More Winter Eggs

What could those be? Why look!




It appears that feeding alfalfa really does work to increase winter egg production. The first week of January the 12 Gems laid a total of 5 eggs. On January 6 I began feeding alfalfa leaves. I collected one egg a day, until yesterday, when I found 4 eggs in the nesting box! (Yes, I know there’s only 3 in the photo, I’d already collected the first egg laid by Garnet at 8 am.) I’m betting that there will be more eggs laid today (the seventh day of the experiment) so, egg production more than doubled!

This is, admittedly, a very unscientific test of the value of alfalfa. To really know what caused the egg laying to increase, I’d have to have a control group of exactly the same breeds and age. There are so many variables that affect laying. It was especially warm this week, in the 40s, and that could have encouraged the laying. But, it was also dreary and dark, which should have discouraged it. Days are lengthening, but not by that much. In my experience with two-year-old hens, laying doesn’t kick into gear until the end of February.

I’ve heard from some of you that you feed alfalfa, both in the cubes and in the baled form. Some swear by it, and some say it doesn’t increase winter egg production. In any event, alfalfa is a good source of greens, something that hens should get daily, but that are in short supply in winter. Alfalfa in the cubed form is a convenient source of greens, but the quality varies. To make the cubes (which are rather like huge rabbit pellets) the stems are ground up and included. Some brands mix in regular hay. It can be stored for long periods. What I’m feeding is a step up from that. My hens are getting leaves from this year’s crop. The leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant and contain the most protein and nutrients. They’re easily digested.

I’m optimistic that the alfalfa leaves are making a difference. I’m hoping that I can fill an egg carton this week. If so, I’ll be making chocolate meringue pie next weekend!


  1. Ah! Wonderful! I might try Alfalfa! My girls just started laying this week too. I was fairly tired of seeing 1-3 eggs out of 25 hens! The humidity and bleak lack of sunshine days, is what I feared stopped production. Even in the winter last year, I’d get 9-12 daily. So, this year I had no idea what the heck was going on. However, it looks like both our flocks on on ready for a new laying season! Woo Woo! I’m always excited about eggs. They are like little miracles; aren’t they? :)


    • Is this the first year that your hens molted? That explains the big drop off. In addition, each year, your aging flock will lay at least 20% fewer eggs. But, the alfalfa will bring them back into lay sooner after the molt, and boost winter laying. One hopes!

  2. This is interesting (as always your posts are) and timely. Our chicken cooperative is starting to grow clover in flats to supplement the hens diet inexpensively. With 53 hens and one rooster, the chickens will make short work of whatever they are offered.

    • That’s something that farmers did a hundred years ago. Let me know if you see any difference in the health of the hens, and the quality and quantity of the eggs,

  3. And as you enjoy the chocolate meringue pie you can tell people it’s good for you because you’re getting your “greens.” ;-)

  4. As soon as there’s less than 12 hrs of daylight I have artificial light in my coops from 3am to 9am. Yesterday I had nine eggs from ten Orpingtons! But that’s a record. Normally there have been 4-6 eggs a day for the past six weeks or so. (Six of the hens are about ten months old, the other four, which molted in the fall, are about 22 months).

  5. Hooray! Yummy chocolate meringue pie sounds wonderful! The photo of the hens looking at the eggs is priceless! We had 18 inches of snow from Thursday to Saturday. I’m re-thinking the location of my future coop/run. Got to be able to get to the chickens come rain/snow/sleet, correct? Also, my cat of 18 years had to be put to sleep Saturday. Thank you Terry for your previous posts regarding that. Here’s to alfalfa and more eggs!

  6. Hey Terry,

    Are you giving the ladies dried ‘falph? Howza bout soaking it? and reason to do or not to do so? I’m actually off to the feed store today and am gonna look for it. There so much truth to the thing about hens making short work of greens: I actually used to have a lawn….. the lawn is now in the form of past eaten eggs.

    George McRae

  7. The 2nd picture should be captioned, “Wow! Did I do that?” I love that you got them looking at the eggs!

  8. It’s a funny thing but two of mine always come in and look when I collect the eggs, the third takes no notice and fourth not laying yet. But two girls as soon as I open the nest box they are in the coop watching me. I always praise them for being such clever girls and do wonder if they know what they have just done!

  9. Yay to the gems. And alfalfa. I haven’t given alfalfa to my chickens but will have to get a bale on my next trip to the feed store. I didn’t know how nutritious alfalfa is and it also will give them something to forage in.

  10. Terry, wonderful pictures! My husband and I watched one of them in the nest yesterday and were excited for you. Looks like you are having great weather today…so more eggs? I have 8 girls 11 months old….We woke to 19 degrees this morning and frozen water dish..need to look for something to solve this. But they have given me 5 eggs already today. I am reading your past archives since I just found your hencam last month and gaining so much great helpful information. Thank you for your dedication to helping others. God bless you.

  11. Thanks for this info Terry! Have you noticed any runny poo after feeding the alfalfa?

  12. It is 4:15 your time and looks like the old gals have gone to bed already. The gems seem to be out still.
    It is really cold here for us. Not quite freezing but unnaturally cold for Cambria.

  13. My six girls are just 10 months old, eggs have been very steady 4 to 5 most days occasionally a slow day, a month back I had a few days I dint have any, but the little devils had moved the nest to behind a bale of hay, I heard prissy in there when she moved ten eggs were beneath her. Little honeys were just playing a joke lol

  14. One more question for you….. My Buff Orpingtons seem to want to eat just about anything. Just yesterday I caught one of them trying to gulp down an 8-inch piece of twine. They had just been out free ranging, and this twine was somehow kicked up from under some nearby leaves into the enclosed run. I wonder if she would have been successful if I hadn’t taken it from her. Given this propensity, should I be worried about these particular birds trying to eat the alfalfa stems? If so, would a few stems even be that harmful? They have free access to pellets all day so I doubt they would scarf down very much of it out of hunger. They also have access to plenty of grit. They don’t have a compost pile to stave boredom, but they do get random tasty bits from the kitchen every day for variety and get to free range for a few hours a week.

    • Chickens love catching and eating small snakes. No doubt your hen thought the twine was going to be something just as tasty. Do worry about long and flexible foodstuffs. Scallions and leeks are a problem. The alfalfa that I have has short, thick stems and the hens aren’t interested, and even if they were, wouldn’t be able to swallow them. If your alfalfa is different, you could use the cubes, or you could shake the leaves out and put the stems in your compost pile.

  15. Hi Terrie,

    I live in your neck of the woods…where do you get your alfalfa leaves?