Caring for chickens in Winter can be challenging, and I explain how to increase egg production during this harsh season. With a few preventative methods, you can keep your chickens healthy and happy, resulting in delicious eggs.
Backyard Chicken Dreams
When we bought our little 1 acre property, I immediately envisioned keeping a few chickens. I was pregnant with our first child and wanted to settle, start preparing our “nest,” and dream of our future as a family of 3 on our own small farmstead. Those dreams of chickens led to more dreams of big vegetable gardens, goats, greenhouses, and orchards. My Husband looked at me and said, “let’s learn how to be parents first.”
It took quite some time to get into the groove of being a new parent, and over the coarse of that first year we discovered many new truths about how we wanted to raise our growing family. Gone were the days of busyness. I had decided to quit my job and stay home with the baby. We had a new home that required a lot of updating and land that had been neglected for many years before we purchased it. To learn more about our story, click here.
This Is Not How You Buy Your First Chickens!
Fast forward 3 years and 2 babies later, and it was the time of year that we started getting the end-of-Winter itch to get outside. I wanted to dig in the garden (which we had started that previous year), and make plans for what we wanted to accomplish on our little suburban homestead. Later on that day while running errands, we drove by the local farm supply store and saw a huge front door advertisement sign for “Chicks In Stock.” HIT THE BRAKES! I knew it was time and I batted my eyelashes at my Husband. The best part was that our 3 year old was with us and as soon as she laid eyes on those fluff balls, it was all over. We were not leaving empty-handed. And we didn’t.
What I Recommend Doing First
We had done a little bit of reading on caring for chicks over those first few years of owning that property, but we were bringing them home and had nothing prepared. We walked out of that store, arms full of the supplies needed, and 9 little fluff balls peeping at the top of their lungs. The joy on mine and my 3 year old’s face, the confusion on my 1 year old’s face, and the concern on my Husband’s face was quite the sight.
How we started our flock is something that I don’t typically recommend, but it did us well, and as you will soon discover we are a bit spontaneous. Looking back, I think I read for hours every night that first month, everything that I could find on raising chicks, roosters, and hens. But, we had all hens, so there was no need for reading too much on roosters. Spoiler alert: they weren’t all hens. Story for another day!
How Winter Weather Can Affect Caring For Chickens
We live in the Southeast, so by the time the cold weather really starts staying consistent, it’s November. Our chicks were grown adults by then and staying outside permanently. It was pretty easy caring for them in the summer as they got plenty of free-range time, bugs to eat, and loads of sunshine. Happy hens = delicious eggs! And we had started seeing the fruits (or eggs) of our labor. But, here came Winter with less daylight, and less time spent outside of the coop.
When chickens spend more time in their coop in close proximity to each other they tend to get aggravated. It’s basically the same thing that happens in my house when my family has been inside for too long. I’m sure y’all can relate. This aggravation in chickens can result in aggressive behavior and development of unhealthy habits such as pecking at themselves, each other, or the eggs that they lay. They require space to roam, along with new and exciting things to peck or scratch at. Less daylight means that the hormone that stimulates egg production is not being triggered as effectively, which causes a decline in egg production. So, what can we do to help our fluffy butt friends stay healthy and happy? Read on, and I’ll explain how to increase egg production in Winter.
How To Boost Egg Production With Simple Changes
The first thing that you should take careful consideration of is diet. What are your egg-laying hens eating? They need to be eating a diet high in protein with added calcium for egg production. Look into a feed that contains at least 16% protein with added calcium (usually in the form of oyster shells). If you feel like your hens are requiring more, you can feed an 18% protein feed, but it’s based on how your flock responds. Some hens just need more than the 16%.
Also, consider adding herbs to your chickens’ diet to prevent illness and boost mood. Herbs can be added directly to feed, as a separate treat, or in their nesting boxes. You can get my FREE infographic on “5 Herbs To Feed Your Chickens” by entering your e-mail below.
Next, consider the amount of space your chickens have to run around. If they do not have enough outdoor space, they are going to require more indoor space to make up for it. A good rule of thumb is 10 sq/ft of coop per chicken, 1 nesting box for every 3 chickens, and enough outdoor space such as a run or backyard to forage in. “Cooping” chickens up will result in disease, unhealthy behavior, and aggression towards each other. All of these results in decreased egg production.
Let It Shine!
The last item to consider is daylight. The pineal gland in the hen is what is stimulated by daylight to produce a hormone that results in egg production. The less daylight, the less the hormone is being produced, resulting in less eggs being laid. We can help our hens out by providing supplemental artificial light, but how do you do that?
Well, if you’re like us, we don’t have electricity running out to our coop in the backyard. What I did find though, was a few solar-powered light bulbs to hang up in the coop. The small solar panels sit on the roof of the coop to charge during the day, and at night when I check the locks on the coop, I will turn on the lights for a few extra hours of hormone-stimulating therapy. I make it sound like a spa day for the hens, but I really do think they enjoy it.
You can find the lights that I use here. This is not an affiliate link. I am just really happy with the price and quality of this brand. I even have one in my greenhouse when I’m planting seeds after the kids go to bed.
How To Increase Egg Production In Winter
- Check your hens diet for proper protein and calcium, and add herbs to stimulate proper digestion and a happy mood for good egg production.
- Ensure that your chickens have enough indoor and outdoor space to prevent aggressive behaviors.
- Add artificial light to the coop to supplement the loss of daylight in the Winter months. Daylight = increased egg production!
Have you used any herbs in your coop or chicken’s diet that have been successful for egg production or overall health? Drop a comment below and tell me! Also, make sure you add your e-mail address to receive my FREE infographic on the “5 Best Herbs To Feed Your Chickens.” Thanks for the visit and I wish many delicious eggs in your future!