Chickens & egg production are affected by the seasons. As the temperatures drop & day light hours reduce, your hens may stop laying so many eggs. It is also important to make sure their hen house is clean and dry.
Reduced day light hours may reduce egg production
Chickens require about 14 hours of daylight to produce eggs regularly. They also lay best when temperatures range between 10 to 26 °C. For these reasons, it can take a chicken two to three days to produce an egg naturally during the cold, dreary winter months.
Adding artificial light can trick a hen’s body into thinking she is receiving adequate light, thus producing eggs more frequently. This can be taxing on the hen, possibly even causing stress or disease.
The natural way to raise chickens during the winter is to allow their bodies to rest. Adequate rest for a chicken should include at least 8 hours of darkness per day. So, if you choose to use lighting/heat in your coop, set it to a timer.
Protecting your chickens from winter weather
In winter it is especially important to make sure the chook house is clean and dry. Hay or other bedding will need changing more often as hens remain inside longer during lengthy winter nights.
Also, remember that heating the coop can increase moisture. Too much moisture inside the coop can cause illness or frostbite to your flock. Check that pests can't get in. Rats are looking for a winter hangout too.
We recommend that if you have an Outpost Building Hen House that you reposition it so that it is facing away from the prevailing wind and facing the sun during the winter months.
Chickens have a natural way of keeping warm and in general, most chickens tend to be hardy enough for NZ conditions. Chickens can actually handle the cold of winter better than the heat of summer. They have an instinct to fluff their feathers to keep warm. They also have the natural instinct to roost together.
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Your hens may need extra feed for winter
Summertime is the time of plenty for hens with lots of weeds growing providing tasty green salads for them to eat and as well as lots of hopping and crawling insects to eat. There is much less food around for a free-ranging hen in the winter so hen owners should provide extra feed in order to keep their charges happy.
Plenty of grains or a high quality chicken food will help see hens through the cold days and nights of winter. Bread and leftover cooked rice is great for extra carbs that help hens stay warm.
Chicken Feeders like the one pictured above are great for keeping chicken food dry in the winter. They also help to keep rodents away and stop other birds stealing your chicken food. When a hen stands on the front step the lid or feed access cover is opened and the hen can eat.
Treats of meat or cheese and other left-overs from your kitchen will be greatly appreciated by your hens during winter; especially high protein treats - Protein is needed to maintain feathers and create new ones when the chickens moult.
Some good sources of protein are fish & meat. Cauliflower also provides omega-3s and niacin, and niacin, which helps with bone growth, can be found in broccoli and oats also. Pumpkin seeds work as a natural wormer and are high protein. Spinach contains Vitamin A (for the immune system) and Vitamin K (helps blood clotting and bone growth) as well as protein. All these foods make for healthy treats year round for your flock.
Outpost sell Dried Mealworms which are a great treat for your hens during winter. They are high protein and also a great source of vitamins & minerals to keep your hens healthy.