Why Are My Chickens Not Laying Eggs in the Winter?
New chicken keepers usually start their poultry rearing venture with baby chicks, especially in the spring. The joy of rearing baby chicks into adult chickens and then getting your first eggs from the chickens in the late summer can be overwhelming.
Your chickens will keep laying until winter when they cease laying. Your chickens will stop laying in the winter because of the lack of sunlight or enough food sources the chickens need to keep laying.
5 Reasons Chickens Don’t Lay Eggs in Winter
Many chickens, including the cold-hardy breeds, take an egg-laying break in winter.
While you may like to continue getting fresh eggs year-round, your hens will stop laying in the winter because of many factors. These are the five reasons your chickens aren’t laying in the winter.
– Lack of Sunlight
One of the explanations why hens stop laying in the winter is because of the lack of sunlight. The amount of sunlight your hens get impacts their reproductive systems. Your hens won’t lay in winter because there are few sunlight hours. Hens need light to trigger their pineal glands, responsible for laying in hens.
These glands are quite sensitive to sunlight and control much of the hens’ hormonal behaviors, including broodiness and laying. The pineal glands in your hens have to sense sufficient light to trigger your hens’ laying cycle.
Winter months have shorter daylight hours. Therefore, your hens’ pineal glands won’t receive sufficient light to activate your birds’ reproductive systems. Hens need between 12 and 15 hours of daylight daily to keep their reproductive systems active.
The age of a hen influences the number of daylight hours the bird need to activate her reproductive system. Young pullets, for instance, don’t need more daylight hours to keep laying than older hens.
That’s why young hens keep laying in the winter despite the lack of sufficient daylight hours. As your hens grow older, their pineal gland will become less responsive to light. The hens will need more light to activate their reproductive system. Unfortunately, she won’t get sufficient light in winter, considering the season has fewer daylight hours.
Some breeds may continue laying in the winter despite having few daylight hours, although their egg production won’t be at its peak. Cold hardy chickens are suitable for wintertime egg-laying.
Such breeds can withstand a reduction in daylight hours and freezing temperatures in the winter, unlike other species that lay optimally during warmer seasons. Farmers who keep chicken breeds for egg production can continue getting eggs if they properly care for their birds.
– Growing New Feathers
Another reason why chickens stop laying in the winter is that they grow new feathers during wintertime. Chickens grow feathers during the molting period, an annual occurrence whereby chickens lose old feathers and grow new ones.
Although the shorter daylight hours in wintertime deny hens enough light to trigger their reproductive systems, the absence of adequate light during this time does trigger the molting process.
Chickens need lots of energy to grow new feathers. Due to a dire need for energy for chickens to grow new feathers and a reduction in light, these two occurrences can discourage your chickens from laying eggs during wintertime. The annual molt also stresses a bird’s reproductive system, making it unable to lay like usual.
Chickens don’t lay eggs in winter, whether in captivity or the wild because their bodies focus entirely on replacing the old feathers with new ones. Furthermore, chickens won’t normally lay in the winter when going through the annual molt because their bodies focus more on conserving energy. Nonetheless, your hens will resume laying after wintertime when the yearly molt is over.
Some of your hens will undergo a quick molt and resume their laying capabilities before the reduction of daylight hours during the winter hours. Nonetheless, most hens will complete their annual molt when there are not enough daylight hours.
Such hens won’t have enough light to trigger their reproductive systems. Consequently, they won’t resume laying during wintertime even after completing their annual molt.
– Lack of Food Sources
The problem with wintertime is that there is a reduction in food sources because nothing grows during the snowing weather. Chickens can’t have access to the food sources they need to support their laying capabilities.
Free-range chickens, for instance, won’t have access to the insects that provide them with sufficient protein they require to maintain their egg production during wintertime. The insects and bugs, in this case, will be under the snow during wintertime, so chickens will have problems digging these insects and bugs from the snow because they risk freezing their feet.
There is also a decrease in vegetables and fruit supplies during winter because these two don’t grow during wintertime because of the freezing temperatures. Thus, hens can cease laying during the winter because of the reduction in food sources.
– Colder Temperature
Wintertime means cold temperatures, which affects egg-laying hens. Hens lose plenty of energy during cold weather by redirecting their energy to generating heat. Besides light and sufficient food sources, the prevailing temperature can also affect egg production in birds such as chickens.
That’s why wild chickens don’t lay during wintertime because of cold temperatures. Cold subjects hens to cold stress. The adverse effect of cold during wintertime can be severe to hens because they will lose a substantial amount of energy to the extent that they will be unable to lay anymore until the cold is over.
– No Breeding Season
Winter isn’t the breeding season for chickens alongside other birds. The chickens’ breeding season usually kicks off in the fall of summer and early spring. That’s when chickens’ egg production is at its peak because the temperatures are stable, and there are many daylight hours.
Chickens will stop laying during wintertime because it isn’t their breeding season. Furthermore, hens don’t usually go broody during winter because this isn’t their ideal breeding time.
Cold affects hens’ egg-laying capabilities, so these birds stop laying during wintertime. Although some cold hardy breeds will continue laying in the winter, their egg production will be dismal.
You can make your hens continue laying in the winter by providing them with artificial lighting, keeping them warm, and providing them with foods that will prompt them to resume laying in the winter.