Winter Egg Production?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by petrel, Aug 24, 2014.

  1. petrel

    petrel Chats with Chickens

    My flock's egg production has declined dramatically in the last two weeks. They've gone from 9-12 eggs a day to 7-9. Everyone appears healthy and there have been no changes to their environment or food. I'm guessing (actually my DW suggested) that the declining day length is the culprit. If this is true, based on my flock composition could anyone speculate on how low the winter production will go? They will be a year old on the 27th of this month.

    Also, just today I've noticed a bunch of barred rock or dominique feathers in the run, does this mean that it is too late to head off the process with some artificial lighting?
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2014
  2. iwiw60

    iwiw60 Overrun With Chickens

    5,291
    626
    318
    Jan 27, 2014
    Central Oregon
    Sounds to me from your description that they are MOLTING. This is a tad early for the year, but that's what they're doing. When molting you can definitely expect a good reduction in egg laying. Make sure they have extra protein to help with new feathers coming in. You might give them a hard-boiled egg crushed up, shell and all...that helps. Plus the fact that yes, the days are getting shorter so you'll automatically see a change in egg laying.
     
  3. petrel

    petrel Chats with Chickens

    Since it appears as though only one or two hens out of twelve are molting, can this process and/or the decline in egg production be headed off by the addition of coop lighting to extend day length?

    If it can't be headed off, how low can winter production drop?
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    33,849
    7,000
    596
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    It is the declining length of day, triggering molt which almost always stops laying, they need that protein and energy to grow new feathers.

    But yes, it can be headed off using supplemental lighting, if you have first year layers chances are they might lay thru the winter with no supplemental light. But if your hens are older, they will slow way down if not stop during the waning days...no way to tell just who or how much they will slow or stop.

    There are many opinions about if or how to do this...some claim it shortens the years a hen will lay because of the ova used during the winters, that it is unnatural and even cruel. I have chickens for food, eggs and when the laying slows, meat. I'm trying to determine now which of my 2 1/2 yo's are still laying regularly, cause some will be soup by winter..maybe all of them cause the eggs need to pay for the feed.

    I'm about to start up my lighting as the days here are at about 13 1/2 hours. They need 12-16 hours of light a day for optimal production...I went with 14-15 hours, ramped up starting in October(which was kind of late), last winter which was my first winter with five 1 1/2yos and 3 pullets acquired in Sept 2013.

    I used a household light timer on an incandescent 40 watt bulb in a metal shade centered on top of the mesh ceiling of their coop. They need enough light to be able to see to eat and move around. It's set to come on early in the morning and turn off after sunrise, allowing them to go to roost with the natural sunset. I increased the light by 15 minutes every 3-4 days until I reached 14 hours. I don't feel it should be changed drastically but gradually and it does take time(3-6 weeks) to have an effect, so the sooner you start the sooner you'll see results.

    I believe it does interfere with their molt, just exactly how I'm not totally sure, haven't watched it for enough years.
    Tho this spring /summer some definitely molted and slowed/stopped laying.

    Here's a good article that gives a pretty good overview, read all the comments too as a lot of questions are answered there.

    HTH.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2014
    1 person likes this.
  5. petrel

    petrel Chats with Chickens

    Thanks so much for the answer. I am glad to hear that it can be headed off. I'll set up the lighting tonight.
     
  6. jschoff

    jschoff Out Of The Brooder

    14
    1
    24
    Nov 4, 2013
    Will using a red light work for egg production? Not a heat light, just a regular red bulb. I used white light last year, and they seemed to peck each other a lot more. Are not crowded or anything like that.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    33,849
    7,000
    596
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    No.
    Here's a good article that gives a pretty good overview, read all the comments too as a lot of questions are answered there.
     
  8. jschoff

    jschoff Out Of The Brooder

    14
    1
    24
    Nov 4, 2013
    Well, I was just reading this when you posted! Thanks. I read the whole thing twice and could not find anything saying red light would not work. I had started using the red bulb this fall, but I suppose I could switch back to white. I used a 40 watt florescent bulb last year with good results. Maybe I will drop it to 25 watts.
     
  9. iwiw60

    iwiw60 Overrun With Chickens

    5,291
    626
    318
    Jan 27, 2014
    Central Oregon
    I'll throw my 2 cents in on the red light/white light posts. I am of the opinion that my girls not only need, but deserve, a break during the winter months. The days are shorter, some flocks are coming out of molts, it's cold, it's dreary, I do not consider my little flock a 'machine' that I just have to get all the eggs I can out of each of them by subjecting them to lights (no matter what color). I say let them rest...I know my girls and they will reward me with feeling full of vigor for the upcoming spring and summer months.
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    12,748
    5,686
    436
    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    I am of the same mindset. I figure Mother Nature gave them internal calendars for a reason and I ain't tampering with it. They have plenty of other stress in the winter without me hovering over them to fill my fridge with eggs. [​IMG] Okay, I'm going back into the corner now.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2014

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by