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Keep hens laying during winter

Agriculture.com Staff Updated: 12/07/2012 @ 8:14am

Many hens slow or stop egg production during the winter. Their bodies rest because of reduced daylight and cooler temperatures. If you want to prompt your hens to keep laying, follow these tips from Jess Lyons, extension poultry specialist at the University of  Missouri.  

  • Provide supplemental daylight. The flock needs approximately12-14 hours of day length to stimulate laying. Up to 16 hours is the maximum day length to encourage production.

  • Make sure the light is constant. Set a timer for about 14 hours of light to start. If egg production slows down, add an additional half-hour gradually until the hens respond. The additional daylight makes them think spring is coming.

  • Lighting options include fluorescent and incandescent. One light bulb per 15 chickens allows them to see well enough to walk around and find food easily. Unfortunately, fluorescent lights don't always work well in near-freezing temperatures or if the building is cold, so have incandescent lights as backup.

  • Make sure the flock's diet is balanced for calcium and protein. You may have to alter rations to provide the birds with extra energy for maintaining body heat and egg production.

  • Use an infrared heat lamp for a couple of hours each day for additional warmth. If it's really cold, hens conserve energy and stop laying for a couple of days. You'll see more eggs when they warm up again.

  • Keep in mind that if your birds are molting, they'll stop laying. Molting usually lasts two-to-six months.

You may also have to consider culling the flock. As hens age, their egg production decreases. This usually happens in year three. By the time your hens are five-years-old, they'll lay about half as frequently as they did in their prime.

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