Contents: Do Chickens Lay Eggs in the Winter?
Do Chickens Produce Eggs in Winter?
Starting in autumn and lasting all winter, one of the biggest problems faced by backyard chicken owners is when egg production slows down.
Maybe not all of your hens will stop laying (depending on what breeds you’re raising), but
the daily yield of fresh eggs will be significantly less.
The production of eggs is greatly affected by the season and the amount of daylight hours. In order to lay eggs regularly, most hens need at least 12 hours of daylight, which they usually don’t get naturally in the winter. And they need 14+ hours of light to produce eggs at their full potential.
But why does this happen?
First, in a natural environment,
birds stop laying eggs when the length of sunlight decreases because there’s a shortage of food and water. Another reason
hens stop laying eggs in the winter is that chicks are less likely to survive through harsh winter conditions.
For these reasons, it makes sense that
egg production would naturally decrease by fall.
What Month Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs?
It’s normal for chickens to slow down egg production when they’re exposed to less than 14 hours of light a day and might stop egg production altogether once they get less than 12 hours of light a day. This inherently happens in the fall and winter when the number of daylight hours decreases.
So, the month a chicken stops laying eggs has much to do with where you live. If you live in the Northern hemisphere, where summer days are long but winter days are very short, your chickens will stop laying eggs earlier in the year than if you lived in the Southern hemisphere.
You can check when you’ll start getting less than 12 hours of daylight by going to this Google search page and replacing “Portland, Oregon” with your town/city and state (or province). Then click on any Google search results that start with https://sunrise.maplogs.com to see when you’ll start getting less than 14 hours of daylight.
How Do I Get My Chickens To Lay Eggs in the Winter?
If you want to encourage your chickens to lay eggs in the winter, here are a few things to consider:
Throughout the winter, you want your hens to be exposed to around 15 hours of daylight a day. So you’ll want to add artificial lighting inside your chicken coop once the days start getting shorter.
However, supplemental lighting should not be lit at the end of the day, because chickens won’t be able to find their roosts in the dark. They have poor night vision and might become confused, stressed, or injure themselves if the lights are just suddenly turned off late at night.
So turn on the lights in the morning rather than the evening, so that chickens will naturally and safely roost in their coops at sunset.
Caution: Intermittent Lighting & Molting
If you start giving your egg-laying chickens supplemental light in the chicken coop, don’t stop giving it to them before winter is over because you can throw them into another molt.
It could be very dangerous for your flock to molt during winter. They need feathers to keep warm!
Type of Lighting:
Warm to soft white LED rope lights (Amazon) should provide enough light to make hens think they are getting their daily requirement of light and keep them producing.
Another option is using LED light panels (Amazon). LED panels aren’t easily broken and they’re energy-efficient.
You can use some of the fluorescent lights, but in cold environments, some of these lights will not come on. LEDs work better in cold weather.
Caution: Toxic Lighting
“Industrial Duty” and “Break-Free” bulbs have a toxic coating (generally a Teflon) on them to prevent shattering upon breakage. The bulb emits a gas from the coating and it is deadly to chickens.
If your lightbulbs are run by electrical power, be sure to have something like a portable power station (Amazon) in case of a power outage. If the lights go out for a few days, it can cause your chickens to molt (which is very bad news).
Keep Them Entertained:
As you are giving them supplemental lighting, make sure there is enough to keep your chickens busy. If they get bored, the younger hens are probably going to get bullied.
Try to make small, shaded spaces where young hens can hide and protect themselves (like a piece of wood leaning against the wall).
To keep them busy during the early morning hours, you can leave some feed and water inside the coop at night. This way they can start eating and have something to do until they’re let outside in the morning.
Even during snowy days, I believe chickens are healthier and happier if they spend some time outside during the day to peck, scratch, and explore. Of course, I leave them inside the coop if the weather is too cold and harsh for them.
It isn’t just a lack of daylight that causes hens to stop laying eggs during the winter.
As the cold weather takes over, your chicken’s body naturally has to work harder to keep warm. Your chickens redirect their energy to keeping themselves warm instead of laying eggs.
Keeping the coop dry and without drafts will really help with their overall health and egg production. This is why it’s important to have a well-built chicken coop to start with!
So make sure your chicken coop is constructed to endure the cold winter months. I also have a Cozy Coop heater (Amazon) for those extra cold winter nights.
If chickens don’t get enough calories from a high-quality layer feed (Amazon), they’ll lay fewer eggs or no eggs at all.
A common mistake made by backyard chicken owners is to not increase their chicken’s feed during the winter months.
During the winter, chickens burn more calories trying to stay warm. They also don’t have access to as many bugs and other food sources, so they need to get more of their calories from their feed.
So, make sure you’re giving your chickens enough food to keep them healthy and happy all winter long!
I like to add a poultry treadle feeder (Amazon) in the chicken coop when the days are short and cold, so they have access to feed when they need it. A treadle feeder is also great because chicken poop won’t get in their feed.
Approximately 76 percent of an egg’s total weight is water, so you won’t get any eggs if your hens are dehydrated.
In those freezing winter temperatures, you’ll need to check that the chickens’ water isn’t frozen every few hours. That’s unless you have a thermo-poultry waterer with a no-roost top (Amazon) so that chickens won’t sit won’t sit on top of the waterer and poop in their water.
Illness & Disease
Many illnesses or diseases can cause production to drop. The hens may also lay eggs that aren’t properly formed, with soft or deformed shells.
Many internal and external parasites can infect hens and decrease egg-laying.
For example, internal parasite infestations can cause severe damage to the digestive tract. Infestations of mites can cause anemia in hens. Both of these kinds of parasites will decrease egg production.
A stressed hen is not going to produce as many eggs as a happy, healthy chicken. A stressed hen that has been handled too much or is scared by predators can also produce fewer eggs.
Laying hens also must have adequate space. The amount of floor space required by a flock depends on the size of the chickens and the type of chicken coop you’re using. (To learn more this topic, check out my post: How Much Room Do Chickens Need?)
The coop needs a comfortable perch to sleep on at night. And they also need private nest boxes that are kept clean.
Conclusion: Should Chickens Lay Eggs All Year Round?
Is it bad for the chicken’s health if they continue laying eggs all year round?
Many people believe that chickens should only lay eggs during the spring and summer months. This is because that is when they would naturally lay eggs in the wild.
However, many backyard chicken keepers have been adding supplemental lighting to their chicken coop for years without any negative effects on their chickens’ bodies and mental health.
That being said, it’s critical that all chicken breeds go through the molting process at least once a year because they need to replace their worn-out feathers. At this time, egg production will slow or stop.
I prefer to let my chickens molt, which often occurs for several weeks in the fall. After they’re done, I’ll add 20 minutes of supplemental lighting in their coop in the morning. And then each week, I’ll add an extra 20 minutes of supplemental lighting until the chickens are exposed to 15 hours of light a day.