and a season for it - but it's fluid and based in part on genetics so it varies by breed. Some breeds lay better through the winter than others.
Loosely, sometime in the fall birds that are over a year old will molt. This can be fast or go on for a month or so. They shed their feathers out, grow new ones, they tend to not lay during a molt, and need a little TLC (some extra protein rich snacks, etc.). This gets their bodies ready to get through the winter.
Egg laying is also daylight dependent. After so many hours of daylight a chicken lays an egg - they're solar powered. Under a certain number of daylight hours per day and you get no more eggs.
The combination of these two things leads most people to consider spring through fall to be egg season.
If your chicks hit laying age in the middle of fall/winter, they may or may not start laying until spring. Some chickens will, some wont. Breeds that have very high egg laying ability (like leghorns) will be more likely to just start laying in the winter, and more likely to lay over the winter in general. A chicken like an easter egger may not lay until spring and may not lay a single egg all winter long.
Of course, you can also put in artificial lighting, but this does put a strain on the hens and they lay worse in the future as a result.

2. Unless your chickens are unwell I would not put medication in their water. Medicating a chicken that's not sick can actually develop bacteria, viruses and parasites that are resistant to those medications making future problems much worse.
Preemptively medicating chickens for diseases they may or may not have is a very old way of raising chickens and a bad one for the above reasons. If your chicks are very young (under a month) a bit of amprollium won't hurt but it's not really important unless your chicks are sick. If your chickens are vaccinated the medication may actually interfere with that.
There is no medication to stop Newcastle. Newcastle is a virus. That's why the quarantine is there. It's not something you can just medicate out of a flock and it's deadly. There is, however a vaccine but I don't know enough about it to suggest it or not. Chicken vaccines - unlike human vaccines - vary dramatically in effectiveness and reduction of disease transmission. Some like Mareks don't actually prevent the disease at all, only the symptoms, meaning they can still infect unvaccinated chickens and are only partially effective. I don't know enough about the newcastle vaccine to tell you if it's an effective vaccine for either ending transmission or for ending symptoms. Also most chicken vaccines must be administered on day 1 or 2 after hatch.
Oh no, my Lexi already struggles with common sense!

This article suggested artificial light in the mornings, but my birds are my friends, not just egg machines, so I don’t think I’ll do the lights. I’ll keep skipping the meds too.

We have hot bright days until November here, sometimes all year round, maybe that’ll keep them laying.
I got my first egg layer hens in April and they started laying recently, not consistently yet though, our best was three within a week's time. I live in MO. I agree with you about the artificial light. Letting the chickens rest during the winter is good for their bodies so I'm letting mine rest during winter too. What you feed your chickens can affect their laying habits. Do you have calcium or extra protein for them? I usually give them oyster shells and alfalfa hay bales free range for them to nibble on. You should be able to find both at your local feed store. They use a lot of calcium in the egg shells and it takes a lot of protein to make the eggs so you could try boosting that along with the egg layer feed I'm assuming you're giving them. Also, do you have nesting boxes already? They usually lay faster with a nice dark place to lay their eggs. ChocolateMouse is right on all points though, every breed is different and while it's frustrating to wait, just think of all the fun you'll have trying to find where your chickens laid their eggs that day. Mine have been hiding a few under the coop door recently.
I lived in So Cal for 40 years and now live in Washington. The difference in the length of days is dramatic. You might be surprised with your mild weather and longer days to be receiving some eggs all year round. Certainly they will lay less in winter, but I wouldn't be surprised if you still received an egg or two every day. I say that as a guess really since I didn't have chickens in CA.

I sometimes use lights in the winter for my girls because I want them to have a warm place to go. I will light one end of one coop and leave the others dark, and then let the hens choose where they want to be. I just don't do it for eggs. Like you, I would just forgo those. This year I'm going to change from one of the lights to a heat panel.
We have hot bright days until November here, sometimes all year round, maybe that’ll keep them laying.
Where in this world are you located?
Climate, and time of year, is almost always a factor.
Please add your general geographical location to your profile.
It's easy to do, (laptop version shown), then it's always there!
@AMaggio I give them meal worn treats daily and live cricket treats 1 or 2 times a week. I buy a scratch that has oyster shells, and throw some extra grit/shell around too. They free-range on flies, beetles. Spiders, and weeds. They also get fresh corn, watermelon rind and cucumbers from the garden. I mix a little Dio Earth in their food and nesting boxes. There are 8 nesting boxes, the two mommas and their chicks each take a box, the other 4 hens either smash into one box, or lately have been sleeping on the roosts. Joyce, my first momma hen was laying an egg a day until she got broody last month, she’s the one that adopted the new 1 week old chicks.

@ValerieJ we do get a few cold days, I have covers I can put up to enclose my coop, (I made them for our rainy days, we got a lot this spring) and I’ll put heat bulbs in there if I need to as well!
Well, I put a light on when it's in the teens and 20's and there is snow on the ground. Unless you are in Julian, Big Bear, or some other mountainous area, you probably wont have to worry about heat. Chickens actually do better in the cold than they do in the heat. That being said, some people use light for a couple hours a day to keep the eggs coming. I could be wrong, but I don't think you need to do that either. You have decently long days even in winter. Sheesh I can remember sending photos to our northern family of us rollerblading on Christmas on the beach. (Uh oh...probably dated myself there.) :lau

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