Skip to content

Winter Eggs?

December 8, 2011

Winter eggs are a conundrum.  We all want them, and if we don’t raise them ourselves we will most likely buy them somewhere.  Eggs are a seasonal product as far as the chicken is concerned, and one that I don’t mind pushing a little compared to producing winter milk for instance.  Seasoned readers know my view on milk vs eggs in the winter.  And if you’re a new reader, in a nutshell – lactation is more of a stressor than ovulation.  Nursing mothers you know this.  Is it easier to make milk or have your period?   If you’re swearing off eggs during the winter, good for you.  If you’re buying eggs throughout the winter, those eggs were laid by a hen somewhere.  Why not have your hens lay?

The egg is the first thing to go when the hens nutritional requirements drop below what she needs to keep her body in good condition.  If the hen isn’t taking in enough calories and energy in her feed she will stop producing eggs.  When the dark days start I switch to higher protein feed.  Pretty simple really.  I do a few other things too, to insure I have eggs in winter.

♥  I start my chicks early enough to insure that they will be old enough to start laying before the days get too short.  Fourteen hours of daylight is about the minimum to jump-start egg laying.  Pullets of laying age will not molt so if they commence laying they will not stop unless their energy needs are not met.  I raise new pullets every year with my meat chickens.  When they start laying I sell or give away my 16 month old hens.  A friend of mine has some of my hens that are now going on their third year.  They are still lay an acceptable amount for her, so I didn’t burn up my chickens expecting them to lay through winter their first year.  I have year round eggs, and someone who isn’t interested in raising baby chicks can get an experienced hens.

♥ In the summer I offer whole oats as scratch and for treats.  In the cool weather I switch to cracked or flaked corn.  Oats have a cooling effect, corn has a warming effect.  I also gives greens as treats in the am only, grain at pm.  Chicken crops full of high energy corn help the chicken through the cold night.

♥  My chickens are in a small greenhouse on deep bedding, with NO LIGHTS.  It’s bright, and warmer than outside.  They are not expending too many calories just to keep warm.  If you’re pasturing your chickens, forget about it in the winter.  When we sold eggs, we wintered our hens in a greenhouse on deep bedding from early November to March when the grazing cycle began again.  Wintering chickens inside thwarts the hungry predators, doesn’t use up your hens, and gives you a place to gather all that chicken manure when it really shouldn’t be applied to your land anyway.

I know all this may be controversial to some of you.  But sometimes ideals are just that.  Ideals.  I have 9 – 12 eggs a day from my dozen hens, they are well-kept and I am not driving to the store or farmers market to buy eggs from someone else.  I have a friend who sells pastured eggs year round and because his customers demand his eggs be pastured he leaves his chickens out all winter.  His “pasture” is a stinking mud hole, his chickens look miserable, but by gum those are “pastured” eggs.  His customers drive right by those chicken paddocks too, and are none the wiser.  They think that the chickens being outside trumps indoor winter husbandry.  What do you think?

41 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2011 9:16 am

    Beautiful Chickens that lay beautiful eggs:) I miss farm raised chickens and farm fresh eggs!

  2. December 8, 2011 9:45 am

    I agree – if you’re not going to forgo eggs in the Winter, then they might as well be your own!

    This is the first year that we’ve had a decent number of eggs per day in the winter. This is also the first year we’ve had Australorps and Turkens, and they are the gals who are doing all of the laying right now, so I do think that there is something to be said for the breed in the winter laying equation. 😉

    I guess that I’m not sure if you’d call our chickens pastured or not. They range during the day and roost in their cozy coops at night. It works well for us, and they range a large enough area that the impact is relatively small.

    The corn at night thing is genius! We’ve been “carbo-loading” our girls with bakery-reject bread that we get for a little bit of nothing. It seems to work alright, but I think that I’m going to give the corn a shot and see if that helps them lay more or keep more weight on. 😉

  3. December 8, 2011 9:51 am

    I’m kinda with you, but I’m not the chicken lady here; the other one is. We have the entire garden, a quarter of an acre of summer residues, for them to play in, besides their pasture, from November to February …

    She opens the door in the morning, the chickens come out on their own, and most of the winter they like to run down to the garden and rootle about, then go in and lay if they feel up to it, and go back out for an afternoon shift, then go back in for the night about an hour before the ducks. They do like to hide from rain under the big spruce (which provides dust-bath conditions right through the winter) and during freezes they simply elect to stay inside. We do not use lights. We get what seems to us three very good years per bird.

    Production? Low but there’s always about three from a dozen. The Khaki Campbell ducks lay straight through the winter like clockwork; the Anconas have a cycle like Susannah’s (the goose) with a big spring push and broodiness. We actually prefer duck eggs so there is never a shortage, and it seems to us ducks are more adapted to our conditions than chickens.

  4. Spring permalink
    December 8, 2011 10:02 am

    Thank you so much for this post! This is our first year with chickens and just as they started laying the clocks fell back and egg production slowed to maybe one a day out of three hens. I’ve been giving them oats since they were chicks (it’s like chicken crack, isn’t it?) but I didn’t know it had a cooling affect. I’m going to pack up the kids now and head to the feed store for cracked corn.

  5. December 8, 2011 10:08 am

    Not a bad idea at all. I’m going through my first winter with my chickens up in the Blue Ridge mountains of virginia. I have a home made coop which was great during the summer but do fear its too cold in winter. And winter is just starting here, and I just came into a hoop house. Really not a bad idea to do this and when spring rolls around and more daylight is out, I can kick them back out and start seeds in there. I think i’ll do this. Thanks!

  6. Cathy permalink
    December 8, 2011 10:10 am

    Having not raised chickens before, but wishing to add eggs to offer at our “organic” dairy, our 115 hens are housed in a secure, winterized part of our barn on a straw pack. We do allow them out daily into the cow barnyard and surrounding couple acres from about 1-5pm or dark daily . Right now 65 of our hens are about 6 1/2 months old and laying 4 dozen a day, with the balance being 5 month old pullets, just beginning to lay. We’ll see how it goes! We do provide additional light early in the am. We feed oats, milk, corn, greens, scraps from the kitchen, etc. Having a great time raising them and enjoying their personalities!

  7. December 8, 2011 10:14 am

    Chickens should be kept indoors in winter, sure it might be nice to give them an afternoon out once in a while, but if you leave them out they are going to denude the landscape of food quickly. When there is fresh green food the chickens should be outside by all means, but when there is nothing for them to eat, they should be indoors with deep bedding and maybe a run to get some sun shine from time to time.

    If the city I lived in allowed chickens then I would have 3-5 to provide my family with more than enough eggs year round.

  8. A.A. permalink
    December 8, 2011 10:25 am

    Our chickens are definitely enjoying their winter time indoors. I mostly feed them soaked or slightly sprouted oats and I do need a few lamps inside. They’re giving about four or five eggs a day between the fifteen or so layers, but that’s enough for us, and I also take the eggs as one sign saying they’re doing well enough. They’re housed with some other animals and so when I feed a cow some of those same oats, she harvests a part of the energy and poops out another part which the chickens then scratch through. The smell of hay and everything inside is rich and just wonderful I think. I have to admit that in the winter I like it in the barn a little more than in the house.

    Are there other warming grains than corn because that’s not available here? I think I wouldn’t get eggs and the birds might not stay as healthy as they do if I didn’t soak and/or slightly sprout the oats.

  9. December 8, 2011 10:42 am

    I’d rather have healthy chickens who are more comfortable with better feed. Your chickens look like they have really nice feathers.

    Is it the breed of chicken that decides how the egg shell looks?

  10. Dawn permalink
    December 8, 2011 11:02 am

    I’m with you on the no lights thing. I think it places a stress on the birds when their bodies are just taking a seasonal break. At the same time, I do sell eggs year round, as well as supply our own needs, so I do need minimum production. My birds do go out on pasture everyday,but they are shut in at night, and they have free access to their house which they take advantage of on wet days…we have a rotation of 4 runs 3 of which can access a 5th run – this is not perfect, and it has some drawbacks, but the reality is that I have learned I’m not disciplined enough or maybe too busy with other stuff, to keep on top of keeping indoor chickens in healthy conditions – deep bedding that’s properly maintained as you do. I do go up to the higher protein feed during cold weather and the moult, and I have “trained” our customers to understand the cyclical nature of egg production. I don’t keep my layers past their second laying season – we put them in the freezer for soup. We raise new layers from day old, in the brooder and a field shelter until point of lay, then put them in the laying house and runs. Since the old birds are usually put in the freezer in late June or early July, we aim to give the runs and house a 2 month rest. Sometimes we have our act together and have two batches of layers in two houses (the smaller house has 3 runs), so we can cover that eggless gap, but it takes planning, etc. Right now, we have about 50 birds in a 10 by 18 house, the runs cover a total of 1/2 an acre. I’m getting about 20 eggs a day, which is not good, but pretty typical this time of year. The small house is in need of repair right now, so sitting empty. I really like your set up, it makes so much sense. Something to aim for.

  11. December 8, 2011 11:14 am

    I live in Portland, and think that I should be looking into some kind of small greenhouse-like structure for my backyard hens. Not sure what would be a suitable amount of square footage… I shall have to go back through your archives and read more about how you are managing their winter quarters. Not a lot of cash here for building, but this idea makes a lot of sense to me. My remaining two hens do look pretty miserable wandering around the cold backyard (I lost a hen last night to a possum, which is a whole ‘nother thing I now need to deal with, sigh)

  12. December 8, 2011 11:20 am

    You are delightful. Great point about not pasturing in the winter. Never thought of that before!

  13. DEE permalink
    December 8, 2011 11:37 am

    One thing chickens need is a source of clean fresh water even in cold weather. The cheapest feed for any animal is water. We have a heater under our waterer and find the minimal cost on the electric bill is well worth it. 22 hens and generally get 17-18 eggs daily. We sell them at the local feed store plus have plenty for our own use and they are paying their way. We do use a light only ’cause our chicken house is an older shed and dark. The other thing I do is sprout wheat or oats for my girls…they come running to eat them out of my hand. Keeps those yolks nice and yellow,too. I always have a couple of jars spouting by the sink. It has been unseasonably cold here in MO for this early in the year..20’s at night but they are laying just fine.

  14. December 8, 2011 11:43 am

    I’d rather live in your hoop house than visit his mud pit.

  15. Jessica permalink
    December 8, 2011 12:04 pm

    I think your method sounds just right/ The chickens are happy and well kept. I was just reading that grouse create little burrows in the bushes for themselves during the winter, so deep bedding sounds a lot closer to their natural environment than a mud patch!

  16. December 8, 2011 1:04 pm

    We don’t get the cold temperatures here in Queensland, but egg production does decrease with the shorter days and we usually just go without eggs for a few weeks in mid winter. We do try your method of raising the pullets so they are laying before winter and that seems to work well if we are organised enough! I have heard of people feeding a warm mash, but we never have time to prepare it. I never buy supermarket eggs though, they just don’t taste right!

  17. December 8, 2011 1:19 pm

    Thanks for this information, Matron. Good to know and makes sense, too!

  18. December 8, 2011 1:20 pm

    I’d want to live in the green house too. I wish people would stop looking for absolute rules about things they don’t want to take the time to understand….

    Kills me how reading a few foodie books qualifies one to tell a farmer how to do his job. “country club” thinking I suppose.

    Those are beautiful chickens.

  19. December 8, 2011 1:30 pm

    Mine free-range on several acres all winter long. They have woods and pasture and horse poo to forage through, and of course the high-protein feed I keep in their house supplements what they don’t forage. I’ve never had a mud problem with them, but, they are also not confined! I just open the coop door and let them out in the morning and lock them back up at night when they return to their house. When its snowy out, they choose to stay inside, but the door is open should they decide to leave! I don’t put lights on them at all, but do bed heavily with straw. I get about half the number of eggs during the winter than I do in the laying months, but that’s okay with me.

  20. December 8, 2011 1:48 pm

    I kind of muddle along.

    I built a modest sized chicken house, about 8×12, from USDA type plans. Inside is divided into an 8×8 chicken part, with tin nest boxes and wood roosts, and a 4×8 feed/utility area for me. When I checked into tin for the roof, my buddy the tin salesmen told me I needed to build it of 2″ square tubing, and use steel siding as well as roof. *sigh* I insulated the roof, build tilt-in windows for the south side, and louvered vents 2 1/2 foot by 12 inches across the back, above the roosts. Oh, and 3/4 inch plywood floor. I didn’t want to insulate the walls, so I put 1/4 inch plywood on the inside. But the only place to secure the top of the plywood was 4′ 1 1/2″ above the floor . . so I welded in a “kick board” three inch steel strap around the bottom of the walls. I added a covered run about 10×12 feet. A welder/pipe fitter friend looked it over, and tells me if a tornado comes . . run to the chicken house.

    Right now I have two layers, two bantam roosters and two bantam hens. One bantam rooster and one layer are 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 years old, I think. I get about 5 eggs a week, which is more than I generally eat. One day last week I got two eggs. The bantam hens stopped laying when I added them to the chicken house “flock” this fall. (The “layers” came from TSC tubs marked “pullets”, so I don’t know the breed.) The chickens don’t fill the chicken house.

  21. kristin permalink
    December 8, 2011 3:10 pm

    Here in southeastern Washington, our winter weather veers back and forth from COLD (16 degrees for a low tonight) to mid-40s and gray/foggy for days on end. We have a smallish chicken house for our 16 hens and one rooster, with a large run. On sunny winter days, they are let out to forage in the orchard (with free access always to their run, house, food, and water), and last year I finally discovered the myriad benefits of keeping the run deeply bedded in straw. Everybody was so much cleaner and happier. Including me. Sometimes in the cold weather, I make them hot bran mash/leftover oatmeal porridge from breakfast — it seems to encourage them, as it were! I also use a heat light when it’s quite cold (like now).

    I’m a novice chicken-raiser of only 3 years’ experience, so I really appreciate reading all the advice and suggestions from Matron, and everyone else here. My dear chickens seem to be willing to put up with all my blunders (oh, all right, I know — what other choice do the poor things have??).


  22. December 8, 2011 3:46 pm

    This is our first winter with our chickens and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I’m still getting 4-6 eggs a day from my girls (10 hens). My hubby does let them out into the run in the afternoons for a bit when it has been nice weather. We can’t free range because of predators- we’ve got bald eagles circling that I’m sure would love a chicken snack! We’ve got deep bedding and a heated waterer. Since it has already been getting down into the teens at night and can get into the -20’s here in the winter, we did spring for a heat lamp on a ‘thermo-cube’ that will turn on the lamp when the temp falls below a certain preset minimum that we can use when we really need it. But no additional lights. They seem happy and are still giving us eggs so that is what’s important to me.

  23. December 8, 2011 3:59 pm

    I agree completely. My hens are penned up all winter with a warm, clean coop, fresh water bucketed to them 2x a day, and full feeders. I know others who are way too entrenched in pastured hens who leave their birds out in mobile coops with no shelter and nothing to block the snow/rain all winter outside and then wonder why they don’t get any eggs. Same thing with cows- I’d rather see a well run confinement dairy with good housing and healthy, clean cows on a good diet than a poorly run pastured operation. I used to feel differently until I saw the reality of poorly run operations- think cows and calves with missing tails and ears from frost bite, standing in muddy fields, while there was a huge free-stall barn that the owner wouldn’t even let them into to get out of the weather. Ideals can be taken way too far and it irritates me when I see it with farmers who are blind to their livestock’s health and comfort and in consumers who don’t know the reality of animal care and buy from people who don’t have the backbone to inform them of the realities and limitations of pasturing, free-range, etc. I even once had it out on an e-mail group with a woman who believed that dairy cows shouldn’t even be allowed to have legumes because that meant they weren’t 100% grassfed.

    • Cathy permalink
      December 9, 2011 8:00 am

      As a former commercial dairy, now a very small (in comparison) mostly organic dairy, I echo your view. My husband and I grow weary of those visiting our farm who don’t realize that our cows, steers, hens, etc. need to be comfortable and shielded from cold,inclement weather, and sometimes from the heat of summer to do well. Our animal’s health and welfare is of utmost importance to us and we see it as part of our job to educate our non-farm consumers as to how that looks. Our cows have 35 acres of pasture and woods and creek available, but they’re not interested in being out when it’s 15 outside or when it’s 95 in the summertime….you ruin pastures and fields with overuse and bad management, all done in the name of “their natural environment”….

  24. Trish permalink
    December 8, 2011 5:05 pm

    I think that chickens originated in the tropics and giving them shelter in the winter is more humane than pasturing them! It seems like the key buzz word for consumers in this case should be “cage free”. My chickens refuse to touch snow and I don’t blame them! They like their coop.

  25. Bev in CA permalink
    December 8, 2011 5:36 pm

    It’s sad but true, most of us don’t know just where our eggs or chickens come from or under what conditions. This past months news said a lot. We used to raise new layers every two years. Like yours the first year they will produice rigtht through to spring. We did lose a little productions the second winter. Our coop was quite large (for 15 hens), sturdy and weather proof. Our chickens could go out during the day if they wished. In a secure fenced yard with wire over the top. During the summer months they had more freedom to raom in the daytime. They did get organic food, in front of them at all times. They loved greens from our garden, too. Providing them with comfort, food, fresh water and safety is a must. The most important is for them to be clean and have no stress.. It comes down to good care. Your post said it all.

  26. Ozarkhomesteader permalink
    December 8, 2011 8:16 pm

    We’ve got relatively new girls here, just a little over 19 weeks, so no eggs yet. I have them in a chicken tractor that I built to accommodate lightweight greenhouse panels on the run. I still need to finish shingling the roof, so I’ve had a tarp over the whole thing through our recent heavy rains. Once I take it off and get the greenhouse panel in place, I hope my girls will get enough sun for some eggs! I am way behind on updates on my blog, but I should post about it soon, with directions. The coop part of the tractor, by the way, is insulated, with pop-out plexiglass windows for winter.

  27. December 8, 2011 8:30 pm

    We had a coop with a sun porch at our farm in Oregon. Our chickens stayed there when the weather was nasty. They got to get outside daily, if they chose to, unless it was too cold. They were also older hens, and they laid for me all winter. I would also give them a mash of warm cream of wheat on cold days, a cabbage strung from the ceiling so they’d have something to do, and I’d take out warm water every couple hours when it was especially cold. They seemed to do well with this little bit of extra care. And honestly, I loved the sun porch for them!

    • MyMichelet permalink
      December 26, 2011 12:26 pm

      Hi!! If you have any photo’s could you email me at mymichelet at marykay dot com please?? That would be tremendous!! I’m big on nursery rhymes, Wizard of Oz & Alice in Wonderland and with 3 granddaughters under 3 we are making plans to do our planned hobby farm/homestead with a whimsical twist… We hope to spend as much of the rest of our years becoming self reliant and pray our children catch on 🙂

  28. December 9, 2011 2:59 am

    We have 18 hens currently, 12 from this year, 4 from last year and 2 pets who are even older. They are mostly Rocks (Barred, Buff, Partridge) with a couple NH Reds and Jersey Giants. Currently getting 11 eggs, mostly from this year’s with an occasional 1-2 from the others.

    In regards to feeding, it helps to know that a chicken feeds to weight in the crop, then stops. Water is very heavy. So if you are feeding things high in water (mash, sprouts, etc.) they may not eat enough nutrients before reaching weight in the crop. This will affect egg production.

    Regarding cold and energy production, simple things: protein is for growth (feathers, eggs, meat), fat is for slow energy, carbs for fast energy. So if you want to have good energy in the cold, corn is ok, due to its fat content, but animal fat, denser fats last longer. Just be careful feeding too much fat, as it can cause diarrhea. And it should be fed at night, only.

    Our first year we didn’t do a regular light, just heat lamps to keep the bell waterer unfrozen. Even with the red lamp (which they aren’t supposed to see) it kept them laying all winter. We also used the Thermo-Cubes and found them to be excellent. The post pointing out water is crucial is dead on.

    Here we have -25F for extended periods at night. It might hit -5F during the day. The pop door is open unless a storm will blow snow into the coop. But they will not go out on that white stuff. So we keep an area open or covered with leaves so they will go out. Our coop is partially insulated and inside the barn. When it’s that cold, it’s about 20 degrees warmer in the coop. I’m in Western Mass.

    Our hens have a small coop but a very large yard. We have a very high predator load here, both aerial and 4 footed. If left to free range, we’d not have a flock in 3 days. I keep both the coop and the pen deep bedded from September to April. During the warm months the coop is not deep bedded and I try to keep the pen bedded, but it’s harder, as there’s not so much waste available (leaves, garden, etc.) until later in the year.

  29. December 9, 2011 6:37 am

    Great ideas from all! I need to make that deal with the produce manager at our local supermarket for trimmings and old greens, and I’ll pick up some corn. Ours are about 5 months old, housed outside with a light. I’m still going back & forth about keeping them in the pole barn for the winter – more space with no snow. I love deep bedding for keeping that valuable manure and not burning up the soil in the run. Still looking forward to that first egg!
    I picked up enough old windows to build a greenhouse/sun porch thing next year. Maybe I’ll stack functions and keep the hens in there next winter!

  30. Cathy permalink
    December 9, 2011 7:47 am

    I completely agree that the care of our animals is more important than whether they are pastured during miserable weather. Our dairy cows (15) are kept content, clean and cozy in their free stall beds filled with straw. There is no good reason to force them out in cold, miserable weather just to say they are “pastured” dairy…the same with our hens….they are very happy in their living quarters in lousy weather, ours do have access to the barn yard, but I’m not interested in finding eggs in free stalls, hay bales, etc. either..they like their nests…our hens are Golden comets and Amberlinks, and they started laying at about 20 weeks for us. I’m really enjoying reading all the comments!

  31. Anna permalink
    December 9, 2011 10:31 am

    Matron, are you’re in the Cascades, right? I just have a question about dampness. I’m on Vancouver Island, and a friend of mine who just came and had a look at our “Chicken Palace” said that it felt damp to him. Though it didn’t to us, he’s more of a chicken expert than we are. It’s well ventilated and has two pretty much permanently opened windows, but we may experiment with changing out the bedding (wood shavings instead of hay) to try to promote dryness even more . . . he muttered about coccidiosis (though I think he’s had problems with this in the past more than we have . . .)

    But my question is whether you find that dampness is an issue for the chickens in the hoop house? I’m just really curious–this is all still pretty new to me!

  32. TBirdsMomma permalink
    December 9, 2011 2:50 pm

    They’re so funny about the snow! Our ladies don’t seem to care about the rain, but REFUSE to set foot on the snow. We are getting 4-6 eggs/day right now out of 8 layers. In the coop at night, optionally out during the day. Wish I had a nice warm dry greenhouse for them… One day! Sigh…:)

  33. TAMMY ANDERSON permalink
    December 13, 2011 7:22 am

    I love this post. I so miss my chickens. Can’t wait to start again in the spring. Just got settled after a cross-country move.

    Was hoping you could recommend a book about greenhouses. I love how many ways you utilize yours. I’m not as interested in a greenhouse garden book as I am about a book specifically about greenhouses.


  34. December 14, 2011 6:36 am

    You say that you have a friend who sells pastured eggs and that his “pasture” is a stinking mud hole … What do I think? That’s wrong and the people buying from him are plumb stupid, but there’s lots of stupid people in this world. There is a way to keep pastured or free-range hens and keep a good quality of life for them. You cull your laying hens at 16 months, well no wonder why your chickens still look good, they are all relatively young. It’s good that you have a market for these culled chickens; I probably have a market for them, but I wouldn’t want to know where they went know how so many people care for their animals in this part of the country. There is a huge difference in the eggs from a chicken that is kept confined vs. those who are allowed to roam and eat their own greens, etc. It’s great that you feed your chickens greens … that you have greens available in the winter, not all of us do. Yes, I loose some of my chickens to predators, but the LGD helps keep that to a minimum. The other great benefit of having chickens that free range is that they pick through manure eating undigested grain, worms and worm eggs, that’s a huge benefit. Our hens do have plenty of warm, dry places to go when the weather is bad. Of course in the south we usually do not have a lot of snow or really cold weather for too long a time; I believe chickens suffer more here in the summer months than the do the winter.

    I’m sorry if I am coming on strong, but you’ve put down the idea of free-range chickens before and just because it doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean that it isn’t a viable option for some farms. Our free-range chickens are a very valuable member of the farm circle here, I wouldn’t want to keep confined chickens.

  35. March 9, 2012 5:18 pm

    Thanks for all of this great info! I’ve been wondering how I can get my chickens to lay through the winter. We’re still learning when it comes to our hens 🙂 We have a good sized run for them, and we also let them free range some when the gardens aren’t in. But I’m really interested in learning more about their dietary needs. Lots of good chat here. I also enjoyed reading how you rotate your hens to keep a constant supply of eggs. I think we’ll have to try that ourselves. 🙂

    • March 9, 2012 8:38 pm


      It is the lights that make winter eggs work. 12 hours on, 12 off. It is best to have the lights on all day, that way gloomy days don’t slow the hormones.

      At home the hen house was white washed, both to control pests and to help reflect the light, thus supporting the brightness of the light.

  36. August 24, 2012 8:07 am

    Like all of us, those chickens need a break too! Your post is so right on. I don’t use any lights in my henhouse either.

  37. April 4, 2014 1:55 pm

    Our experience is a little different. Different climate and strategies. We keep about 300 to 500 chickens on pasture. They have full outdoor access year round. In the warm months they are outside completely. In the cold months most go into the rafters of the south field shed or greenhouses to roost although some silly birds roost on fences right though the deep cold. I think they’re nuts but it doesn’t seem to hurt them. Freedom of choice.

    We don’t feed any commercial hen feed. Rather our hens work for a living – their job is organic pest control, eating insects, grubs, mice and such. We don’t sell the eggs because we can’t get much money for them. Instead we boil the eggs (to double the available protein) and feed them to our weaner pigs. We raise and sell pastured pork. The chickens, ducks and geese are support staff. They do get a small amount of spent barley and a tiny amount of dated bread but it is really minimal and infrequent so not much of their diet.

    In the winter when pastures are gone we substitute deep bedding packs starting with a base of wood chips on slope and then hay in and around open sheds to provide wind block. Most of the day the chickens spend their time walking around out on the snow pack, standing on top of pigs, moving the hay around in the bedding pack, etc – we have deep snow generally from November through late April – it’s April 4th as I write this and we still have 3′ of hard pack snow and fences are just starting to be visible that were buried.

    Since the chickens can’t hunt insects (mice are still available) we feed the chickens meat over the winter. Specifically we feed them pastured pork – the butcher scraps from each week’s batch of pigs to market. To make the meat, back fat and such more digestible I cook it when there’s a wood stove going. Same thing as I boil eggs for the piglets. It’s a background task.

    I do find that to get eggs it is critical to have freely available water – ours is running to series of water barrels from springs. Light is also necessary. We’re a bit further north and on the east side of the mountain so it gets dark early here in the mountains – that might be the difference on the light effects between you and us.

    If we provide meat (protein & fat), fresh water and light we get eggs right through the winter. The daily egg count drops from about 0.8 eggs per hen during the warm season to about 0.3 eggs per hen during the dark of winter (Nov-April). Real soon now they will start picking up again. Generally the ducks and geese start in right about now and lay until July or so. Our piglet population is about to explode with sixty sows about to farrow so the timing is good.


  1. Chicken winter quarters The greenhouse | Avian Aqua Miser

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: