Will hens lay for a longer period of time during their lives if they take a break in the winter?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Flockofeleven, Nov 6, 2012.

  1. Flockofeleven

    Flockofeleven Hatching

    Nov 5, 2012
    I'm trying to figure out whether or not I should put a light in my coop this winter to increase egg laying. I know that chickens are born with a certain number of eggs in their ovaries. My question is, do they lay a set number of eggs whether they lay in the winter or not? If they take a break in winter will we be decreasing the total number of eggs we can get from our hens? Or will laying in winter cause the hens to use up their predetermined number of eggs and stop laying sooner then hens who are allowed to take a break in the winter? Thanks!

  2. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Crowing

    Apr 8, 2008
    I have not seen any research into whether this is true or not, but here is a good article from a woman who talked to her vet about it. http://communitychickens.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-chicken-vet-on-supplemental.html#.UJkViWfVr-4

    It is a common belief that hens with lighting in the winter might become spent sooner, but the hen has many more eggs in her ovaries than she will ever be able to lay so that doesn't make sense to me. Some people also believe that they'll have shorter life spans, but that doesn't make any sense to me at all as long as they get to moult at least once a year. Heck, some hens are bred to lay all through the winter whether there's lighting or not.

    This is a huge controversy, and you'll get people in both camps. Personally, I provide supplemental lighting and it makes a HUGE difference in the number of eggs I get.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2012
  3. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    Agreed, that the research is unknown to me as well.

    Research has to be funded by someone and since the commercial industry, which is a major source of funding for university Ag research, has no interest, it would appear to me, in knowing. They want research into maximizing the layers output. This they've studied. They "all in, all out" at a given point, first moult or certainly by second moult. They aren't going to keep their birds long enough to find out. And.... they certainly aren't going to maintain a facility nor feed a flock that is in "rest" for a few months.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2012
  4. angel8035

    angel8035 Songster

    Apr 1, 2012
    Applegate, California
    I have a few rescued hens that came from an egg laying farm. They lay huge eggs year round almost every day - and it is VERY hard on them. They have bare bottoms and have to eat a TON of supplemental calcium just to make hard enough shells. To me, it is part of a hen's nature to take some time off in the winter months and forcing them to continue laying so often does not give their bodies the chance to rest and heal. I know that the rescue hens I got will not live into their prime like the rest of my flock. My goal with having backyard chickens was to have humanely raised and natural eggs and that is why I do not provide supplemental lighting. I want my hens to live to a ripe old age because they are my pets. Just my two cents [​IMG]

  5. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Crowing

    Apr 8, 2008
    Here's an interesting article on poultry lighting. Not whether or not to do it, but different types of bulbs and the outcomes of them. Interestingly, they had a group of Leghorns prefer compact florescent light over incandescent.

  6. Smoochie

    Smoochie Songster

    Sep 18, 2012
    Sorry I shouldn't have posted as I do not keep chickens for eggs. Sometimes I raise chicks to POL but generally layers are not my thing. :p
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2012

    NYREDS Crowing

    Jan 14, 2008
    Let me make one thing clear up front: I see chickens as livestock not pets. To me efficient productivity is important. Hens who are given "time off" still have to be fed. Like other warm blooded creatures hens are born with every egg they'll ever lay inside them. It's a finite number whether they lay them in 3 years or 10 years there's still a maximum number of eggs they can produce.
    That said, the decision to light or not is an individual choice based on the individuals beliefs & values. There is no right answer. Provide light & you will produce more eggs in a given year. That's a fact. Don't provide supplimental light & the hens MAY live longer. I say may because longevity depends on many factors in addition to the lighting question.

  8. Mac14

    Mac14 Songster

    Jul 21, 2012
    Northern California
    Now following this thread! :)
  9. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Crowing

    Agree with NYREDS. The answer depends on what you want from and for your hens.

    If you don't depend on them economically for production of eggs for sale then why not let their bodies take a break over the winter as they will if nature is allowed to take it's course?

  10. dolly85

    dolly85 Songster

    Jun 1, 2010
    I light my coop during the winter and my chickens are in excellent heath. They are fully feathered, have bright red combs and are nice and fat. If I don't light the coop they won't lay all winter long and I keep chickens for eggs not just as pets. We love them, pet them and enjoy watching them free range in the backyard but the truth is when they stop laying they go to the freezer. Whether or not a person encourages their chickens to lay year round is a personal decision on what a person keeps chickens for and what they want out of the experience. I don't believe lighting a coop leads to a shorter life span or more complications. My oldest two hens lived to be 6 years old before they were butchered. They laid up until freezer camp but were butchered because they had developed a nasty habit of eating eggs. They were completely heatlhy and never had any reproductive issues. All but one of my hens are dual purporse breeds, marans, langshans, EE's and some welsummers. They have great carcass sizes when their egg laying days are over. The white egg layer is a leghorn cross (hatchery specialty) and is just as fat and healthy as the rest. She doesn't need artificial lighting to lay but certainly isn't harmed by it.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by