Topic of the Week - Winter Egg Laying


Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
- Do or don't you supplement light to keep your hens in production over winter?

No. My main purposes for raising chickens is for meat and to play with genetics. The eggs are a nice side benefit but I normally have more than I can use anyway so I give those away to a food bank type place or to friends and relatives. I see no reason to supplement lights. For people with different goals, the answer can be different.

On more than one occasion I’ve had pullets start laying in early December when the days are shortest with no supplemental light. I’ve had broody hens raising chicks molt in August/September and resume laying before the other older hens molt and stop laying. I’ve had adult hens continue laying until December when they finally start the molt. Most of my hens start to molt in the fall as they are supposed to. I’ve had some of these hens resume laying as soon as the molt is finished, I’ve had some wait until the longer days of spring. My normal overwinter laying/breeding flock is only 7 to 8 hens and pullets. I usually get some eggs every day but there are occasions I don’t get any for weeks on end.

- Are there other ways to ensure your flock stays productive, for example by replenishing the layers with young hens yearly?

Since I like playing with genetics and raise them to eat, I hatch a lot of chicks each year. I save replacement pullets every year, overwinter a fairly small breeding/laying flock, and eat all the excess pullets and cockerels. I generally keep certain hens for two full laying seasons before I process them. My chicken math includes subtraction so my basic laying/breeding flock stays the same size each year.

I always have pullets in my flock. Some of these lay through the winter, some stop as I mentioned above. Even that does not ensure I have eggs all winter, just that I usually do.

I don’t know of anything that will ensure you have eggs all winter other than treating them like commercial egg layers and tightly controlling lights and feed. Some things can help. Production breeds are more likely to lay all year than decorative breeds. Some hens are fast molters and can finish the molt in little more than a month, some take several months to finish the molt. That’s mainly controlled by genetics, not feeding them extra, but a higher protein diet can help marginally in speeding up the molt. Another advantage in feeding them extra is that they use more nutrients in winter staying warm. They need a certain excess nutrient level to build up certain body reserves so they can lay. It’s not just protein as much as people like to fixate on proteins. Other nutrients, like fats and others, are important too. But an increased protein diet can help.

- What do you do to prevent the eggs from freezing in the nest boxes, especially the folks that can't collect them in a timely manner.

Can’t help much here. Having plenty of bedding to help insulate the eggs will help marginally. Having the nests inside the coop instead of hanging off outside will help some. Insulating the exposed nests top, bottom, and sides can help some. But unless you provide heat in some way it’s hard to fight Mother Nature and physics.

- Tips for keeping winter layers happy and healthy?

Same as any other time of the year. Keep the coop dry and see that they get a well-balanced diet and plenty of clean water. Don’t crowd them but give them enough room to be chickens and act like chickens. I don’t give them anything special at any time of the year to keep them healthy, I just depend on a strong immune system developed from hatch to keep them healthy.


In the Brooder
Dec 10, 2016
Tennet, California
As of now I just installed a light that is controlled by the tempeture in the coop as soon as it gets to twenty it kicks on until its mid 30s or 40s and a timed light that comes on at 5 and goes off at 5 because out light hours where cut short they seem to be handling it well


Jul 19, 2016
Winter is a time of the year when eggs are in short supply for many of us, though some troopers, like two of my hens, are laying like it's Spring still. Many find though that their hens slow down or stop laying completely, when the days get too short. And the eggs that do make it down the tubes are sometimes frozen before we get a chance to collect them! This week I'd like to hear from you all about winter egg laying and egg dilemmas. Specifically...

- Do or don't you supplement light to keep your hens in production over winter?
- Are there other ways to ensure your flock stays productive, for example by replenishing the layers with young hens yearly?
- What do you do to prevent the eggs from freezing in the nest boxes, especially the folks that can't collect them in a timely manner.
- Tips for keeping winter layers happy and healthy
I do use supplemental light. I simply have Christmas lights on a timer.
I am new to chickens so all my girls are young. I'm sure I'll add more overtime, but I will keep all my girls as they age.
I don't get much freezing weather in my area, but we check eggs daily.
Due to my location, it has been pretty warm. Everyone goes outside and they have access to a fenced in backyard. I am planning to extend fencing into the woods beyond my yard so they can forage more and have more space. Since the grass has browned, I had my boys rake a bunch of leaves from the woods. I filled 2 chicken runs and made a big leaf pile for them to dig through. They really seemed to enjoy this. I always give treats and food scraps so they love that, too. I want to find a farm supply store that sells seeds I can use for fodder and I am also trying to breed some meal worms so I can start giving them a fresh supply.


In the Brooder
Aug 20, 2016
I have one light-bulb in the coop that I switch off in the evening (no specific time), otherwise we have about 5 hours of daylight at the moment.
Hens are laying, except the broody one. I have 6 hens and I get usually 2-3 eggs per day, if temperature is above -5 degrees Celsius. The coop door is open during daytime and they can choose if they wish to stay in coop, hang around in tunnel around the coop (covered with plastic film) or walk in the run.
I feed them with organic layers feed and some leftovers that are suitable for chicken.
My oldest hen is ex-battery hen that was considered too old for battery hen (that is about 1,5 years). She is now about 3 years and also lays eggs in winter.
I have no idea how happy they are, but they seem to be fine. I have no music for them, except what the rooster performs them and I even haven't given them treats. Still, even my ex-battery hens have grown extra-thick feather cover this year and are laying even better than last year:) So, I guess they must be content.
I have had no problems with freezing eggs. I do check my hens twice a day and even if it is -10 degrees Celsius, I have always managed to collect the eggs before they freeze. Eggs won't freeze that fast (in nest box with some wood shavings on floor).
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Dec 18, 2016
I live in Sarasota FL so freezing isn't an issue here. Nor have my layers slowed down much. In fact,one of them is now sitting a nest of about 12 eggs. I like to let them do what comes natural for them. While I do enjoy the bounty of eggs, my chickens are more like pets to me.


Aug 23, 2014
When I had a smaller flock, I supplemented light to keep production up. I have enough laying hens now that I get enough eggs even when they slow down in the winter so no added light this winter.

I replenish the flock every few years to mantain a target number of laying hens. Losses usually come from predators. I keep hens and roosters so I hatch my own eggs unless I want a specific breed that I don't already have, then I will buy chicks. I found that hatching in early March will give me chicks that start laying around the middle of July. Its been working out to where I have a good mix of hens at various ages and there has not been a sudden drought of eggs caused by all of the layers getting too old at the same time.

I don't do any thing extra special to keep them happy in winter. As long as the coop stays dry and draft free, they are not over crowded, and have food and water, they keep on keeping on through the winter. They are much more rugged than people give them credit for.

I have not had enough eggs freeze to where I need to try to stop them. If they freeze and expand to break the shell Then I throw them out but it doesn't get that cold in the coop very often. Water freezes at 32°F but it has to be even colder to freeze an egg. I'm married with 2 kids so someone is always around to be able to collect them if I ask when its cold enough to freeze an egg.
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Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
- Do or don't you supplement light to keep your hens in production over winter?
I have in the past and had varied results.
Am not using it this year and actually have had a molter, maybe more than one, come back into lay just the other day.
Some of my pullets are still laying, some are not, some haven't started.
I may start with some light later...not sure yet.

- Are there other ways to ensure your flock stays productive, for example by replenishing the layers with young hens yearly?
Yep, I hatch new birds and butcher old hens and extra cockerels every year.

- What do you do to prevent the eggs from freezing in the nest boxes, especially the folks that can't collect them in a timely manner.
Gather frequently.....for those that can't do that, heating the nests is an option:

- Tips for keeping winter layers happy and healthy?
I shovel out part of the run...mesh roof and LOTS of snow here.....and might toss thin layer of straw on icy surfaces.
Maybe extra bedding on coop floor.....heated waterer.
Throw out some BOSS in coop when it's really cold to check mobility and spur their appetites.
A flake of hay out in the sheltered part of run...maybe some wheat fodder.....for some winter 'greens'.


Dec 18, 2016
Salisbury nc
I have about 40 hens and get about 8 eggs a day some have just molted but some have just stopped laying especially the 3 marans zero eggs from them. No supplemental light. Although theres light in there and I turn it on when it's cloudy and nasty out until dark then I turn it off. Do marans just not lay in the winter?

Russ in Tuscany

In the Brooder
Apr 26, 2015
Tuscany, Italy
We live in Siena, Italy and the winter temps are not anything like many places in the States, but temps are usually below 0 Centigrade in the nights and the days are pretty short. Strangely enough our 10 hens don't stop laying, we're getting between 6-8 eggs per day, as at any other time of year. I say strangely because some people around us, so with exactly the same climate, have a dramatic drop-off. We're not sure why, other than the fact that we take good care of them, they have a dry, clean but unheated coop for the night and they free range all day in our field. In terms of food they get as much mixed seeds and layer as they want. Then usually around mid-day some stale bread mixed up with whatever chopped up vegetable leftovers and eggshells we have around and if there's time a few handfuls of their seeds thrown onto the grass for entertainment value. That's it.

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