It’s a farmer’s worst nightmare: the hens have stopped laying eggs during the winter months! Your first thoughts may be: Are they sick or dying? Has the cold rendered them infertile? Am I doing something wrong? Most likely, external stressors have affected hormone levels and got your top layers feeling down in the dumps. Hens don’t particularly like the decreased day length and cold temperatures, but they may also be reacting to disease or poor nutrition. Try these recommendations to get your hens laying eggs again in no time:
It’s all about food! At 9 am, give your hens a hot mash comprised of layered pellets and hot water with poultry spice, marmite, garlic powder, or natural yogurt added on various days to spice it up. Give them dry pellets throughout the day. Add a corn ration around 2 pm. Before bed, they should have more dry pellets.
Keep your girls cozy! Hens love to scratch around and find their own treats. Give them a cozy paddock with grass clippings, wood chips, pine shavings, hay, leaf piles, and alfalfa to peck through. Usually chickens need about 4 inches of litter on the ground, but you should increase to 8 or 10 inches in the winter months.
Consider lighting. Some naturalists prefer not to use any artificial lighting in the coop, as this may mess with their natural body clocks. However, other farmers recommend using a 100-watt incandescent bulb 15-16 hours a day to improve egg capacity. Either way, make sure the roost is clean, with a constant supply of water and excellent ventilation. You’ll need a heater.
Collect eggs regularly! Sometimes hens get broody and try to hatch their eggs if there are too many eggs in the nest, so be sure you collect them faithfully each morning, noon, and night. If you do this and your hen still stays on the eggs, remove her from the nest for a few days so she’ll resume regular production again.