it’s amazing what a difference light and water makes to the laying cycles of a hen. the past three years, since we first started keeping chickens, come thanksgiving the hens would lay maybe one egg a week and by winter solstice none at all. they’d begin laying again, one egg a week at first, somewhere around mid february/early march, and a little after equinox they’d be back up to an egg every other day. by summer solstice we’d get an egg a day from each hen. of course, we were also letting them free range all winter, even in three plus feet of snow, or conversely keeping them locked in the coop, which had no windows at all. in retrospect, not the most sensible thing to do as they must have been miserable either way. we lost some hens to predators and for all we know they were laying, just not in the coop but wherever they happened to be perhaps. but the experience taught us to do things differently this time around.
last summer we cut a window in the wall of our coop, and screened it in. we also fenced in the side of the coop: an eight by twenty five foot space complete with mesh roofing. come thanksgiving the hens were still laying an egg every other day; all the way till winter solstice. with the onset of freezing cold their water has been freezing, so daily, sometimes twice, we take out boiling water and pour it over the frozen water. we’ve also kept them confined to the run except for on warm, sunny days when the blue jays and birds other than chickadees come out. they can come and go between the run and coop via a small door that connects both. we feed them compost in the run every day. this year we’ve not lost any chickens to raccoons, coyote, or other hungry beings. and between the light from the window and the fresh water, well we get three eggs a day from ten laying hens. the rocks and auracanas are what lay, they’re good winter layers for sure. the hamburgs and leghorns just began laying again yesterday, so we got six eggs instead of three. i’m happy. this beats last winter when we had no eggs coming in at all for a few months and those poor henny’s must have been uncomfortable due to our ignorance. learning learning learning as we go along. hop skippity jump . . . . cluck quack!