Winter (I guess fall too) can be a bit stressful being a backyard chicken owner. For the past few weeks out of 8 hens I have only been getting 1-2 eggs each day. This is defintly not enough to supply my family and I have had to actually buy eggs from the store...gasp!
As the days get shorter and there is more dark than light, hens will stop laying or at least cut way back on producing. They need approximately 14 hours of light to maintain good egg production. Some people will set up artificial light in the hen house during the winter months so that you can continuously get eggs. This can be a sticky subject for some chicken owners.
On one hand you could put artificial light in and set it on a timer. You can program it or just turn it off once you hit 14 hours. With the addition of extra light your hens should produce eggs for you all winter long. It's not good for chickens to have constant light all the time. They need their rest as well.
On the other hand it is natural for chickens to go without laying for a few months during the winter. Why not let nature decide when the chicken should lay eggs. Who are we to decide?
I put in a heat lamp a couple weeks ago. I use it mainly to keep the temperatures a bit warmer in the house for the birds. I keep it on all the time now since the temperatures in my area have gotten cold. I use a red bulb instead of a white one. I have debated switching over to a white bulb to see if that provides enough "daylight hours" for them to lay. But then again I have the moral dilemma stated in the above paragraph.
I know for sure I have one hen that is molting. She has lost all her breast and tail feathers. Talk about bad timing. I get cold just looking at her. I hope she can survive the cold temperatures with the few feathers she has left. I know that she for sure is not laying because hens won't lay when they are molting. As for the other hens I am not sure why they aren't producing. I am expecting it to be because of the lack of sunlight.
The one that is for sure laying is my newest girl, the lone survivor from my Spring chicks. The Rhode Island Red. She gives me a nice brown egg daily.
I am struggling with what to do. It sucks that I just went and spent $50 on chicken food yesterday. I don't feel as bad when I am getting a handful of eggs each day. That isn't the case right now.
If your a backyard chicken owner how do you handle the winter months? Do you use artificial light? Or do you give them a break like nature intended?