Saturday, October 10, 2015

Why Chickens Lay Fewer Eggs In Winter

If you've had chickens for more than one season, you already know that egg production declines dramatically in Fall and Winter.  Many backyard flock owners assume that this is in response to lower temperatures but, in reality, it's a response to lower levels of light. 



In addition to their eyes, chicken's sense light thorough a gland in their brains that lies behind a thin area of bone on their skulls. The gland produces a hormone in response to light and this hormone controls egg production. 

Normally, chickens begin laying eggs in the spring when light levels exceed 14 hours per day. Producing more eggs in spring is a survival strategy; baby chicks are more likely to thrive in Spring and Summer when food is plentiful. Conversely, egg laying slows or ceases when light levels fall since this is a harbinger of leaner times to come. 

The difference in light levels between Winter and Summer will be most pronounced in northern latitudes where daylight hours vary the most.  The difference is due to the tilt of the Earth's axis.  (For a detailed explanation of how the Earth's axis impacts hours of daylight, check out the video at the end of this post.)

Below are the number of daylight hours in December and June for three cities that represent northern (Boston), central (Nashville) and southern (Austin) latitudes in the United States. As you can see, in Boston there's a 7 hour variation between Winter and Summer hours of daylight. In Austin, this variation is only 3 hours. What this means is that flock owners in the South will see a less severe change in egg production in the Fall and Winter than those who live in the North.


Man Made Sunshine For More Eggs

If you want to boost egg production in Winter, the answer is to create a little artificial sunshine to increase the total amount of daylight hours. A chicken's photo-receptors don't distinguish between the sun and and a light bulb, so running a fluorescent or incandescent light inside the coop can re-start egg laying during the winter months.

To do this, increase the total daylight hours by turning on the light in the morning so that the there are 16 hours daylight and 8 hours of darkness in any given day.


Using an incandescent light provides an additional benefit as these lights also throw off quite a bit of heat. A 40 watt bulb placed inside the coop can keep the temperature of the coop above freezing.  If you have a BriteTap poultry waterer or other chicken waterer that can freeze in the Winter, placing the waterer inside a coop with a light will also keep the waterer from freezing up.  More eggs and no frozen waterer is a double plus in our book.

The Earth's Axis & The Impact on Daylight Hours





1 comment:

  1. So, we have to arrange more lighting hours for increasing eggs laying. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete