Monday, January 22, 2018

Winter Eggs

If you have been a Carlton Farms customer for a while, or purchasing any local pasture raised eggs for that matter, you probably know that eggs are hard to come by in the winter. You may ask, Why is that? Well, I'm glad you asked.
First and foremost, it has to do with day-length. The stimulus for producing an egg is based on the chickens perceived photo-period (length of the daylight hours). Chickens start laying heavy when the daylight hours start increasing (spring), and they lay eggs less frequently when the daylight hours get shorter (fall). With the lowest production coming in the dead of winter, Dec.-Feb.  Of course, heavy egg laying coincides with the time of year a chicken would want to be raising a batch of baby chicks (spring-summer), and conversely they would not want to be raising baby chicks in the weather we've had recently. Many people think the chickens don't lay eggs because it's to cold. While its true that cold weather does correlate with the decreased production for obvious natural reasons, in fact the controlling mechanism is length of daylight hours.
Now, as humans our obligation is to think "Now I know the mechanism, surely I can manipulate that". Yes you can manipulate the photo-period, which can lead to more winter egg production. In commercial chicken houses the birds cant even see the sun, so operators are in complete control of lighting (and virtually every other environmental condition). In our situation, we are not going to be able to fool our chickens. They range outdoors daily and can easily tell the difference between sunlight and a lightbulb. We do provide a little supplemental light throughout the winter which keeps a trickle of egg production flowing, but our birds are very much on a natural cycle and will triple their egg production this spring. Until then, we will make due with the eggs that they provide. I'm sure they are looking forward to the spring as much as we are.  
Our chickens are looking forward to
grass like this in the springtime.