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How to Keep Your Chickens Laying Eggs in the Winter the Right Way

A person holding eggs with chickens walking in the snow in the background.

Farms are famous for their myriad of animals, but one staple that most farms have is chickens. They are a fantastic source of protein, both from their meat and eggs. Unfortunately, when the weather gets colder, they often stop laying eggs. So, how do you keep your chickens laying in the winter months? There are a few tricks to encourage egg production safely.

First, you need to start with healthy baby chicks from an NPIP-certified hatchery, like Freedom Ranger’s Family of Hatcheries. This step helps ensure that the egg-laying or dual-purpose breed chickens you get, either as a farmer or backyard chicken keeper, can grow into the egg layers you need. Get started today by ordering your baby chicks!

When Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs?

Suppose you’re reading this article on how to keep chickens laying eggs in the winter. In that case, you likely will be disappointed to hear that chickens naturally slow down or stop laying eggs altogether during winter. There is no exact date that you can expect your hens to stop laying eggs. But as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, egg production will begin to slow down. You can expect this reduction to happen in the middle to late fall, especially after daylight savings ends.

Why Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs During the Colder Months?

Have you noticed that during cold weather, your hens stop laying eggs? Chickens slow down or even stop egg production during the fall and winter due to the shorter hours of light and colder weather. These changes signal their bodies to rest to conserve energy and stay warm rather than continue laying eggs. This natural process is the way chickens stay alive during the winter, as they would not have help with artificial heat or light in nature.

Using Light to Keep Chickens Laying Eggs in Winter

If you’re wondering how to keep hens laying eggs in the winter, you need to offer them light and heat to keep them stimulated so they will lay eggs. Most breeds, including the Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island Red, of hens need at least 12 hours of artificial lighting. In this scenario, you must use the correct light bulbs to mimic natural sunlight. If you can simulate 12 to 14 hours of daylight for your hens, they will typically keep laying eggs all year.

Provide Warmth for Your Chickens to Encourage Egg Laying

In addition to light, you can encourage egg production through warm temperatures that simulate spring or summer. By providing your hens with a warm area protected from the elements, you can encourage them to lay eggs during the winter.

One important note is that chickens need not be hot. If you live in a cold climate and want fresh eggs throughout the winter, you do not need to simulate a Florida beach in your chicken coop. Instead, you want the temperature to be mildly warmer to keep your chickens warm but not shock them when they go in and out of the coop.

Prepare Your Chicken Coop for Winter

Chickens must have protection from the cold wind and weather, especially during harsh winters. A prepared chicken coop is another way to keep chickens laying eggs in the winter. You can research different chicken coop options before buying, but they all need to meet these basic requirements:

  • Keep drafts to a minimum
  • Trap natural heat from the sun
  • Provide roosting areas
  • Allow them space to move around with plenty of bedding
  • Keep temperatures up so they do not get frostbite
  • Fresh feed and water that does not freeze
  • Adequate ventilation

If you already have a chicken coop on your farm or in your backyard, you’ll want to take some steps to prepare it for the winter and encourage egg laying. Take these steps in early to mid-fall to ensure the coop is ready whenever cold weather strikes. You’ll want to:

  1. Clean the entire coop
  2. Replace loose boards, and plug mouse holes and other vermin entrances
  3. Insulate the coop with an extra layer of fresh bedding
  4. Help keep the wind and snow out by attaching plastic sheeting over hardware cloth or chicken wire coops. Be sure that there is still adequate ventilation, though.
  5. Install a heated waterer so that your chickens always have access to fresh, not frozen, water
  6. Use a radiant heating pad to keep the temperatures at the ideal state
  7. Put the lights on a timer to ensure your chickens get the recommended 12 to 14 hours of light
  8. Ensure there is only one chicken for every four square feet inside the coop to keep chickens healthy

Ensure Your Chickens Have Adequate Nutrition

It takes a lot of nutrients and energy for chickens to lay eggs. So, if you want to encourage your chickens to lay eggs in the winter, you must ensure they eat a balanced diet. It’s a good idea to add extra protein to their diets by giving them layer feed with added protein or treats like sunflower seeds and nuts. The additional protein can help them quickly get through the fall molting season and provide the energy they need to stay warm and lay eggs.

Another nutrient consideration is calcium. This supplement is needed to form strong eggshells and to create the contractions for them to lay the eggs. Crushed oyster shells are an excellent source of calcium. Your chickens also need fresh water throughout the day. Check it in the morning and keep it refilled all day.

What Can I Expect if I Let Nature Run Its Course?

Your hens provided delicious eggs throughout the summer. You can allow your hens to get much-needed rest throughout the winter, so they’ll be ready to produce eggs in the spring again. If you decide to forego any of the above tips and let your chickens focus on staying warm and healthy during the winter, you can expect slowed or stopped egg production. You may see an egg here or there, but there won’t be a bounty of eggs available.

You could also try something completely different by buying winter-laying chickens like Rhode Island Reds. These cold-hardy breeds of chickens lay eggs even during the winter months. These are dual-purpose breeds, and they are winter hardy.

Order Your Spring Chicks Now!

Now that you know how to keep chickens laying eggs in the winter, it’s time to think ahead to spring! Ordering baby chicks early in the spring ensures that when summer rolls around and the hens are about 20 weeks old, they can start laying eggs for you. To ensure that you get the breed and availability of chicks that you want, it’s advisable to begin placing your orders early in the winter.

When you are ready to add new chicks to your farm or backyard, check out the Freedom Ranger Hatchery! We make it easy for our customers to order egg layers, broilers, dual breeds, ducks, and geese! If you have any questions or you need specific information, please contact us. If you already know what types of chickens you want to add to your farm, then order now before the spring rush!