Every chicken owner knows that egg production takes a nosedive when the days get short in fall. There is an egg season just like there is a cucumber, apple or tomato season. Most people who keep chickens to avoid buying eggs in the supermarket will prepare for this by either freezing eggs, pickling boiled eggs and keeping them in the refrigerator or preserving eggs in lime water. I haven’t tried lime water yet, but I think next year I will.
In my family, it’s impossible to get people to want to eat preserved eggs. Can you blame them really? There just isn’t anything better than fresh eggs. So, I try to get our chickens to lay eggs for as long a period as possible.
Here are some things you want to try if you want to keep egg production up in autumn and winter.
- Make sure you have at least a couple of new hens that hatched before May. This will allow the hens to mature well through summer and arrive at their egg-laying prime in autumn. These hens will still lay more in spring than they ever will in fall, but you will see eggs during the fall season.
- Keep the coop free of parasites! The main cause of hens not laying (many) eggs is a coop infested with poultry mite! These mites hide in the coop and feed on chicken blood. Some other birds can be affected, pigeons, guinnea fowl, turkeys,… But waterfowl are safe from poultry mite. To keep the coop clear of this pest, paint the inside white, try to close hiding places, clean the coop often and spread diatomaceous earth on the bedding.
- Feed black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS). This is an effective replacement for soy-based layer-pellets. The high fat content in the seeds helps chickens stay warm during the winter and helps to stimulate egg production.
- Make sure you feed enough egg shells or oyster shells. This also improves your hens’ longevity.
- Keep more than one breed. Some breeds, like my Welsumers, lay best during late spring and through summer. My Australorp hens are strongest during spring and autumn.
- Keep ducks! Ducks are the only source of fresh eggs during the months of January and February.