Egg production... and light
QOur Marans, Speckeldy, Welsummer, Black Rock and RIR hens have stopped laying over the last few weeks. Up to Christmas they were laying, albeit with a reduced number of eggs as might be expected with the shorter days. Their ages range from POL last March for the Black Rocks to POL in May for the Welsummers and Marans and last summer we were getting 40-50 eggs a week. They get layers pellets ad lib with a scoopful of mixed corn in the afternoon and appear quite healthy. Also, they perch in the henhouse every night without prompting. Their only change in diet has been fine oystershell as we were unable to obtain the coarse oystershell from our feed merchant. Are there any diseases which could cause this?
VR SAYS: In the winter, egg production will at least slow down with the Black Rocks and hybrids and likely to stop altogether with the pure breeds. This is entirely natural due to the short days and, if they are not producing eggs, the excess energy in the maize will be converted to fat, making the return to egg laying more difficult. If you wish to maintain some egg production, give the birds lighting in their hut. A 40 watt bulb is sufficient in a 4ft by 4ft hut. Organise a timer so that the light comes on early in the morning, making the total day length 14 hours. This ensures that the birds go to bed at twilight and therefore get comfortable on the perch. If you can only have the light on in the late afternoon and evening, you will need a dimmer for the last 15 minutes to simulate twilight, otherwise the birds will be stranded on the floor and unable to perch. The hormone system of the birds is affected by light levels, hence normal laying begins in the spring with the lengthening days and intensity of light. If you give winter lighting to your hens, make sure they have a period of shorter days in order for the extra light to be most effective i.e. don’t start the lighting regime until December. The light is supposed to be increased slowly on a weekly basis, but most people jump straight in to the 14 hour total and get eggs within a couple of weeks.