If you have chickens on your homestead, chances are you count on those fresh eggs, either daily or several times a week through most of the year. When winter comes, that can change. For many chicken owners, the notice egg production will slack off during the colder months. This could be an issue of lost income if you sell your extra eggs for a profit, or if you depend on those fresh eggs to feed your own family. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep those chickens laying, even when the temperatures drop. Here are four things you can try to help your chickens keep up your egg production in winter:
Provide a Good Shelter
Obviously, all year long, not just in winter, your chickens will need a place to get out of the elements. A shelter will also protect them from predators. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or cost a lot of money. One idea I saw was to put some plywood over hay bales. How easy is that? You just need to have room for the chickens to get in and out pretty easily, and you need to be able to get in and collect the eggs they lay. The main goal is to protect them from the cold wind and precipitation, and have easy access.
Provide Heat and Light
As mentioned before, a good shelter is so important for your chickens all the time. However, that becomes a little more important in the colder months, as heat and staying warm do play a big part in how much your birds will lay. During winter, there’s not as much daylight, and the overall temperatures aren’t very warm, which can greatly affect how much your chickens will produce. If you provide your chickens with a well lit, heated area where they can roost all winter, chances are they will keep on giving those fresh eggs. You can do this by putting a heat lamp inside your coop. It will give the extra warmth, but also give extra “daylight” for the birds, too. Some chicken owners will turn off the lamp at night, but it is completely a personal preference.
Be Aware of Food Needs in Winter
A good diet is also important to keep your birds laying well. If you free range your birds, you may find you have to supplement their diet with feed during the colder months. Not to mention when it is colder, they have a hard time pecking the ground with their beaks One suggestion is layer pellets, which provide good nutrition and help keep up their energy. You can also give them crushed oyster shells for calcium, as well as grit. They will need the grit if they eat scratch, as it aids in digestion. Experts also suggest cod liver oil as a diet supplement to help your chickens keep laying in the winter, too, since it is full of vitamin D.
Clear Away Waste
It is no secret that chickens make a lot of waste, and they do so very quickly. Most chicken owners clear out the waste as needed, but in winter, you may have to do so more frequently. Here’s why: chicken waste is full of ammonia, which can be toxic to chickens’ lungs if they are over exposed to it. In winter, they are generally going to spend a lot more hours inside the coop versus outside, which means they will spend more time where their waste is piling up. One other thing you can do besides cleaning the coop often is to spread chicken litter over the coop floor (usually some sort of shavings, like pine) which helps soak up odor and moisture. Before especially cold weather, try putting extra shavings down if you think conditions will prevent you from going out to clean the coop.
By implementing these things into your chicken care, you can help to keep egg production steady all winter long!