Chickens lay fewer eggs in the winter. This is the result of the colder temperatures and the shortening length of daylight. The rate that hens lay is based on four factors. The breed of the hen, the age of the hen, the temperature, and the day length. The breed of the hen makes a huge difference all by itself. The leghorn hen is one of the most productive, laying about 6 eggs a week. On the other hand some breeds only lay an egg a week on average. The age of the hen also affects egg laying. Chickens normally lay prolifically for their first 2 years or so and then slowly start laying less. The eggs that they do lay continue getting bigger throughout their entire life. The last two factors you can have some control over. You can make the hens continue to lay prolifically through the winter by providing artificial lighting. Commercial egg producers accomplish this by confining the hens to large warehouses with long days using artificial lighting.
We tend to keep the hens on their natural cycle, and don’t provide any additional lighting source. This does cause us to have fewer eggs during the winter, but I feel this keeps with Mother Natures natural cycle, and produces healthier, happier chickens overall.
Our chickens have only just recently been laying less this past week. Last winter, we didn’t really have a problem with this issue. We have had chickens for almost two years. The first year, we got all Rhode Island Reds. They initially started laying around September and they continued to lay in abundance throughout the winter, excepting the two weeks the temperature was in the teens. This last spring we purchased 2 new chickens, a Welsummer and a Plymouth Rock. They started laying about a month ago. Out of the four hens, we were getting about three eggs a day, and now we are only getting about one a day from all four hens. This is obviously somewhat different than last winter. I think it might be the fact that the Rhode Island Reds are better layers and powered through the first winter because they were so young. It does seem early in the season for our hens to slow down this much, I am hoping it was just a slow week. I will give an update in a few weeks, stay tuned.