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Keeping up Egg Production in the Winter
January 7, 2016
Winter is a time that can be filled with many delightful activities. Whether it is spending time with family making the most of newly fallen snow outside or simply curling up in front a warm fireplace inside, there is something that is sure to please everyone about the cold season. However, chicken farmers are also aware that with the onset of winter, egg production from their chicken’s decreases. Fortunately, lower egg production during the winter months is not simply something farmers must accept. There are solutions to this problem, and being aware of the factors that lead to decreased egg production in chickens during winter months is the first step towards discovering and implementing the appropriate solutions.
While winter is different from summer in many ways, two of these differences are important enough to affect the number of eggs chickens lay during winter compared to what they lay in the summer. First, there are significant differences in the amount of daylight received during those two seasons. The days in winter are shorter than summer days. In many parts of the country, decreased daylight combines with increased cloud cover to create the net effect of much less sunlight. The other major difference between winter and summer is the temperature. Temperatures are generally much lower in winter than they are during the summer.
Factors Contributing to Lower Egg Production
Exactly how does the difference in both the amount of sunlight received and the temperature affect the number of eggs that hens lay? Chickens need 14 hours of sunlight in order to lay a single egg. Even in the summer, that amount of sunlight can sometimes be a challenge to find, and in most parts of the country during winter, it is virtually unheard of to receive that much sunlight in one day. It is easy for farmers to understand why egg production in the winter is lower once they realize just how much sunlight their hens need in order to be able to lay eggs.
But aside from decreased sunlight, the plummeting temperatures that coincide with the arrival of winter also play a role in decreased egg production from hens. When chickens are cold, they are much less likely to lay eggs. This is because their bodies have to focus the majority of energy on staying warm, so things like laying eggs become much less important.
There are also some other factors that can decrease egg production from hens during the winter season. Their stress levels affect egg production. Predators are scavenging in winter months to find their own food sources and if around you coop can stress out your chickens. Also, diet and are source of water are also a concern for you chickens. Due to frozen ground and snow cover chickens that are allowed to roam will have a tougher time foraging for food and will need more feed to supplement their diet.
Solve the Problem
Knowing all of these factors that might contribute to fewer eggs from hens during the winter, is there anything that can be done to boost egg production? Fortunately for farmers, there are a number of steps that can be taken to mitigate the impact of winter on egg production.
One of the biggest factors that leads to lower egg production is the decreased amount of sunlight. The good news is that chickens will believe there is more sunlight than there actually is through the presence of a light bulb. All farmers need to do is add a light bulb to their chickens' coop, and the hens will believe there is as much sunlight as the farmer sets a timer for. With the proper amount of sunlight, the hens will be more likely to lay eggs no matter what the time of year is.
Farmers can reduce the problem of cold temperatures by also adding a heat lamp to the coop. The optimal temperature at which a coop should be kept is 40-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Increased temperature means not as much work for hens' bodies to do, which means more energy for laying eggs.
If farmers want to help their chickens feel more secure from the predators that are more common during the winter due to a lower presence of vegetation in the wild, they can provide a secure shelter and roaming area for their chickens. This will make it nearly impossible for animals that feed on chickens to reach them. Not only will the lower worry levels help lead to better egg production, but farmers will be less likely to have their own worries about the possibility of losing chickens!
Finally, farmers paying attention to the diet their chickens are receiving during the winter is another major step that can boost egg production. When chickens eat the proper diet, not only do they stay warmer during winter, but they also have the proper nutrients in their bodies that help with egg production. One of the best ways to help chickens stay warm and obtain optimal levels of nutrition is by feeding them a diet that is high in protein. In doing so, it is very possible to double egg production! In addition to protein make sure your feed has a source of calcium to improve the shell of the egg. Lastly your chickens need water. It is important to make sure their source of drinking water won’t freeze. Ensuring that your hens have a clear path to the food and water by removing snow and other obstacles will encourage them to eat and drink more.
With proper knowledge of the factors that can reduce egg production from their chickens during the winter months and the steps they can take to lessen the impact of those factors, farmers everywhere can also enjoy the benefits of increased egg production the next time they are basking in the wonders winter has to offer.