If you are a backyard chicken enthusiast then you've probably noticed the effect that winter has on your flock. As we head into colder and darker days the birds give fewer and fewer eggs. It's discouraging as a farmer to see the number of eggs in the nest boxes dwindle. This year has been especially bad for our farm and with the lower supply we've unfortunately had to turn away customers.
The good news is that we will have more eggs in the spring. Egg production for chickens is naturally seasonal. Chickens are made to produce more during the spring and summer as these seasons give their offspring the best chance to survive.. Chickens have been designed so that light exposure causes a release of a hormone that is responsible for the laying of eggs. As light decreases so does egg production. To remedy this some folks add lights to their chicken coops or houses. If you decide to do this, be careful as it can be a shock on the hens to suddenly have longer days, and while this increases production, the use of lights will impact the health of the birds and quality of the eggs, but more on that later. There are other ways to improve winter egg production and most of them boil down to making sure the hens are comfortable since winter in the Northwest can be hard on a species that originates from the tropics. To keep our chickens warm and sheltered from wind, rain and snow we put our layers in large hoop houses. The change in season also drives a change in diet for chickens. The hens need more energy to stay warm and extra fat is useful as insulation so when it starts to get cold we give the hens some extra corn and wheat to supplement their regular feed.
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