Are your chickens laying fewer eggs recently? If you haven’t made any big changes to how you’re caring for them, there’s a good chance the lack of eggs is caused by the shorter daytime hours.
Chickens need a full 14-16 hours of daylight each day to lay their best, and this time of year, they won’t receive enough anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.
The amount of daylight per day begins decreasing around the middle to end of June, and will continue to decrease until around Christmas. Around the end of September, everywhere in the United States and Canada receives less than 12 hours of daylight each day. Even if you account for some sunlight reaching your chickens slightly before sunrise and slightly after sunset, they’re still getting less than 13 hours of light in October, unless you’ve added supplemental lighting in their coop.
Chickens don’t need a lot of light in order to lay. Some breeds, like the leghorn, can lay well with just 1/2 footcandle (fc) of light. To get an idea how bright that is, try reading a newspaper in dim light. If you adjust the lighting so that you have barely enough to read it, that is about 1/2 fc. Heavier, dual purpose breeds need 2 to 5 fc to stimulate laying.
If you decide to add supplemental lighting to keep your flocking laying well through the winter, you can use an outlet timer and a safe poultry lamp. It’s best to set the timer so that the light comes on in the morning before dawn, to give at least 14 hours. You could also add light at dusk instead, but that approach doesn’t work as well in practice because when the lights go out in the evening the coop will get dark immediately. This makes it harder for the chickens to find a good place to roost. For tips on lighting safely, see our article Preparing Your Laying Flock for Winter, Part 2.