Winter can be a slow time for chickens. Some hens will take a permanent break from laying eggs, while a select few lay once or twice a week.
It can be disappointing to have chickens at home, but still have to buy store-bought eggs in the winter. I certainly know the shame of buying eggs at the grocery store, when I have over 25 hens at home! Please know, this is cyclical and all part of mother nature. Our chickens have to maintain their body conditions in the cold, and contend with less sunlight. Their energy goes into surviving, and not into laying eggs.
Luckily, there are some ways to continue getting consistent eggs this winter!
- Add a Light Source
Extra light has been scientifically proven to boost hens into laying more eggs. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for continuing a hen’s ovulation cycle, thus leading to eggs. Prolactin is directly affected by the number of daylight hours. By adding a light to your coop, you are essentially tricking a hen’s body into continuing to produce prolactin. Add a few hours of light to the coop every morning with a timer. (Always keep safety in mind to avoid fire hazards!) Shoot for 10-12 hours of light a day.(Please note, we are talking about adding a light source, not a heat source).
Adding light in the dark, early morning hours is safer for the hens. If you add light in the evenings, the timer will suddenly go off, making the coop dark. This sudden darkness makes it difficult for the hens to find their way up to the roost.
- Extra Nutrition
Our chickens need added nutrition over winter months!
Corn or All-Grain
One of the best additives for a winter diet is corn.
Corn should not be a substitute for layer pellets or crumble, but instead given as a winter extra. Corn can be given whole or cracked. Corn contains lots of carbohydrates and takes a while to digest, therefore warming up the chicken. Try giving a handful or two to your hens when you put them up in the evening and it will boost their warmth for the night. My chickens love a handful of horse all-grain feed in the winter. It contains corn, oats, and a little molasses. In moderation, it gives my hens the lift they need!
Corn is a great addition, but doesn’t provide any protein. Protein in is a key component to egg production. Adding some extra protein with canned tuna or cooked scrambled eggs will give your girls a good treat.
One last nutritious treat for winter is homemade suet.
It is super easy to make and your girls will go crazy for it!
Simply add any liquid fat (olive oil, coconut oil, lard, etc) into a parchment lined pan. Add your yummy bits, like whole corn, grains, raisins, meal worms, etc. Allow to harden and serve to your flock!
- Let Them Out!
Chickens need freedom in the winter! Resist the urge to leave your hens locked up in the coop or run all winter. Chickens can tolerate the cold much better than humans. It is important to allow them to get out, walk around, scratch around, and get some fresh air. Letting your hens out to get some fresh air is very important for their physical and emotional well being. A happy hen is much more likely to keep laying her eggs through the winter.
Remember to give your flock a little extra love and care this winter! If you can get through the lean times of winter, your girls will be rewarding you with lots of eggs when the snow melts!