It’s happened to all beginning farmers. You got your first batch of hens and they are laying well all through the spring and summer but then fall rolls around and those lazy chickens go on strike, what gives? Well, like a lot of plants and animals out their, chicken productivity depends a lot of light. Longer days mean more eggs, shorter days mean less eggs and sometimes no eggs at all. There is also the issue if molting,shedding of feathers. Chickens typically begin doing this in their 2nd year and they rarely lay eggs when they are molting because their body needs that egg-making energy, to make new feathers instead. Okay so now you know why our chickens have stopped laying but now i bet you are wondering what you can do about this.
You’re first option is to do nothing at all. When the days begging to lengthen again, the chickens will also ramp up their egg production. If your chickens have stopped laying in late fall, expect them to get back to normal sometime in February. They may lay an egg here and there during the winter. Some people like that their chickens stop laying in the winter because it gives their body a break from laying an egg everyday. It can be taxing on the body. If you do this, however, you will decrease the lifetime productivity of your chickens and by that I mean, you will not be making the most of them. If you don’t want to take a break from those farm fresh eggs and think your chickens should be earning their keep year round, then there is another option: supplemental light.
One can add a light to the chicken coop for those darker times of the year. To continue laying year round, a hen requires around 14 hours of daylight. In the dead of winter, you are only looking at around 9 hours of natural daylight versus around 15 hours of daylight in the summer. Daylight hours vary depending on your latitude, of course. If you want those chickens laying like they were in the summer, you just have to make their brains think it is summer. The light doesn’t have to be too bright and it can be on a timer. I use these christmas lights and they seem to work well. You do not need to have the light on 24/7 or even 14 hours straight. You only need to lengthen their day. So look to have the light turn on a few hours before sunrise or a few hours before sunset and have it be on for a few hours. I like to have mine go on before sunset, around 4 pm in winter, and it stays on for 6 hours. If you do add supplemental light after the chickens have already stopped laying, don’t expect to see eggs immediately. It will take a few weeks for the hens to brains to readjust to the new schedule.
Other reasons why your chickens may have stopped laying is because they went broody. If they are sitting on a nest, they will no longer lay until all their eggs hatch, which could take a while if you don’t have a rooster as the eggs wouldn’t be fertile. Malnourished chickens will also stop laying so it’s good to make sure that you are providing everything their body needs. Some chickens will stop laying if it is too cold. Even winter hardy breeds make take a break if it gets unusually cold in a short amount of time. Less productive chicken breeds will also just take a laying break here and there. This is breed dependent. If you want to avoid this, just get breeds known for their egg laying capabilities such as Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns. These breeds are such egg-laying machines that they may lay right through the winter but that is not guaranteed.