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Egg laying shift - temperature, daylight, feed amount, all of the above?  RSS feed

 
John Athayde
Posts: 23
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia (Zone 7a)
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So we have 25 chickens rolling in an Ussery-style A frame tractor around our paddocks. Until Christmas we were getting about 15 eggs a day, even with the short days. After the holiday, we're down to maybe 7 eggs per day

There are fake eggs in each nest box (3 boxes in the tractor)
Each bird is getting about 0.3 - 0.4lb of feed a day in addition to scraps (probably every other day). They have free choice grit and oyster shell.
Three Americaunas aren't laying at all and haven't for a couple months.

Breed breakdown:
3 Americauna
2 Buff Orpington
9 Rhode Island Reds
11 New Hampshire Reds

We had a cold snap into the single digits, but the egg laying had dropped between Christmas and New Years (2 weeks before the single digits).
22911 Zip code for historic weather.

Any suggestions? We had consistent laying through last winter with our older RIRs (~4 yrs old all of whom were taken by predators this summer).

How do you all handle egg subscribers through the winter with a precipitous laying drop?
 
Travis Johnson
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Sometimes you see a delay in egg laying after diminished daylight hours.

I get consistent egg production year around by having a heated winter coop and having light 24/7. It is supposed to be on a timer putting out light 14 hours per day, but I have found I get enough egg production just leaving the light switch on and not having to mess with adjusting the timer.

As for "heat", it sounds far more complicated then it is. I just haev a super insulated coop where the birds themselves provide a lot of heat, but when it gets really cold like today where it is -10 below zero (f), I switch on a geothermal heater that is stupidly simple. Before that I just turned a few sheep int the coop, the sheeps body heat adding to the heating ability.
 
Regan Dixon
Posts: 133
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Honestly, no matter what I do, egg production goes down greatly in winter for me, and so I don't take any egg subscribers until spring.  I find that individual hens may chug through winter, still laying intermittently, but most do not.  I've had the three of the breeds that you have, at one time or another, and this has held true with all of them.

I do find them more likely to lay more on warmer winter days, and on days when they go outside for exercise.  I also have pullets hatched out at the beginning of July, just coming in to lay now, and they are the ones laying, in spite of the season.  Around the beginning of February, when we aren't in mountain shadow so much, that's when I notice more laying.  The chickens seem to appreciate real sunlight, rather than truly warm weather, but it needs to be above -20C/-4F, or they will not lay at all.
 
John Athayde
Posts: 23
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia (Zone 7a)
books forest garden goat
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Thanks for the feedback and experience!

Travis - Our A frame has open ends (well, chicken wire to keep out predators) but that keeps the temperature pretty constant relative to outside. I'll try some additional light as well. so you just leave the light on all night?

Regan - We rarely get into the single digits °F here and most of the time we're in the 30s in the winter. Our daylight, however, is only about 9.5 hours right now (I think today is 9hr 45m from sunrise to sunset). The birds are let out daily.
 
Travis Johnson
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John Athayde wrote:Travis - Our A frame has open ends (well, chicken wire to keep out predators) but that keeps the temperature pretty constant relative to outside. I'll try some additional light as well. so you just leave the light on all night


Yes we do. If you want to fuss with it more than I do, you can use a timer, adjusting the timer every week or so as the length of day obviously changes daily. I just leave the light switch turned on, but it is only one cfl bulb so it is not a huge cost. The grain room light adjacent to th coop has a second light hat we only use when we are in the grain room. This double-room arrangement allows us to go in and out without the fear of chickens or ducks escaping. The doors also have springs on them so the kids cannot leave them open (or us adults). In the summer they are propped open so the ducks and chickens can let themselves back into the coop at night. Our only chore then is to shut the door after dusk.

Another suggestion on egg production, but may be one you loath the thought of, is obtaining ducks. We have Khaki Campbells and they pump out the eggs all winter too. (My chickens are Red Sex Links for whatever it is worth). We give our eggs away and don't sell any, (we are sheep farmers and just use the chicken/duck eggs for our own use), but around here duck eggs sell for far more money then chicken eggs.
 
John Athayde
Posts: 23
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia (Zone 7a)
books forest garden goat
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We had two pair of Mallards earlier this year but a predator picked them off one by one. I am interested in doing Anconas, but I need to build some additional infrastructure to handle them appropriately.

Since our coop is away from the house and barn, I'll try a small battery with a DC camp LED bulb and see how it goes. Thanks!
 
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