Anyone with a home flock has, or will, experienced times of reduced egg production. While it is normal to have a period of low or no production during your bird's yearly molting period, there are steps you can take to increase your birds production throughout the year. Here are 4 tips to encourage your home flock to fill their nests.
Feed, and Treat, Your Flock Right
Even if you free range your flock, 90% of their intake should come from a balance commercial layer product. You can choose mash or pelleted form, but keep their feeders full at all times. Clean water, and free feeding of grit and calcium will support their egg production by improving digestion and good shell formation.
Offer treats like vegetables and kitchen scraps, and black soldier fly larvae for added protein and fat in the afternoon. This practice of later day treat offerings will ensure your birds have an adequate intake of their layer feed. If you supplement free range hens with only corn you'll cut your egg production in half.
Hens Need Light Routinely
Egg production will slow in the winter months, and anytime your birds aren't getting enough light. Hens need at least 14 hours of daylight to produce eggs. You can successfully use artificial light to encourage egg production during the shorter days of late fall and winter.
Laying Hens Are Socially Influenced
Gather eggs a few times a day. If eggs remain in their nest your hens might instinctively behave like mothers and reduce laying to incubate eggs instead. A brooding hen won't lay eggs. Keep nest boxes clean, and remove the eggs from the nests to keep hens laying.
Adding new members to the flock causes some social upset. So, if you add hens, you might see a temporary reduction in eggs as the pecking order is reestablished, but this practice is a great way to keep your production high in a home flock.
Age & Breed Influence Egg Production
Pick a layer breed for the best production. Hen's lay the most eggs in their first laying cycle. Starting at about 20-weeks of age, where you can expect about an egg a day per young bird in the first cycle. This will slowly reduce over time. By the 3rd laying cycle production may drop off sharply. If you don't want to let go of your favorite hens, consider adding a few new members to your flock for continued productivity.
Judging An Egg By Its Shell
Why did the chicken lay the colored egg?
Different chickens lay different colored eggs. The color of the egg is determined by genetics. All eggs start out white when forming inside the hen. Before the hen lays the egg, the pigment is deposited that will give the egg it's color. Chicken eggs can come in a diverse range of colors from white to cream, green, pink, blue and even chocolate brown.
Taste the rainbow.
A lot of people say that they think brown eggs taste better than white eggs. Others may question how good a green egg could possibly be. However, the egg flavor and nutrition is not based on the egg, but, rather, the diet of the chicken that the egg originates. A chicken with a diet high in grasses, seeds, vegetables, and herbs will produce a better tasting egg.
The diet of the chicken can also change the color of the yolk inside. Where some chicken eggs have a darker yellow color yolk, some have a lighter color. The whites in the eggs can also vary in color. The color of the whites reflects the amount of riboflavin (producing greenish egg whites) and carbon dioxide (cloudy colored egg whites). Some eggs also contain a white sometimes stringy mass in the whites. That is called chalazae. They are a natural part of the egg and anchor the yolk in the thick white. The size of the chalazae will determine the quality of the egg. The more prominent the chalazae, the higher quality in the egg. Want to add to your chicken and egg nutrition? Feed them PopWorms! ECO.
What color egg will your chicken lay?
The two most common color of eggs is white and brown. The white eggs that you buy in stores often come from Leghorn chickens. They can lay up to 280-300 eggs a year. They are very active and hardy birds. Other chickens that lay white eggs are Andalusian, Ancona, Lakenvelder, Polish, and Hamburg.
Australorp chickens are popular and have easy care. They lay about 250 brown eggs a yea. Australorp chickens are good for both their eggs and their meat. While Australorp chickens lay a lighter brown egg color, Welsummer, Barnevelder, Marans, and Penedesenca chickens lay a darker brown color.
Blue eggs are relatively rare. The most common of these breeds are the Cream Legbar chickens. This breed is still relatively rare. Cream Legbar chicken hens lay around 200 eggs per year.
There is one breed of chicken that does, in fact, lay a rainbow of colors. The Easter Egger lay blue, green, pinkish, and cream eggs. Easter Eggers area variety of chicken that lays large to extra-large eggs. Shades vary from blue to green to olive to aqua and sometimes even pinkish. They are friendly and hardy birds making them a great choice for a family flock.
So much to choose from.
With so many different types of chickens laying so many different colors, it is hard to choose which chicken is right for your coop. Before starting your flock make sure you do plenty of research so you know just how to care for your new feathered friends. Backyard Poultry is a great place to look for information. The Old Farmer's Almanac is another great source of information on which breed to go with and how to care for them.