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egg production in winter

Egg Production: How Winter and the Hen Lockdown 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, enforced lockdown, even too many treats can make a big difference.

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. But, if you think there could be another reason, take a look at how winter and the hen lockdown could be affecting your hens’ egg production.

egg production ww
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.

egg production daylight ww

In December, our hours of daylight decrease, and on an average day, we only have 9 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. With the current DEFRA housing order on top of reduced daylight, your hens will probably be affected by external factors even more. So, what can you do to help them out?

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.

What is your hens’ favourite boredom buster during lockdown? Take part in the survey below to tell us more about your hens’ egg production…

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

If you’d like advice on your hen’s health, why not visit our Hen Health page, where we discuss important things to look for in your hen’s health, whether its personality or physical symptoms. Or, head to our Hen Examination Guidelines where we can show you where to find things like the crop or the wattle.

If you need to seek medical advice, click here to find your nearest Hen Friendly Vet.
You can also call Hen Central on 01884 860084 to speak to one of our rehoming assistants.

Giving a gift today helps fund our Hen Helpline. It helps support hen keepers, giving them the best advice on how to care for their hens. If you have found our advice helpful, please consider giving a gift towards the hen helpline here.

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