If you raise your chickens for eggs and depend on their production, then seeing a drastic decrease in your egg basket is surely going to make you upset and worried!
If you are wondering what caused the sudden change and how you can fix it then read below!
Why a Decrease in Egg Production
I have around 25 hens right now and I absolutely love them. They are the most wonderful addition to my little farm! But besides being great pets, I really depend on them for producing eggs. When my hens were laying 18 eggs a day, to 10, and then to 1 or 2, I had a problem!
If this is something you have gone through, perhaps even on a smaller scale. Say from 5 eggs a day to now 1, then you know how I feel.
Know that regularly producing hens do not simply quit laying eggs for no reason. There are many reasons why hens quit laying. So I am going to focus on the two most common reasons around Fall and Winter, which is the time of year when daylight hours start to decrease.
Reason 1: Molt
The first reason why hens have a decrease in egg production is because of molt. Molt is a naturally occurring process in chickens that begins when they are about 18 months old. During molt chickens will loose their old feathers and grow in new ones.
Chickens usually start molting in Fall and it lasts anywhere from 4-16 weeks to complete. Chickens will loose their feathers in sequence. It begins with their head, then neck, back, across their breast and thighs, until eventually their tail feathers.
During that time hens quit laying eggs because their energy and nutrients is put toward growing new feathers. Feathers are 85% protein; therefore, it would be too hard on hens to grow in new feathers while regularly producing eggs.
Important Practices During Molt
During molt there are a couple important practices chicken keepers can do. First, your chickens should have a clean chicken coop. Second, your chickens should be fed a high protein feed.
A clean chicken coop is crucial because during molt chickens will have bare skin leaving them more susceptible to health problems. In order to prevent the chance of bacteria and infection in your chickens, a clean coop is necessary.
Feeding a high protein feed is very important. It will ensure that your chickens are getting the nutrients needed to help them through molt as quickly as possible. Laying hens should be getting a feed with at least 16% protein. Therefore, anything higher is a good choice during molt.
I specifically feed Nutrena NatureWise Feather Fixer while my chickens are in molt and I have had great results. It has elevated levels of protein as well as a mix of vitamins, minerals and amino acids that help maintain healthy skin and develop strong and beautiful new feathers.
A great thing about Nutrena NatureWise Feather Fixer is that it is sold on Amazon, so if you can’t find it at your local feed store, it can be shipped right to your house!
Reason 2: Shorter Days
The second reason why hens slow down in egg production is because of shorter days. Hens need at least 14 hours of light to lay eggs regularly. Currently where I live it gets dark at 5 pm and the sun comes up around 6:30 am. That is less than 11 hours of natural light, which is definitely not enough for my laying hens.
Many tend to think that the cold weather causes hens to stop laying, but it is really due to the decrease in light. For myself, that is great news because I can fix the problem. I cannot change the weather but I can sure control the amount of light my hens receive by adding artificial lighting into my chicken coop!
So during the shorter days you can choose to allow your hens a break, which is completely okay! Or you can give them light!
Why Add Lighting to Your Chicken Coop
As the winter months arrive and the days shorten, it is extremely important to provide supplemental lighting for your hens or you’re likely going to see a drastic decrease in egg production.
The extra lighting in your chicken coop is the secret to a continuous supply of eggs throughout the short days of winter. Best of all, adding the light is an easy set up and the LED light bulb is cost effective.
I hang an LED shop light from the ceiling of my chicken coop and I have it connected to a mechanical timer that will automatically turn the light on at 2 am and turn off at 6:30 am as the sun is coming up. This gives my hens around 15 hours of light, which is what they need to keep on laying.
Note that it’s not heat lamps that hens need, it is simply a regular light bulb.
I prefer to have the light kick on in the early morning to start the day earlier versus making the day longer by extending light after dark. The reason is because chickens will naturally start to roost as the sun is setting. Once the chickens start roosting they are ready to sleep. If the light were to come on shortly after it would throw them off.
Another reason why it is not wise to have the light come on after sunset is because when the light suddenly goes off after a few hours, chickens may not be able to find their way back up on the roosts. During actual sunset, it gradually gets dark. This gives the hens time to acclimate and make their way to the roosts.
Therefore, my chickens will roost when it naturally gets dark and get to sleep without any disruption. Then the light will kick on at 2 am to start off a new day.
Results of Adding a Light to My Coop
I set up the light in my chicken coop late this year and after a few days of collecting zero eggs I knew I had to put the light up immediately! After only two days of having the light kick on, my chickens began to lay again!
My chickens aren’t back into full production yet, but I hardly see a decrease in my egg supply so I am very happy!
So if you have not put a light in your chicken coop, try it out! You will enjoy the eggs!
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