If you raise your chickens for eggs and depend on their production, then seeing a drastic decrease in your egg basket is sure to make you upset and worried!
If you are wondering what caused the sudden change and how you can fix it then read below!
Why a Decrease in Egg Production
I have around 25 hens right now and I absolutely love them. They are the most wonderful addition to my little farm, but I also really depend on them for producing eggs. When I went from getting 18 eggs a day, to 10, and then to 1 or 2, I had a problem!
If this is something you have gone through, perhaps even on a smaller scale. Say from around 5 eggs a day to now 1, you are also encountering a problem.
Know that regularly producing hens do not just quit laying eggs for no reason. There are many reasons why egg production decreases. Today I am going to focus on the two most common reasons during Fall and the start of winter.
Reason 1: Molt
The first reason why hens have a decrease in egg production is because of molt. Molt is a naturally occurring process in chickens that begins when they are about 18 months old. During molt chickens will loose their old feathers and grow in new ones.
Chickens usually start molting in Fall and it lasts anywhere from 4-16 weeks to complete. Chickens will loose their feathers in sequence. It begins with their head, then neck, back, across their breast and thighs, until eventually their tail feathers.
Chickens quit laying eggs during molt because their energy and nutrients is put toward growing new feathers. Feathers are 85% protein; therefore, it would be too hard on hens to grow in new feathers while regularly producing eggs.
Important Practices During Molt
During molt there are a couple important practices to complete. First, your chickens should have a clean chicken coop. Second, your chickens should be fed a high protein feed.
A clean chicken coop is crucial because during molt chickens will have bare skin leaving them more susceptible to health problems. In order to prevent the chance of bacteria and infection in your chickens, a clean coop is necessary.
Feeding a high protein feed is very important. It will ensure that your chickens are getting the nutrients needed to help them through molt as quickly as possible. Laying hens should be getting a feed with at least 16% protein. Therefore, anything higher is a good choice during molt.
I specifically feed Nutrena NatureWise Feather Fixer while my chickens are in molt and I have had great results. It has elevated levels of protein as well as a mix of vitamins, minerals and amino acids that help maintain healthy skin and develop strong and beautiful new feathers.
A great thing about Nutrena NatureWise Feather Fixer is that it is sold on Amazon, so if you can’t find it at your local feed store, it can be shipped right to your house!
Reason 2: Shorter Days
The second reason why hens experience a decrease in egg production is because of shorter days. Hens need at least 14-15 hours of light to lay eggs regularly. Currently where I live it gets dark at 5 pm and the sun comes up around 6:30 am. That is less than 11 hours of light, which is definitely not enough for my laying hens.
Many tend to think that the cold weather causes hens to stop laying, but it is really due to the decrease in light. For myself, that is great news because I can fix that problem. I cannot change the weather but I can sure control the amount of light my hens receive by adding a light to my chicken coop!
So during this time of shorter days you can choose to allow your hens a break and get fewer eggs, or you can give them light!
Why a Light in Your Chicken Coop
As the winter months arrive and the days shorten, it is extremely important to add a light into your chicken coop or you’re likely going to see a drastic decrease in egg production.
Adding a light into your chicken coop is the secret to continued egg production throughout the short days of winter. Adding the light is an easy set up and the LED light is cost effective.
I hang an LED shop light from the ceiling of my chicken coop and I have it connected to a mechanical timer that will automatically turn on at 2 am and turn off at 6:30 am as the sun is coming up. This gives my hens around 15 hours of light, which is what they need to produce eggs.
I prefer to have the light kick on in the early morning to start the day earlier versus making the day longer by extending light after dark. The reason is because chickens will naturally start to roost as the sun is setting. Once the chickens start roosting they are ready to sleep. If the light were to come on shortly after it would throw them off.
Another reason it is not wise to have the light come on after sunset is because when the light suddenly goes off after a few hours, chickens may not be able to find their way back up on the roosts. During actual sunset, it gradually gets dark. This gives the hens time to acclimate and make their way to the roosts.
If the light suddenly goes off when it is pitch dark outside, many of the chickens will have a hard time making it up to the roosts, and some may not at all.
Therefore, my chickens will get to roost when it naturally gets dark and get to sleep without any disruption. Then the light will kick on at 2 am to start of a new day.
Results of Adding a Light to My Coop
I set up the light in my chicken coop late this year and after a few days of collecting zero eggs I knew I had to put the light up immediately! After only two days of having the light kick on, my chickens began to lay again!
My chickens aren’t back into full production yet, but I hardly see a decrease in my egg supply so I am very happy!
So if you have not put a light in your chicken coop, try it out! You will enjoy the eggs!