Why aren’t my winter chickens laying eggs?
Winter can be really tough on our backyard chickens. When their little bodies are under stress, hens will lay fewer eggs, or even stop laying.
You’ll already have noticed a change in your girls as the seasons change. They are eating more in an effort to build up fat and feathers and generate warmth. They may be drinking less water, and huddling together in groups. And depending on their ages and breeds, they may have stopped laying eggs.
Why do I get fewer eggs from my chickens in winter?
- Chickens need about 14 or 15 hours or daylight to lay eggs. So even in warm winters, many breeds lay less in the winter.
- Your hens need more energy to keep warm and fight off illnesses in winter, and take time off to rest and re-coop-erate after a big laying season. They use the nutrition from their food to get through the winter. In the spring they are ready to start laying eggs properly again.
If your hens are young and healthy they are more likely to keep laying over winter. Certain breeds do better than others. And there are a few other tricks you can try, with their environment and nutrition.
Half a dozen tips to help your hens stay healthy and laying in winter:
1. Winter chickens can handle the cold
Our urban chickens are actually pretty OK in low temperatures, as long as they have good nutrition, great feathers, and healthy coops. The fall molt has prepared them, and they acclimatise as temperatures fall. Huddled together, backyard hens can generate enough warmth to stay comfortable.
Coops may cool down to 30-40 degrees in winter. Your hens can handle it just fine, as long as their homes are dry and free from big draughts.
2. Crack the ventilation challenge
There can be a tricky balance between keeping the coop warm and not draughty, while at the same time letting fresh air flow.
We need to resist plugging all the gaps and over-insulate the coop. This leads to a buildup of humidity, which can actually cause frostbite on their soft wattles and combs, or mold and fungal infections. On top of that, the buildup of ammonia gas from their poop can damage their lungs. Fresh air is essential. Consider building in a vent at the top of your coop for this.
3. Prevention is better than cure
Like us, chickens need to stay dry to stay warm, as wet living conditions make it easy for illnesses to take hold. And as they are huddling together on the perch at night, if disease does get a look-in, it’s likely to challenge all of them. Once you have mold and fungus it can be hard to get rid of.
And don’t put off cleaning the coop, which helps to reduce parasites and ammonia levels. Also, if your winter chickens lay eggs in winter, you like it to be in a poop-free nest, right?
4. Not everyone wants to be in the spotlight
Some people like to put a light in the coop on a timer so their winter chickens keep laying. It’s completely understandable, and is done as standard in commercial egg-laying setups. However it does mean your ladies in the coop don’t get to chill out and rebuild their strength over winter, so they are more susceptible to illnesses than resting winter chickens.
Your chickens in winter need even more nutritional support bolstering their health so they can produce eggs, without getting malnourished, stressed out and unwell. Please don’t make them run on empty!
5. Winter chickens can’t drink ice…
It may seem obvious, but frozen water is no good to backyard chickens. While they tend to drink less water in winter than in summer, they do need fresh clean water each day. Water is important for helping regulate body temperature, and absolutely essential to lay eggs. Wild birds and animals that can get into your coop can bring pathogens through pooping in your water source too, so keep it fresh for healthier winter chickens.
There are water heaters on the market, or you might need to swap out frozen water dispensers each morning (or pay some neighborhood kids to break the ice for holiday money!)
6. Entertain your hens!
Ever wonder where the term “cooped up” comes from? Yup, when hens all shut inside and unable to stretch their legs, they aren’t happy! Just like people who are cooped up, being trapped in a relatively small space without much to do can lead to boredom, sniping and general tetchiness, as well as disease.
Chickens in winter don’t get a lot of sunbathing, dustbathing, or greens and bugs to eat. But if you open the door for your winter chickens to leave their coop, you may find they do so even in snow just to avoid boredom. Please don’t let the weather put you off engaging with your hens, giving them extra hay to scratch in, or feeding them healthy treats.
Here’s an egg-cellent option!
So your hens aren’t laying eggs? Zen Hen probiotic treats for hens can get them laying again sooner, in a natural and healthy way.
At Zen Hen we have crafted special treats to get our urban hens through the winter. Our natural ingredients are combined with the aim of bolstering their natural defences and giving them the goodies they need to stay warmer and healthier. Our targeted pre-pros colonise your hens’ guts with good bacteria so that bad bacteria can’t get established. With the pre-pros helping keep your girls healthy and strong, they are better able to lay great eggs, more often.
Our Zen Hen supplements come in treat form so you can use them to get your girls engaged and out and about. This way they get fresh air and some good quality interaction, and you get to check them over and watch for early signs of illness.
Taking care of your chickens in winter gives them the best chance to keep laying eggs, while staying healthy and getting in tip-top shape for spring.
Love your chickens? Try Zen Hen Probiotics for Chickens!