People keep poultry for many reasons, but one of the most common is for food. Healthy poultry provide eggs and fresh eggs from happy, healthy birds taste good and are good for you. Obviously, chickens are the most popular eggs, but many people keep ducks and quail for eggs as well.
One thing that all three species have in common is decreased egg production in the winter. It is normal for birds to lay fewer eggs during the cold months. Many people who are new to keeping poultry worry because they see few eggs as the temperature drops.
Commercial egg producers use artificial lights to maintain egg production during the winter. If your only goal is to have lots of eggs, year-round, you can also use lights to promote egg laying. There are a couple of things to be aware of, though:
- While you will get more eggs in the short-term, you will likely be shortening the long-term productivity of your birds. Simply put, hens need some rest.
- Using lights and heaters to increase egg production can be dangerous because your birds become used to the warmth and can be shocked if they go out into the cold. Chickens can generally withstand quite cold temperatures, but when the temperature is kept artificially warm they don’t have the chance to adjust.
Deciding whether to eat fewer eggs in the winter or to try and coax your birds into laying more comes down to your reasons for keeping chickens at all. Backyard poultry keepers have different goals, and there are many equally appropriate ways to care for flocks.
Like chickens, ducks will lay few eggs during the colder months than during the spring and summer. And, like chickens, ducks can be coaxed into possibly laying more eggs in the winter than they would naturally. The same dangers exist, too.
While chickens generally do just fine during the winter with proper care, ducks most always do. Ducks have an extra layer of fat just under their skin to help keep them warm. That is one of the reasons ducks can swim in even icy water without freezing.
Quail, also, will naturally have decreased egg production when it is cold out. The difference is, many people choose to raise quail because they can comfortably live in a garage or shed where it is a simple matter to make sure they have enough heat and light to maintain a steady level of production.
If your quail live indoors all the time, there is little risk involved in extreme and sudden temperature swings. People who want fresh eggs but live in urban areas where chickens or ducks may not be allowed can raise quail. Quail are quieter, content to remain pens indoors and are not usually banned. If you want fresh eggs year round, quail may be your best bet.
What sort of poultry do you keep? If you have chickens and/or ducks, do you go with nature’s flow and deal with having fewer eggs when it’s cold, or do you try to increase production with heat and light?