With a warm house and a higher energy feed to supplement their diet, the hens will start to lay more, but not nearly at the same rate as during the spring and summer. So why not use lights to make up for the difference? In short, it is an artificial means of generating eggs and that will hurt both the chickens and the eggs. It’s not natural to force the chickens to lay year round without a break in production. With a winter rest the hens live longer which means they have a longer overall laying period. Factory farm layers generally are only productive for a year and a half while ours will lay for three years, tapering off production as they reach the three year mark. Winter eggs are different in taste and color compared to spring or summer eggs. In some European chef schools they actually have different recipes for each season’s eggs. The change in eggs is most noticeable when the birds come out of the hoop houses and back on pasture where they start eating grass, bugs and larvae, the chickens get recharged and the egg quality improves. The ideal production cycle is one that maximizes spring and summer eggs, so lower winter production is necessary to maximize healthy laying during the spring and summer months.
By using lights we not only risk decreasing the hen’s life span but also delay the chicken's ability to begin producing spring and summer eggs. Instead of forcing the chickens to lay during the worst time of the year, we give them a comfortable time off to rest up for the next season. A seasonal natural approach will always be beneficial in the long run.
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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