Chicken Tractors

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Chickens in Winter

Chickens in Winter Picture

Chickens in Winter                                                                                      

When you are keeping egg laying hens, one of the main concerns is the laying season. Starting from 6 months, most hens will be ready to lay, depending on the breed. A laying hen is capable of laying one egg a day. Daylight stimulates ovulation so the pituitary gland can induce the ovaries to lay eggs. So the longer the days are, the more ovulation occurs and egg production is at its peak. When the days grow shorter, ovulation is not as frequent and egg production also decreases.

The laying season peaks in the summer and spring when there are more more daylight hours and tapers down in the fall and winter as the days grow shorter. They will still lay an egg here and there but they won’t be as prolific as when the days are longer. Some will even stop laying completely during the winter.

There are only a handful of laying hen varieties that have long laying seasons. The Leghorns are especially prolific, giving anywhere from 280 to 300 eggs per chicken in a year even during the winter. Another breed well-suited for a longer laying season is the Plymouth Rock. The Ancona, Light Sussex and the Barred Rock varieties are also excellent egg-laying varieties.

The use of artificial light to extend the laying season is a concept that’s been practiced since the 1800s. It became common for commercial farmers to use artificial lighting to induce hens to continue laying even throughout the winter with the use of artificial lighting.

If you are raising hens for the purpose of selling eggs commercially, the use of artificial lighting to extend the laying season is viable. In doing this, the purpose is to give them 12 to 14 hours of light together with the natural daylight hours. Thus, you will need to calculate how many hours you need to supplement with artificial lighting. If you have a small coop, say around 100 square feet, a 40-watt bulb placed about 7 feet from the floor will be able to accomplish the job of simulating daylight. A larger space will need a bulb of higher wattage.

You can use an automatic timer to go off when natural daylight enters the coop. Of course, you can also turn the light on and off yourself. If you choose to do the latter, you have to ensure that you turn the lights on at the exact time each day. It would also be advantageous for your ladies if you can somehow dim the effect of the lights before they get turned off completely to simulate the setting of the sun. This way, they still have a little light to see their roosts. With natural lighting, you can expect to have eggs even during the winter.

There are some chicken keepers, however, who believe that following the natural laying cycles of birds is important. Others believe that following a hybrid approach works best: The hens are allowed to rest when they are molting in the fall or early winter and give the artificial light after the winter solstice. Doing things this way gives the laying hens their rest and chicken owners only have to go for a few months without eggs.

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