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Egg production: How winter could affect your hens

Most of our lovely rehomers adopt our hens to save their lives and at the same time enrich their own lives with the companionship of endearing, feathery pets; any eggs produced are just a bonus. 

If, however, you look forward to your daily egg hunt, did you know that during the winter egg production, shell quality, and taste are all impacted by external factors? Lack of daylight hours, stress, poor nutrition and even too many treats can make a big difference.  

Thankfully we have managed to avoid a flockdown so far this winter (although when in force, a housing order can play a part in fluctuating egg production) but if you’re noticing some changes in your girls’ laying habits, take a look at how winter  could be affecting your hens’ egg production. 

Nutrition

Ensuring that your hens are fed a balanced diet with a top-quality feed (we love the Allen & Page Smallholder range) can be all that it takes to ensure your girls don’t lay soft-shelled eggs. Calcium plays a crucial part in shell formation and this wonder mineral can be boosted by a weekly dose of Apple Cider Vinegar. ACV is a natural source of potassium, which works with your hen’s body to effectively utilise calcium in egg production.  

If you’re unfamiliar with the multiple benefits of giving your chickens a regular dose of apple cider vinegar, you can find out more here. 

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egg production weather ww

Weather and Temperature

Under natural conditions, such as allowing your hens to free-range in your back garden, your hens’ egg-laying slows down during the winter. During the previous three months, your hens experience a moulting season, so by the winter months, they have new feathering.

During the winter they require additional feed to keep warm which means all their energy is being put into being warm rather than egg-laying. This means that egg production is a secondary function and you will find that they will either lay less regular or they will come off-lay completely.

Daylight

Throughout the year the number of hours of daylight we get changes depending on the season. During the spring and summer months, we experience up to 14 hours of daylight a day. What we know about the egg production process is that hens almost always lay their eggs before 3 pm.  

After the hens lay, the process of creating an egg starts again after 45 minutes with the release of the next yolk (ovum). The time it takes for an egg to completely develop, from yolk to egg, is around 25 hours. So, you usually see an egg every day. Please note, this can differ depending on the age of your hens.  

In January, our hours of daylight decrease and on an average day, we only have eight and a half hours of sunlight. This dramatically changes how regularly your hens are laying because the daylight is what stimulates the egg cycle.  Like how the temperature affects them, daylight can also cause your hens to go off-lay too. 

This is completely natural and you will notice that as the days begin to get longer, by springtime, your hens will be laying regularly as clockwork.  

We know this can be quite alarming for some hen-keepers especially if you miss receiving those eggs every morning.  So, what can you do to help them out? 

egg production daylight ww

Here are a few other ways you can brighten up a gloomy January for your girls:

  • Try setting up a radio to keep your hens “hentertained” – the music and voices will help to make them feel safe in the darker days as they will be used to humans being around.
  • A small daily handful or two of snipped grass (one to two inches long at most) will ensure they don’t miss out on their favourite treat.
  • A vegetable holder can also be a fun way of adding enrichment but always remember not to feed veg scraps from your kitchen and give treats in moderation.
  • Handing up shiny objects or toys that move can be a great way to keep them stimulated during the day and give them something to do. Make sure to change things up in the run as chickens will become bored with the same toy after too long. You could even make your own toys from leftover Christmas decorations! Simply placing shiny tinsel into a hanging bottle can be sparkly enough to get their interests peaked.

For more information on what can affect your hen’s egg production, take a look at these other articles:

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