Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Friday 26 November 2010

Winter eggspectations....

I have seen a number of forum posters and bloggers recently, writing about their hens not laying in the winter. I must admit I feel everso slightly smug as yet again my feathery ladies are still laying and I fully eggspect them to carry on through the winter...

My 12 hens are still laying!  4 are in moult, the other 8 potentially laying hens are laying 6-7 eggs a day. A few of my hens are year old -ish, rest are 2 years old ish and the moulty ones are 3-4 year old-ish plus

I count my blessings every day when I go out to them. I think an egg is a miracle of nature, despite knowing the science and biology which causes it to be laid!

So, what do I do with my girls to keep them laying? I am giving them hot mash at about 9 am which is made of layers pellets and hot water with various extra stuff added, poultry spice or marmite or garlic powder or natural yogurt on different days  just to make it more interesting. I do this first thing in the morning, then they have dry pellets ad lib all day as is usual.

I also make sure I give them their corn ration at about 2 pm, so they have space to fill up their crops again with pellets before bed time, as I found if they had the corn too late they didn't eat any more pellets. The layers pellets contain everything hens need to be healthy and to lay eggs but tbh probably get a bit boring for a bird whose natural habit is to scratch around on the jungle floor eating all sorts  of stuff. Which is why I try to give them a bit of variety in their diet! BUT it is important that they eat a final crop full of layers pellets before bed time as that is what helps to make the next days lot of eggs.

The hens also go out in the wood for an hour or so as well between 2 ish and 4 ish (if the weather is OK) otherwise they are in their paddock which is pretty huge anyway and I make sure they have lots of stuff in the paddock (grass mowings, wood chippings, leaf piles) to scratch around in and find stuff to eat.

This all seems to be working and my  regime means I get eggs all winter from the girls...maybe a few less in Jan and Feb but still I would eggspect 6 eggs a day from the flock of 12, which allows for my flock containing old hens/young hens/off lay hens.

and no, I do not use any artificial lighting as I personally do not agree with tinkering with my hens natural body clock...but that is just me and if others want to that is up to them...


  1. My girls didn't lay much in October but they've picked up again. They have a new, cozy, windproof coop to sleep in so that made them happy. I noticed they've been eating the alfalfa hay that I put down in their run. Yes, I know folks usually use pine shavings but I had extra hay so I used it. I think the extra green stuff has helped them now that there isn't much grass to eat. I won't be disappointed if they fall off laying again. I feel like I've already had an unexpected bonus of eggs.

  2. We've had a good laying rate so far this winter too. Over the summer, our four layers gave us on average about 3.8 eggs a day - last week, when the snow started, it was down to about 3.4 -- but I think that was more because they were still settling into having new coop mates. Over the weekend, when there was a couple of inches of snow on the ground & their drinkers froze solid overnight, we got 4 eggs each day - so a 100% laying rate.

    Speaking to my chicken man about it, he says it's a lot to do with breed - pure breeds are more likely to slow down than egg-machine hybrids. Not sure if this links in with your experience...

    Thanks for the hot mash suggestion - I'd seen other people suggesting making a porridge for them but I prefer the idea of making it from their pellets rather than our oats -- I gave them some yesterday and it was very popular!

  3. Hello there Louisa! Glad the pellet porrige idea was useful.

    I agree that my pure breeds lay less eggs overall than my hybrids but actually I don't see much difference between them all in the winter....except for my one Marans hen, who stops in Oct and starts again in March!

  4. I read off what you feed your girls to my mom and she's going to try using some of your ideas. Thanks!


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