Chick Tip: Preparing for Winter
- Supplemental Lighting. Shorter days trigger molting. Molting results in more energy devoted to growing feathers and less energy devoted to egg production. So one of the best ways to maintain egg production is to prevent a sudden molt. However, it’s important that you start light treatment before you see signs of decreased egg production in the fall. Even one day with inadequate light can start the molt process, and once started, it cannot be stopped. Providing supplemental lighting means extending the “daylight” hours to 14 to 16 hours per day. A single 60 to 100 watt bulb set on a timer will suffice. It’s best to extend the hours at the beginning of the day, so set the timer to turn the lights on before dawn. By employing this technique, any molt will be gradual and will not hinder egg production. But remember, even the most productive hens will go into a molt, and it’s not a bad thing! Molting allows the hen to rest and regenerates her.
- Egg Gathering. The more your birds are confined during cold weather, the more frequently you should gather eggs. This will prevent other birds from pecking and breaking the eggs, which can lead to the incurable habit of egg eating. Once a hen learns to eat eggs, she must be culled, as there is no way to stop the behavior, and other hens will pick up the habit.
- Ventilation. While it’s important to weatherproof your coop to protect birds from the increasingly cold temperatures, you must still allow for adequate ventilation to help keep the litter dry. Otherwise, in such a confined area, ammonia can build up quickly. The hazards of ammonia can range from infection, to reduced growth rates, to blindness. A simple way to test ammonia levels is to position your head at the same height as those of your birds’. Breathe normally. If, after a few seconds, your throat or eyes begin to burn, you have ammonia build up. Ventilation will reduce the moisture in your litter, which will help eliminate the ammonia.
- Water. If birds do not have water, they will not eat. If birds do not eat, they will not produce eggs. Make sure feeders and waterers are set up to function during freezing temperatures. Your birds need access to fresh, clean water at all times, day or night, and it’s always easier to install a heated waterer on a crisp, autumn day than in the middle of a cold, dark, winter night. If you do not have a heated waterer, be aware that even hot tap water freezes within a short time in cold temperatures.
- High-Quality Feed. Last but not least, especially during the cold weather months, it’s important to offer a high-quality complete feed. Purina® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe is all natural and contains sufficient protein, vitamins, minerals—and even marigold extract—to produce hearty, golden-yoked eggs. For even more nutrition, try Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3. It’s made from the same grains as the original Layena® Recipe but has added flaxseed to triple the amount of Omega-3 to 200 mg or more, an essential fatty acid that many Americans’ diets are lacking, in each egg.**
*With added vitamins, nutrients and trace minerals
**When fed a diet of Layena® Plus Omega exclusively for at least 3 weeks. Based on large egg (50g). Results may vary with factors such as total diet and hen health. A typical egg contains 65 mg Omega 3.