“Did you get the eggs today?” My husband asked. I was a little nervous to tell him yes, even though our egg basket looked bare.
It was up to me to figure out what was going on with the ladies. Winter time seems to be the most common season our hens slow down egg production.
I totally get it, they need the extra energy to stay warm. Another common time when I seem to have fewer eggs is molting.
Let’s take a look at some of the common reasons hens stop laying eggs.
Did you know that even an hour without water can affect your hen’s laying schedule? In the winter we would keep the water OUT of the coop.
Mainly our chickens roost in our 100-year-old barn and the heated water bucket doesn’t really work to go inside their coop.
When I started giving them water through the night, I noticed I would get one or two eggs before they were ready to leave the coop.
The first brutal winter we had chickens the water was freezing even in our heated bucket and the chickens were getting frostbite.
Keeping them hydrated is so important. This stuff helps out, and now I give it to them throughout the winter. I’ve noticed it helps with the hens laying eggs in winter too.
I also will give a couple of teaspoons of Apple Cider Vinegar into their water. Apple Cider Vinegar always goes in the water whenever I have a sick hen.
Make sure you get the Raw stuff, the one with the chunks in it. I buy this one at BJ’s Wholesale club because it’s the cheapest, but if you aren’t a BJ’s member you can either sign up for a $25 membership or grab it on Amazon.
What to Feed Chickens In Winter
Keeping chickens fed in the winter can be challenging, as the cold weather affects their appetites and access to food.
Many types of chicken feed are available to help keep your chickens healthy during the cold months. However, choosing the correct type for your chickens is essential.
For example, most laying hens need high-protein feed to keep laying eggs, while younger chicks need more calcium for growth and feather development.
In addition to having pelleted feed- we always choose pellets because they have less waste, you can give chicken treats to boost their overall health in the winter.
My go-to is a bag of Cracked corn because it’s easy to throw in the chicken coop and gives them something to scratch for. I have always grabbed a bag of Black Oil Sunflower seeds but wow the price has gone way up in 2023, but I like this for all of our animals, goats, chickens, and pigs love them.
Here in upstate New York, we tend to forget that Fall lasts into December. It’s a safe bet we have had several days of snow at this point.
Yet, our chickens will still be molting in late fall. When they are molting their bodies are working on that, not egg production.
It helps to give the Rooster Booster after molting, and you will notice the ladies kicking back into gear in no time. Molting is a natural process and one.
You have to go with the flow. The typical time of molting is eight weeks sometimes, and you can see birds up to 16 weeks.
I’ve noticed our older hens ( 4 years and up ) go through the molting process much slower. Age is something to take into consideration.
When it’s in the negative numbers in winter the chickens are using their energy to keep warm. If you need tips on how to keep your chickens warm this year check out the article here.
Otherwise, just keep the chickens warm ( no, they do not need a heat lamp) and wait for the weather to warm up. Stress comes into play here as well.
If a hen is stressed, it will disrupt her laying cycle. Stress and extreme weather may give you a few of these weird looking eggs.
Lighting For Chickens
Typically we see shorter daylight time in winter. You will notice the hens going in for the night earlier and earlier. Less daylight means less time for eggs.
You can add a light to your chicken coop to encourage the girls to lay.
What I personally do is for the whole month of November and halfway through December, I let them be. If they need to take a few days off, I let nature play the course.
We stop selling eggs at the road starting in November to stockpile our own eggs to get us through the winter. I don’t expect all the hens to lay every day.
At the end of December, I start giving the Rooster Booster- some of the ends are just finishing their molt at this point too. I only give this for younger hens and older hens. It is not necessary.
We add a steady light right over our nesting box that gives the chicken coop light. I unplug it at night to let the chicken’s natural cycle keep going.
I really think adding a boost of light especially if your chickens stay in a coop all winter is a game changer.
Every homesteader will do things slightly differently. You can add a light right away to keep your hens laying. A lot of our chickens are now 3+ years.
Age is a factor to consider. The average lifespan of a chicken is typically 3- 7 years. Of course, some may live longer.
With older hens, they may lay fewer eggs, but I have found our older hens lay some pretty large eggs. If you have an older hen who just isn’t laying anymore it may be time to bring in a new flock in the next season.
How Long Does a Chicken Lay Eggs?
Another reason your chicken may not be laying eggs is it is done with laying eggs. On average, hens can live 6-8 years. I’ve raised all different breeds of chickens and have found that the Rhode Island Reds do not live past 4 years.
We have a few hens right now that are six years old. The breeds that have lived the longest on our farm are Silkies, Wyandottes, Ameraucana ( Easter Eggers) , and Australorp.
Signs to Look for if your Chicken is Done Laying Eggs or Close:
- Comb- pale or light colored probably has stopped laying eggs.
- Vent– The vent should be moist. If it isn’t and looks a little dusty she probably isn’t laying.
- Abdomen– you can feel the abdomen as a soft, but if it feels hard she probably isn’t laying eggs anymore.
- Keel to Vent Space- The distance between the vent and the keel bone should be around two fingerbreadths. If you are closer to four, she’s probably done laying.
- Eggs– Shell quality decreases year after year
How many Eggs Does a Chicken Lay Per Day?
On average, a chicken will lay one egg per day. We’ve only had our leghorn hens for a few months and sometimes I will notice they will lay two per day.
Can A Chicken Lay and Egg Without a Rooster?
Yes! You do not need a rooster for your hens to start laying eggs. You only need a Rooster if you are planning on free-ranging your chickens or incubating your chicken eggs. You can read more about roosters here.
If your hen wants to hatch her own, she will stop laying. In our flock, it’s not our silkies that have been broody like I’ve read; it’s our Black Australorps who I always find sitting on eggs.
We recently got a rare breed, Coronation Sussex, and they are the most broody.
It could just be your hen isn’t feeling her best. You can go through these 20 signs to see if your hen is ill. For me i always can tell by looking at a chickens comb or vent. If it’s slightly off I pick them up an examine further.
If you free range your chickens always check around the homestead to see if she is hiding her eggs somewhere too.
Best Egg Laying Chickens
If you feel like you have bought the wrong breed for your region or lifestyle, some of the best egg-laying chickens are based on our backyard chicken farming and research from others.
- Plymoth Rock
- Rhode Island Reds (even though their lifespan seems less they are hearty when it comes to weather conditions)
- Easter Egggers
By following these steps you should have no trouble getting your chickens to lay eggs again in the wintertime. The most important thing is ensuring they are well-fed and have a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of water and food available.
Additionally, providing a comfortable and secure environment with adequate sunlight could help keep them productive all winter.
With careful management and attention to their needs, you can ensure that your chickens provide you with plenty of fresh eggs throughout the cold winter months!
Do you have any other tips to add?