Why chickens don't lay eggs in the winter

February 17, 2022

For those of you interested in chickens, whether it's because you love knowing about where your food comes from, or because you might want to start your own backyard flock, we're going to start a short blog series on what we've learned so far in our endeavors. Our most asked question right now has been "why don't you have eggs??" So, allow me to nerd out a little on why our chickens are taking a break from laying.

Thinking back to all the old tales we’ve heard about chickens and roosters crowing as the sun comes up – well turns out there’s a little something to those stories. Light is exactly what a chicken’s body needs to stimulate it to lay an egg. Light is absorbed by the chicken’s pineal gland, which is located in their brain. They need 12-16 hours of light for this gland to secrete enough hormone to stimulate egg production.

So obviously, as fall and then winter rolls around and the days get shorter, there's less daylight, and the eggs really start slowing down. If you think about it, that really does make sense from a natural perspective. As the days get shorter and colder the chickens will be utilizing almost all of their energy to produce extra feathers and stay warm themselves….no way they would want to try and do the same for a baby at the same time! Think about wild birds….they don’t lay their eggs in the winter.

There are some things that we can do to continue getting eggs through the winter.

-         Getting our baby chicks started in the early spring and having new egg layers that are starting to lay as we enter winter will help keep some of the flock laying through winter….that is why we started our newest editions already this year! But more on that in another post.

-         Breed of chicken can definitely influence egg production. There are some breeds that tend to lay better through winter – and we now have a variety of breeds (gotta get those pretty eggs right?!).

-         Adding supplemental light into our chicken coop. This is what we started doing this year….which sounded a lot easier than it turned out to be. We have our chickens in a mobile coop with a large fence protecting it, so getting electricity and lights to them as we moved them wasn’t easy! But we have run some lights and we did see continued egg production through the early part of January which was exciting!!

As January rolled on and we really hit the heart of winter (if you know Roanoke, those real winter temps don’t hit until January and February!) and the temperatures dropped and stayed down well that really wrapped up eggs for our girls! And short of bringing them inside (yes I’m pretty sure Jennie considered it) we didn’t really have a great way to keep them warm enough to continue getting eggs so now we wait for that warmer weather!

Jared Frye

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