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Reduced Daylight Affects Egg Production

For those of us in northern climates, the cold weather is an indicator of the slowing of egg production, a time for the hens to rest a little more and produce a little less.

Interestingly, temperature seems to have less to do with slowing production than hours of daylight.  It seems that the bird’s reproductive systems are highly affected by the amount of sunlight received per day – “When day length falls below 12 hours per day, egg production decreases and may cease completely. (eHow)

Generally, there are many factors affecting the egg laying rate of a bird; the age of the bird, it’s feed and housing conditions, and whether or not it gets free range to run outdoors; remember a happy hen is a productive hen.

Probably the greatest determinant of a bird’s year round productivity is its breed. The breed of the bird will help to identify strong layers vs. say, show birds or dual-purpose birds. Some breeds are known as ‘cold hardy’, these are birds that have been breed for optimal performance in northern climates.

In addition to relying on hereditary traits for optimal productivity, many people supplement the amount of light their birds get with artificial lights in order to stimulate production.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “… When darkness falls artificial lighting can be introduced for two to three hours, which may increase egg production by 20 to 30 percent.”

To create lighting schedule that’s right for you, “… a good rule of thumb is that the total length of light per day, both artificial and natural, should be no shorter than the longest natural day length the hens will experience…” (thepoultrysite.com) In other words, calculate the average day length during your summer hours and replicate for your birds in the winter.

For your convenience, we whipped up the little widget below that calculates your latitude (based on your IP address), and then recommends how many hours of supplemental light you should apply based on the day length at your latitude:

Eggzy’s Supplemental Daylight Calculator

And if that seems like too much work for you, feel free to take the poetic advice of Terry Golson and just let your hens rest up over the winter in preparation for another busy season come Spring. According to Terry’s HenBlog Before there were battery-cage “farms,” eggs were a seasonal food. By New Years an egg was precious.”

Resources:
http://www.ehow.com/
http://www.fao.org/
http://www.albc-usa.org/
http://www.eggzy.net/
http://www.thepoultrysite.com
http://www.hencam.com/

 * Originally published on December 14, 2011

Stress and Chickens

Yup, it’s true, humans aren’t the only animals that experience stress. Chickens have a tender disposition and can get stressed-out easily – and when they do, it can affect not only their health, but their behavior as well.

Stress is a major contributor to poor health in chickens and can make them prone to a number of vices such as feather picking, egg eating and pecking. Stress is also a common reason for reduced egg production.

What causes stress in chickens?

There are many sources of stress in chickens; over handling, changes in their environment, bad weather, extreme cold or heat, overcrowding, lack of fresh food and clean water, and predators can all cause stress.

What can I do?

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to reduce stress on your birds. First, establish a routine and stick to it as best you can. Chickens are creatures of habit, so feeding, watering, and foraging should be as regular as possible. Don’t make major changes all at once – make them slowly so the birds can adjust one change at a time. And try not to over handle them, and when you must, do so calmly and gently.

By minimizing stress on your birds, they will be less prone to illness and bad habits, and will be happier, healthier and more productive.

Reviving the Domestic Arts

Try to find a definition for the phrase “domestic arts’ and you’ll encounter old favorites such as ‘home economics’ or more contemporary alternatives like ‘family and consumer sciences’. Personally, the ‘arts’ portion of the phrase is what intrigues me the most; I believe it invites us—maybe even challenges us—to be creative problem solvers.

So, while pondering and Googling the topic, I came across an interesting article entitled Reviving the Domestic Arts in a Slow Economy. It’s an intelligent and well-considered article by Tera Schreiber, who suggests that it’s high time we regain some of the practical know-how our forefathers (and fore-mothers) had.

The article lists several of the more popular ‘arts’ we see trending these days; gardening, canning and preserving, something called ‘wild-crafting’ and yes, raising chickens. The article is informative and filled with common sense advice, and given the state of the economy, common sense is bankable.

To read the whole article, visit seattlewomanmagazine.com
Root Cellar image courtesy of  loghome.com

Cottage Food Laws

Part of the expanding movement to localize food systems and stimulate small-scale food production is the trend in cottage food production and distribution.

To support this trend, Cottage Food Laws, also known as Baker’s Bills, are emerging all over the country. These are laws that allow people to prepare certain foods in their own home kitchen for sale and distribution. Such initiatives support individuals who would like to start their own food business but can’t afford the financial and logistical burden of having a commercial kitchen.

By taking the first small steps at their home kitchens, budding food businesses can begin to develop a customer base and raise part of the capital that will eventually expand their companies.

Currently, there are more than two-dozen states in the U.S. allowing some sort of commercial homemade food sales. Guidelines differ from state to state; check out this full list of states with Cottage Food Laws.

The trend goes hand in hand with other behavior changes sweeping the country; namely awareness and demand for locally grown and produced food and goods, sustainable agriculture, backyard chickens, and small batches versus mass-produced products.

If you would like to start a home-based food production business, or would simply like more information about Cottage Food Laws & resources see:

 

Photo credit: Pike Place Honey Jars
Copyright All rights reserved by Laura Zimmerman