Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!
I used to get deeply depressed at this time of year, and I always blamed the holiday season that starts too early and goes on forever, diluting any spirit I might have had. Then, I discovered it was actually the shortening of the days that were to blame. As soon as I know the days will be getting longer, albeit painfully gradually at first, I begin to feel better.
Let there be light!
And this year, I have one more reason to look forward to the solar turnaround: chickens lay in direct relationship to the amount and quality of light they receive. Or so “they” say. Clearly, “they” have never seen Abby lay in the dark.
I could supplement daylight with artificial light in the coop, but The Man and I decided in the beginning of this venture that our girls will never be killed once they reach the end of their laying, and that we will provide retirement for them until the end of their days. Seeing as a hen is born with every egg she’ll ever lay, we don’t see the point in cajoling eggs out of her faster, only to have her stop laying sooner. Better to let Nature do what she will, and let the hens rest as they see fit.
This being my first winter with chickens, and those chickens being in their pullet year, I will be watching egg production closely in the weeks to come. Pullets tend to plough right through the winter, laying when fully-mature hens take the season off. Even though my girls have laid for me every day, production is definitely down. Where I might have expected eight or nine eggs per day in the fall, I’m now getting five or six.
So…will the longer days mean higher egg count? Or will the hens say, “DAMN. My butt is cold. I ain’t laying.” Goodness knows, the coldest days are yet to come.
We’ve had a very mild December so far, and it’s raining outside right now. (This makes The Man unhappy, as he’s waiting for the pond to freeze for ice skating.) How will the girls fare when there is snow on the ground for weeks at a time, and no grass to be found? Will egg production go up with the length of days, or down with the mercury?