Why Have My Chickens Stopped Laying?
Today we will have 10 hours and 23 minutes of daylight. Why is this important for those of us that raise birds? Because a bird’s laying cycle is based on daylight hours and the laying cycle peaks at 14-16 hours of daylight. This is why if we don’t supplement light we get fewer eggs in the fall and winter months.
There is a common misconception that it’s the cold that affects egg production, but that’s not the case. If you supplement light during a winter with record-breaking lows you will continue to get eggs from your hens.
A birds laying cycle is controlled by the pineal gland and its response to light. Longer days urge the gland to produce more egg laying hormone, shorter days decrease hormone production.
If you are like me learning this information had me contemplating the idea of supplementing light for our flock. Husband and I chatted about it and he left the final decision up to me.
There are some things to think about if you are considering supplementing light.
- It will shorten the length of the hens production. Just like people hens have a set number of eggs they will lay in their lifetime. You need to consider if you want your gen to lay more or longer.
- Hens naturally take a break from laying, adding light goes against that time of rest. When a body is at rest there is time to restore. There isn’t much study on the topic but it is thought that the lack of rest is hard on the immune system or could lead to issues of the reproductive organs.
- Lastly consider that your hens will go through a molt around the same time their egg production wanes. This is not coincidence, the bird’s body will be using those nutrients to replace feathers. If you do supplement light be aware that your hen will need extra nutrients at that time.
If you have decided that you want to supplement your flock with light here are some guidelines on how to go about it.
- If you do decide to supplement light don’t wait until your hens stop laying to do so. Start it slowly in midsummer to keep egg production going. Or gradually add small increments of light over time. Make the transition gradual so you don’t overwhelm their endocrine system.
- Remember that light effects egg laying as well as molting. If you decide to use supplemental light keep with it, if you stop suddenly you risk a halt in egg production and throwing your birds into a molt.
- Most sources suggest incandescent lights set up on a timer.
- Set the timer to turn on in the mornings before dawn vs the evenings.
- Remember birds need 8 hours of darkness. Birds are no different from us and need sleep time for their bodies to restore and recover
Do we supplement light for our flock?
For our chickens we do not. We try to keep as close to the natural way as possible. In our minds if chickens naturally take a break then they need the break.
Our hens are also used for meat and at the end of their laying years we will cull them. So far this is about three years. I enjoy the personalities of each hen and like to keep them as long as possible. It’s not as economic but I’m okay with the eggs being spread out over time.
If you don’s supplement light is there anything that can be done to get eggs in the winter?
Due to my little obsession with incubating eggs we have found a way to have eggs in the fall and winter months. Younger hens will continue to lay through the low production season.
We discovered when we hatched pullets that came of age to lay as the low production season started, they laid throughout the fall and winter. We caught on to this tactic and decided to always have pullets that are just starting to lay when the days grow shorter.
This year while most others had no eggs we had at least 8 a day, that was enough for our own use, with a little extra to sell.
We have been considering adding light for the quail. This is because we are growing them primarily for meat and plan on culling them at year. It would be nice to get as many eggs within the year as we can.
This tactic also works for chickens and is more economic. Most large farms use lights and replace hens after a year and a half to two years.
No matter what you decide it’s important to keep an eye on how many daylight hours you are getting throughout the year. This will help you track egg production and plan for the low production months. It is also a great aid for keeping an eye on your chicken’s health.
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