How to keep hens laying in winter

Your morning routine of collecting eggs from the chicken flock is probably going a lot faster because you’re finding fewer eggs. Many hens stop or slow down egg production during the 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 or so day length to get the birds stimulated to where they start laying," says Lyons. "Up to about 16-to-17-hours or so is 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 recommends 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. Many poultry houses use the relatively inexpensive incandescent light," he says  "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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