Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How to get your hens to lay fresh eggs year round

It's a problem for chicken keepers everywhere. The winter egg production drop off issue. It goes from gathering several dozen eggs a week in summer to nothing in winter. Some of us have even resorted to buying eggs from the store in winter. Yuck! 

I stumbled upon a trick that keeps me in fresh eggs year round. The best part is, I don't have to add supplemental lighting. My electric bills don't go up. I don't do anything fancy and I get eggs year round. This method takes a tiny bit of forethought but it's one simple move that will keep you in farm fresh eggs from your own happy chickens....year round!

how to | farm fresh eggs | winter

Are you ready for this? You're gonna ask yourself "Now why didn't I try this before?" It's this simple, quit getting your chicks in the spring! That's it. Whether you hatch or buy chicks, just do it a few months later then normal and you'll have eggs in winter. Let me explain.

Chickens start laying eggs when their body reaches maturity. Depending on the breed, its when they are about 4-6 months old. Most of us get chicks in spring. That puts their age of maturity around late summer, so that's when they start laying. They tend to lay regularly for about 4 months then shut down for winter. The shorter days trigger their bodies to stop laying and we get that 'break' in the production cycle. Spring rolls around and they start laying again. 

farm fresh eggs in winter

Even if your ladies are a few years old you'll still get more eggs in spring then the rest of the year. They slow down as they age and that's completely normal. The 1 year and 2 year old hens though, will be kicking out eggs like crazy in spring and through to the end of summer. This is why you want to buy your chicks later in the season, so they're growing during this already high production time and then start laying when everyone else stops.

I noticed this 3 years ago and have been keeping data ever since. Now that I've started yet another season of winter egg laying, I'm thinking I can call this method a success. Here's generally what happens:
      Buy or hatch new chicks in July. Around November or early December this new batch of pullets start laying. They lay eggs through winter till about February when they start to slow down. They keep this slowed down pace till spring, sometimes even stopping for a few weeks. Around late spring they start laying daily again keeping at it till late summer/early fall when they go through their first molt. The slowdown in the early spring coincides with the older hens starting up their laying cycles for the new season. See? Eggs year round! 

I like this method far better then any other I've heard of. It still keeps with the chickens natural need for a 'break' in egg production. It doesn't spike your electric bill like supplemental coop lighting. It's not unnatural for chicks to hatch year round (not as common, but not unnatural). So this is a normal production cycle for a chick hatched in late summer. 

By staggering them into your regular flock, you get the benefit of year round eggs without messing with their natural body rhythms. Plus, you can get some amazing deals on chicks since you're not buying at the high demand times. I'd say this is a win-win for all of us!

~L 

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7 comments:

  1. So, when exactly, do you buy your hens then? I’m new to raising chickens, and ‘require’ lots of exact info!!!
    Thank you for this great tip, BTW!

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    1. I hatch my own, usually in June or July. That way they start laying right when the older hens are slowing down because of winter.

      ~Lisa

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  2. This is great information! We are getting our chickens in the spring and I am so excited to learn everything I can about chickens!

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    1. Thanks! Good luck with your new chickens!

      ~Lisa

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  3. But isn't the drop in laying production due to reduced sun exposure in the shorter days? Why would chicks hatched out later in the year not experience the same drop in production for the same reasons? I have a set of Americanas that were hatched in early summer and based on their age they should be laying, but they are not and I associated that with the shorter days that are slowing the spring hatched birds down as well.

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  4. Yes, same as Jennifer....my chicks hacked at the end of May. They should be laying now but the aren't I attributed it to the lack of daylight but am hoping for some eggs soon anyway. I have had hens who layed in the winter before.

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  5. when I bought my house, May 2016, I have got two old ladies too, two chicanes as thin as newspapers. I was a little afraid of them... however, I have bought good food for them, biologica grains and they started to give me eggs every day. I became friends with my chickies and let them out in the garden - wow, they became younger and younger! their wings became longer and bigger, their combs became red and proud standing up - than winter has come. I have given them nice warm grains porringen, the same I eat :) and every day ~I give them something green, salade, sprouds etc., and the ladies walk in the garden - and walk behind me when I am outside, and..... they have given me eggs every day till now - I am astonished, but it feels it is their love... and their love comes with moving and eating... sorry for my English....

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