You have invested a lot of time raising your chickens and by now they could be producing fresh eggs for you every day.
With the winter season, you need to make a few special arrangements to ensure your hens continue to lay. A few minutes of attention to housing, temperature, water supply and lighting will keep them laying all winter.
Winter housing need not be fancy. Any dry, draft free structure will work. Remember that drafts can be more deadly than cold temperatures. A 10X10 foot building is more than adequate for a flock of 20 hens. Chickens produce a fair amount of body heat. Except in the extreme northern states, an insulated building will keep your flock warm…in fact, you may need to provide ventilation to keep your flock from getting too hot. Be sure to inspect the building for openings and weasels to enter. You’ll also need to provide nesting boxes and roosts for your laying hens.
Hens lay best when the temperature is between 55 and 80 degrees F. Any temperature colder or warmer will affect egg production. A small heater or heat lamp may be needed to maintain a minimum temperature in extreme northern climates.
Your flock needs a constant supply of water (not ice) throughout the winter. Keeping the water from freezing is very important. Be sure to keep FRESH water available at all times. Water is extremely important to egg quality. 65% of the egg is water.
Light is very important in egg production. Light causes the hen’s pituitary gland to secrete hormones in her ovary. These hormones stimulate her to lay more eggs. Hens need fourteen hours of light each day for maximum egg production. A 60 watt bulb can supply enough light for up to 200 square feet of floor space. A timer should be used to turn the light on and off. Hens subjected to irregular lighting will lay fewer eggs or begin to molt and stop laying altogether. Some poultry experts suggest having two timers. One to control the 60 watt light and one to run a 7 ½ watt bulb a little longer to allow hens to find their roost after the 60 watt bulb goes out.
THE INCREDIBLE, EDIBLE EGG
A hen lays approximately 20 dozen eggs during a 12 month period. Once an egg is laid, it cannot get any better, brown or white, fertile or non fertile, the egg is a near perfect food. Proper handling keeps eggs that way.
Gather eggs at least twice a day. Cool them to 50-60 degrees F, as quickly as possible. 75% humidity will help keep them fresh. A fresh egg has a yolk that stands high in the frying pan and a white that is thick, cloudy and doesn’t run all over the pan.
During winter, keep eggs from freezing. Taking extra eggs to work for friends and fellow workers? Don’t leave eggs in the car or truck where they can freeze. Bring them into the office and place them in a cool place…not near a heater. This will preserve the quality of the eggs for your customers.