It’s chilly, sweater-weather today. We’re not getting many eggs, only four to five a day from our thirteen hens. Some are molting, losing their old feathers and growing a thick feather coat for the winter. Others are simply older, less productive hens. I didn’t sell any eggs this week at the town’s farmers’ market. I’m keeping them all for myself.
Hens need about fourteen hours of light to lay. We’ll be several hours shy of that in a month or two. I’ve heard that they don’t need much light – a small 15 watt bulb will do. Put it on a timer and it’s not going to take much electricity. Anyone out there have success with this?
What isn’t as widely known is that hens also need to be warm to lay. Multiple days below freezing and scratching around in icy ground convinces them to put all their energy into staying warm. (Hens are finicky, though- they also stop laying if it gets too hot in the summer.) I keep my hens healthy by giving them draft-free shelter and plenty of food in the winter. I’m not willing to put a heater in the barn. This is partly because I see the winter as a time of rest for the girls. Besides, I worry about the safety of a heater in the barn. Not to mention the expense – my barns aren’t exactly insulated! I don’t mind keeping non-laying hens. But I do miss their eggs and hate buying a dozen at the market.
What do you do? Also, I’m curious – anyone reading this from the South? How long do your hens stop laying over the winter?