The chickens have been trial and error for us, like anything new is. Actually, they've been more like a trial. The error is that we bought chickens. Don't get me wrong, I actually like them. They're fun to watch. Highly entertaining, even. And they are super awesome at cleaning up the leftovers from the fridge weekly. No more food tossed into the trash! It goes directly into egg production. Or at least it should. That's where the trial part of the error of purchasing chickens comes in. Our chickens don't really like to lay eggs.
At the peak of their producing days, we'd get upwards of 11 eggs daily. That sounds awesome, but we have 17 chickens. That's a half dozen hens NOT laying every single day. I know it's not the same hens (I hope) but the fact remains that we're certainly not getting the quantity we should be because those chickens are lazy layers.
And then October came. In October they decided that it was far too cold and dark to lay eggs and all production came to a screeching halt. That's not an exaggeration. We literally went from about 8 eggs daily to nothing. There was no tapering off. It was weird. Everyone told me that chickens would stop laying when it got cold, and the decrease of light in winter would affect the laying as well. They stopped laying before the time change happened last fall, so you know as well as I do that it wasn't really that dark. And while we do live in a Northern climate, October isn't even considered cold by anyone.
And then The Winter of 2013/2014 happened. I figured I'd be lucky if my chickens thawed out enough to lay eggs again in their lifetimes. Ever.
Sam heard from someone that if you put a light in the coop it'll help them lay. I had read that lights will stimulate laying, but was a bit afraid of a fire. Our coop is tiny. And filled with dry shavings. I'm not happy with the chickens for abandoning the egg production, but that doesn't mean I want to make chicken BBQ of them all. But I stopped by Tractor Supply anyway and picked up a light labeled for chickens. It was red. Sam said that was the kind that I needed.
He installed that light, I kind of laughed at the glowing red aura streaming out the cracks in the coop at night, and wouldn't you know it we got 3 eggs the next day. Needless to say, we were both rather shocked because our chickens don't normally respond to things that chickens should respond to. Our chickens are broken.
We've been averaging 3 eggs daily for about a week now, and today we got 5 eggs. Today the weather was 30 degrees plus, which is about 30 degrees higher than we've had most of the winter. I'm thinking the chickens are laughing at themselves for freaking out over the my-gosh-its-too-cold-to-lay weather way back in October when it was still light and warm. But I'm also glad that my chickens respond to the red light. So I guess we have red light district hens. How fun.