Two Letters Re: Wintering Chickens

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Hugh,

While mostly correct, the light provided to chickens and other egg-laying birds (ducks, geese) should be either full spectrum light for twelve hours per day or an incandescent bulb all the time. Should you place birds in 24 hours of full spectrum lighting, they will damage their reproductive system and stop laying after only a year or two at most.

I’ve got one hen who has been laying an egg every other day for seven years now, even in the dead of winter.

Also, during winter, change their feed from highly-processed laying feed (crumbles or pellets) to a natural grain mix like corn, oats, and barley. They will do better in this feed and not over stress their reproductive system trying to lay eggs when it’s cold (teens or below). – H.D.

o o o

Hugh,

I’d like to add some information to improve upon the article on how to keep chickens laying through winter.

Shelters – if you seal up your coop too tight during the winter, moisture from within the coop can set in frost bite on the chickens. A person can remedy frost bite by making sure there is good ventilation within the coop. An easy way to do vent holes is to cut a few holes in the coop and then cover those holes with a screen in order to keep the wasps out in the summer.

Lighting – If you decide to keep a light on your chicken, you will benefit by having a red lamp, as the red does not disturb the hens and their sleep. While light does help with keeping your chickens laying throughout the winter, something to consider is that should power go out and the chickens are acclimated to the light, they may really suffer until power is restored.

Litter – In order to maximize your efforts with litter, using straw is great, and when you change out litter, you can compost the straw with chicken scat (nitrogen) and use the compost in the garden. During the winter months, I suggest you do not change out your litter but rather continue to add more. The benefit is that as the litter breaks down, it can create some heat and a more insulated layer.

Supplements – The calcium from oyster shells are really only necessary if the egg walls become very thin or soft. Should your hens be laying healthy eggs without any supplements, it may be best just to leave them be.

Everyone has their own way of doing things, and there is no right or wrong if the desired end result is achieved. With tossing in my 2 cents on S.I.’s article, I may have saved someone a few dollars and assisted with maximizing their chickens happiness. – N.E.

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