Category: Eggs

Getting Chickens To Lay More During Winter

If it’s winter in your part of the world, I’m sure that you’ve noticed that you’re not getting as many yummy eggs from your flock as you’re used to. No worries! Follow a few tips below to ensure that you’re eating omelets and quiche in no time!



Give them some light! Chickens lay best when the days are longer so shorter winter days can cause egg production to drop. Try setting up a light in their coop (even Christmas lights have been reported to work.) Use a timer to make things easier on you and aim for about 16 hours of daylight.

Are they spring chicks? The older the hen, the less eggs you will get. Period. To keep your cartons full, make sure your chickens aren’t past their prime.

Feed them right. If you’re not already doing so, consider adding laying pellets to their diet and be sure to give them as much green as possible. If you have winter weeds popping up, be sure to treat them with some!

Make your chickens comfy. Though this may not necessarily give you more eggs, it is an important part of keeping chickens though the winter. The coop doesn’t need to be air tight (ventilation is important) but it should have clean straw and fresh water.

And in case you’re counting down the days to spring, get an early start by checking out Permaculture Chicken: Incubation Handbook.

Best winter egg-layers

Laying hensUnlike
many homesteaders, I’m not willing to keep a heritage breed if it
doesn’t pull its weight on my farm, so when egg numbers dwindled this
winter, I started pondering the idea of adding a few hybrids back into
the flock.  I know from experience that
Golden Comets
keep plugging along all winter with barely lowered production, and I’ve
read similar reports about other production strains like Red Sex-links
and White Leghorns.

Chicken Breed Chart

sticks to heirlooms, but puts a snowflake beside species that are
reported to lay well during cold weather.  Their winter egg-layers
include Buckeye, Chantecler, Delaware, Dominique (aka Dominiker),
Faverolle, Jersey Giant, New Hampshire (aka New Hampshire Red),
Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, Sussex, and
Wyandotte.  However, if you pay attention to the number of eggs
Nest eggswith
the winter-laying habit, you’ll see that only Rhode Island Reds are
prolific layers year-round as well as being good winter layers,
followed up with Delaware, Faverolle, New Hampshire, and Sussex.

Another thing to
consider if your egg production dwindles in cold weather is being more
hard-nosed about age of your hens.  First-year pullets will
usually lay through the winter without a problem, but after that,
heirloom breeds especially are prone to take a long time off after
molting.  So if you want to
have winter eggs and you’re adamant about sticking to heirloom breeds,
your best option might be to raise new layers each spring early enough
that they’ll be in full lay by fall.

Egg laying

To get an idea for the difference between winter-laying ability of one
year old and two year old hens, take a look at the chart to the left,
showing our flock’s average number of eggs per day last winter (blue)
and this winter (purple).  Despite going into the 2011/2012 winter
with only three Australorps who were old enough to really be laying
well, plus three Marans who started a bit late and mostly stopped, we
still had more eggs than this winter with our larger flock of three
mature Australorps, two mature Cuckoo Marans, one Australorp pullet,
and three Rhode Island Reds.  (As a side note, even though
they were sold
to us as first year pullets
, after perusing their combs
Thrifty Chicken Breedsand the way they mostly stopped laying for the winter, I’m pretty sure
those Rhode Island Reds were actually going into their second year when
we bought them.)  All this despite taking care to ensure
flock has everything they need to thrive over the winter

In the end, I think I’m
going to hedge my bets by adding a few hybrids to our flock, and also
by keeping my layers for only one year rather than two.  While the
shorter life span means we spend more feed getting new birds up and
running each year, it probably evens out once you figure in all the old
hens who take the winter off but keep eating.  Plus, we’ll have
more delicious
to eat, which
is a very good thing.


Why does my egg contain two yolks?

Monster egg

We occasionally find jumbo eggs in our nest boxes, but I’m pretty sure this is the largest one we’ve ever seen!  Those are ordinary-sized (large) eggs on all sides of the jumbo egg, getting ready to be turned into a homestead lunch.


Fried eggsIf you’ve kept chickens for long, you probably know why the jumbo eggs show up — they’re so big because they contain double yolks.  Usually, a hen releases a new yolk to start the egg-making process about an hour after the previous egg has been laid.  But sometimes she accidentally releases two yolks close together, and those yolks end up getting enclosed in the same shell, create a double-yolker.


This type of minor egg-laying problem is most common among pullets just coming into laying and among old hens coming to the end of their productive life span.  Our jumbo egg showed up in our chicken tractor, where our only older hen lives, so I suspect the old girl is the culprit.


According to the internet, one egg in a thousand contains two yolks, but you’ll never see a double-yolker if you stick to commercially-raised eggs.  The industry candles each egg and discards double-yolkers, even though the issue is merely a cosmetic problem.  I’m not sure if that’s a reason to raise your own laying hens, but it’s an interesting factoid!  (And the delicious taste and high nutritional value of pastured eggs definitely make them worthwhile to raise at home.)