Many chickens decrease in egg laying production or stop laying altogether in the winter. Why you may ask?
One major factor is sunlight. Longer daylight hours stimulate chickens to continue laying eggs. In the winter, when daylight hours decrease drastically, chickens are less stimulated and therefore stop laying. In order to help them continue producing, supplemental light will have to be provided for them. In our chicken coop, we set up a light that runs on a timer and increases the amount of time the chickens have “daylight”. The timer provides the chickens with several hours of extra light before sunrise and after sunset. The chickens still get at least 10 hours of darkness so they are able to sleep and their circadian rhythms are not completely thrown off.
Another factor is the impact of colder temperatures and lower humidity. Similar to many other species, chickens require extra energy to stay warm in cold weather. For survival purposes, a chicken will prioritize surviving (staying warm) over reproducing (egg laying). Chickens usually will require more feed during this time due to the increased need for extra energy. We have noticed the chicken feed disappear much faster in the winter when compared to other seasons. We have two 30 lb pellet feeders that our 9 chickens use. To stay warm chickens also need to be well hydrated. Lower humidity or dryer air, increases a chickens need for water. Preventing water from freezing is a vital step for winterizing your chicken coop. We have two 6 gallon water feeders that are both mounted on thermostatically controlled heated bases. These have prevented us from having any issues with frozen water in the chicken coop.
Not all chickens continue laying despite the extra light, increased food, and abundant water supply. One of our chickens, Sweet Josie, has been broody for several weeks and we can’t seem to break her from camping out on the nesting boxes. Luckily, we don’t depend on our chickens for eggs so if they stop laying for the winter we are fine with it! We want them to be safe and healthy so that remains our first priority.