Monday, December 15, 2008

Eggs in winter.

When I was younger my hens would stop laying by October, I always thought it was because of the cold. I learned later it was because of the days becoming shorter. I believed this because I noticed the hens would start to lay again at the end of February and swing into full laying by March, two months that were certainly colder than October and November. The reason I figured was because the day began to get longer in spring. The truth of this fact has been made quite clear to me these last two weeks. I had installed lights and slowly extended the hours over the last month to 14 hours of light. The hens had stopped laying and two started to molt (lose their feathers). With the lights I started to get an egg every other day and then it became an egg a day. The temperature suddenly dropped here from -20 to -25 Celsius or -4 to -13 Fahrenheit. I figured that would be the end of the fresh eggs, however with the lightening and in spite of the cold, it began to increase to two eggs a day then three and now four. I know the two hens molting will not lay until they finish, so that means the two young hens started laying and the lights stopped the other two older hens from molting, so 4 eggs out 4 hens is not bad for -20. I think what also helps is I mixed straw into the floor litter, this has made the hens very active. They spend their days scratching through the straw looking for fallen food and treats I hide. On some of the other blogs I read where feeding a hand full of dry cat food can help the hens that are replacing their feathers. Cat food has higher protein so I gave it a try. I have to say it seems to be working, the hens feathers seem to be coming in a lot faster and hopefully it will get them laying again soon. I also wonder if it was not the cat food that help cause the young hens to start laying. I crush it up and sprinkle it on the floor every second or third day so that they have to scratch around in the straw for it. I also managed to get some soft grass hay, I cut it up in small pieces and scatter that on the floor as well. I did this because my girls loved eating grass in summer and I noticed them picking the grass out of the straw. I would caution that you need soft grass and to cut it up, giving them long strands of hay can choke them as they have no teeth. A man I know was warned about that but did not listen, one day he found one of his good chickens dead from trying to swallow hay.

This is just a hobby for me so it is not that important if the hens lay well, I just like trying different ideas. The point of this post is if some one stumbles onto it and was wondering about trying the lighting trick, I say do it. Jump start the hens to 12 hours of light and work it up to 14. My lights come on at 5am and go off at 8am then they come back on at 3pm and go off for the night at 8pm for a total of 15 hours. Good luck.

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