As the cost of eggs rises at the grocery store many backyard chicken keepers are facing issues with their chickens not laying eggs. This can be incredibly frustrating when you are paying to feed your chickens and still having to buy eggs for insanely high prices. The good news is that winter does not have to mean that your chickens will stop laying and there are some things you can do to help your chickens keep laying all winter long.
These things work well for our chickens. So well that we had every single chicken in our flock lay an egg on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day this year. This is of course not only from the incredibly warm winter we have had because today in the middle of a snowstorm we got 10 fresh eggs from our 11 chicken flock.
Better feed for more eggs in the winter
In the summer you can usually get away with a lower protein feed like the typical 17% layer feed you find at the local farm store. The issue in winter is that your chickens do not have the same access to insects that help to increase their protein intake all summer long. You have to provide that extra protein to help your chickens produce more eggs.
This can be done by giving your chickens a higher protein layer feed. I like to mix meat bird feed or chick starter grower feed into my chicken feed to help give them a higher protein content in the winter months. For us in the summer layer feed is enough when they can forage for bugs.
Supplement with more protein. From adding split peas to your chicken’s feed to giving them extra meal worms for snacks you can greatly increase your chicken’s protein intake with a little planning. When we clean out the refrigerator we send out our old meats, cheese, yogurt, and other high-protein treats to help our birds get enough protein to make up for the lack of insects.
Provide extra light
Your chickens need to get enough light to be able to produce eggs. This is a tricky issue. Many prefer to avoid using artificial light as they think it can harm their chickens but the truth is that if done correctly it does not reduce how long your chickens will lay eggs or have a negative effect on their health.
First, make sure your lights are on a timer. Your chickens need dark to sleep. Most egg production actually happens while your chickens are asleep so you can not simply have a light going in your coop 24/7. Even if you are the most dedicated chicken keeper I suggest you take this lazy chicken keeper tip to use a timer just in case.
If you do not have power run to your chicken coop you can still run lights in your coop using a solar light set.
Choose a yellow light rather than a bright white light. Yellow lights are calmer and less jaring to chickens allowing them to have more light without stress that may reduce the amount of eggs they are laying.
These are the lights we have with one sticking into the coop and the rest remaining inside the chicken run so the chickens get more light but can get to a darker space should they choose to go to bed early. In the winter it runs for 6 hours and in the summer they get turned off because the sun is up plenty long enough for the chickens. I like this set because when we do not get any sun for a few days I can bring it inside to charge.
Help keep your chickens warm
If your chickens are using all of their energy to keep warm they will not lay eggs at their normal rate. A great way to combat this is to feed your chickens corn or oats before bed to help them stay warmer at night.
Inside your coop you can use the deep litter method. Starwa and chicken poop will compost down producing a few degrees of heat to help your chickens stay warmer.
Block off drafts. In the summertime, we need a lot more ventilation than we do in the wintertime. Over the winter I cover the majority of the ventilation spots on our coop with chicken feed backs to block out the harsh cold winds putting focus on the north wall where the worst of the winter cold rolls in.
Provide a wind-free space for your chickens to spend time. For this, you can take clear shower curtains or use green house plastic to cover your chicken run to give them more space outside fo the coop that is safe from the winter.
Get creative with heat. Do not put an electric heater in with your chickens. If the power goes out your chickens will be used to the warmer temperatures and more likely to freeze. Instead, look for ways to heat your coop and run that are a bit more off-grid. The greenhouse plastic cover helps to keep our chickens warmer by trapping in heat from the sun.
We added a stack of tires to our run that the chickens love to climb on, nap on, and they create a solar battery of sorts that lets off heat in the run after the sun goes down for more comfort while upcycling things that would otherwise end up in a dump.