Keep hens laying in fall and winter

As the hours of daylight decrease in the fall, hens tend to stop laying eggs. However, if you keep the chickens comfy with light and warmth, they'll reward you with more eggs.

Many hens stop or slow down egg production during the fall and winter. The lack of daylight and cooler temperatures tell their bodies to rest.

Extension Poultry Specialist Jesse Lyons at the University of Missouri says if you want to convince your hens to keep laying, they'll need supplemental daylight.

"It takes about 12 hours of day length to get the birds stimulated to where they start laying," Lyons says. "Up to about 16 to 17 hours or so, somewhere in there, is the probably the maximum day length that will stimulate the birds."

The light has to be constant, and if you have a timer set for say, 14 hours of light and the egg production slows down, Lyons adding another half-hour so the hens think springtime is coming.

The type of lighting used doesn't really matter, and it doesn't take much.

"You can use some of the fluorescent lights, but in cold environments some of these lights will not come on," Lyons says. "If it gets down too cold in the building, well then the light wouldn't come on. Many poultry houses use the relatively inexpensive incandescent light. One light bulb would keep 15 or 20 chickens happy to where they can see, and walk around and eat, and be stimulated by the light."

Provide a diet that is balanced for protein and calcium. More feed may be required to give them the extra energy they need for maintaining body heat and egg laying. You can also use an infrared heat lamp for a couple of hours to warm them up. Lyons says that on really cold days, some flocks will cut back on egg production. But when a warmer day or two appears, you'll see more eggs again.

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