We’ve noticed some interesting trends with our backyard flock. It seems like they lay fewer eggs on cold, rainy days – or in the winter. This made me wonder – does weather affect chickens laying eggs?
Weather affects how frequently chickens lay eggs via temperature, season, and light. Chickens lay fewer eggs in temperature extremes, if there is insufficient sunlight, and after the annual molt. Production will naturally resume in spring, or with artificial conditions to stimulate egg laying.
In other words, I can choose to either wait out the drop in egg production (it’ll naturally resume in the spring), or I can add a light and keep getting eggs. However, there are a few more details (and 17 hen secrets) you’ll want to know before adding lights to the chicken coop. Keep reading for details!
Weather, Temperature, and Light Affect Egg Production
Both weather and light affect overall egg production. However, thanks to natural seasons (and the way that the Earth rotates the sun), they’re both separate and tied together.
If you want the short version, here it is. Chickens have a 20-week egg-laying bonanza. After that, they need an off-season (of about 40-90 days) to recover. Typically, the off-season is during the winter or cold season. That way, they aren’t trying to produce eggs when there are naturally fewer resources and calories available.
How Weather Impacts Egg Production
Seasons happen. And chickens react to those seasons – both the temperature and the natural light. In any case, it’s all tied into how the Earth tilts while it rotates the Sun.
The off-season will depend on where you live. I live in the Northern Hemisphere, so the off-season happens in the winter (late November to February, give or take). Egg season is March to October.
If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, your off-season would be during the cool season – May to August (or thereabouts). Egg season in the Southern Hemisphere could be from September to April.
There is some wiggle room, obviously. That’s because there’s always some wiggle in the local seasons and temperatures. It gets colder here in Utah sooner than it does in Arizona. And it doesn’t get as cold as quickly here as it does in Northern Canada. So your geography does affect the general weather patterns.
But what about the temperature during the seasons? Let’s discuss that next.
How Temperature Impacts Egg Production
Chickens don’t like it too hot or too cold when they’re laying eggs. They have a “sweet spot” for the temperature. Usually, this sweet spot coincides with spring, summer, and fall. However, if you live somewhere hot, then you may have a few low-production days when it gets outside of the sweet spot.
Here’s the ideal temperatures for chickens, according to my research.
|Too Cold||Just Right||Too Hot|
|Below 50-ish degrees Fahrenheit||50-80 degrees Fahrenheit||Over 80 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Below 12 degrees Celsius||12-26 degrees Celsius||Over 26 degrees Celsius|
These are the official, scientific general guidelines. But here’s what I’ve found.
- Our chickens lay just fine up to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit – as long as we make sure that they’ve got access to plenty of shade and water.
- Our first-year chickens still lay some eggs in the winter, as long as there isn’t too severe of a drop in the temperature.
If I had to make you an ideal temperature table for chickens based on my experience, it would look like this.
|Too Cold for Eggs||We Get Eggs||Too Hot for Eggs|
|Below 40 degrees Fahrenheit*||40-100 degrees Fahrenheit||Over 100 degrees Fahrenheit*|
|Below 12 degrees Celsius*||4-37 degrees Celsius||Over 37 degrees Celsius*|
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Why the asterisks in the chart? I’ve found that the “extremes” get some slack, as long as you minimize the effects of the temperature extremes.
- We offset the heat with a mister attached to the hose or any of the other tricks I’ve learned (more on these later).
- In the winter, we put out an upright heater (this one on Amazon) if there’s a significant temperature change expected. We only leave it out until the weather stabilizes.
We try not to use a heater to offset the cold in the winter (even to improve egg production) as it can be a fire hazard. But during the summer? Our chickens get a water mister set up on the hose for the hottest days. They (mostly) love it.
How Light Impacts Egg Production
Daylight is an important component of egg production. Chickens need at least 12-14 hours of light and 6-8 hours of darkness (to sleep) to lay at their maximum capacity. Their maximum capacity usually means being able to lay an egg every 20-26 hours.
Chickens have a completely different physiology than humans. Because of how their eyes are created, they see a whole different spectrum of light than we do.
Light then stimulates the chicken’s brain and endocrine system to release the hormones that affect egg production.
- Too much light (and not enough darkness) will slow down egg production.
- Too little light will slow down or stop egg production.
- Just enough light (12-16 hours per day) tells a chicken’s brain that it’s egg-laying season.
Thanks to their different eyes (and ability to see UV light), a chicken’s egg-laying season extends well into the spring and fall. Otherwise, we’d only get eggs during the sunlight-heavy days of summer.
Did I mention how cool it is that chickens can see UV light? This ginger is usually slathering on sunscreen to avoid it. What can I say? I don’t like sunburns. 🙂
Bonus: Molting Affects Egg Laying
In any case, when the usual amount of daylight falls below a certain point, the chickens begin their annual molt.
This is a big enough aspect of egg production that we’ll talk about it (in more depth) later on in this article.
Bonus: Humidity’s Surprise Effect on Egg Laying
Just like temperature, humidity is another factor to consider in regards to a chicken’s egg-producing ability. Relative humidity between 40% to 70% is ideal for hens to lay eggs.
Relative humidity during the incubation of eggs affects a chicken’s water loss from laying the egg. You can offset water loss (no matter the relative humidity levels) by making sure your chickens always have access to fresh, clean water.
I live in Utah. We rarely have a humidity level as high as is recommended for our chickens. And our chickens do just fine – we make sure they’ve always got plenty of fresh, clean water.
How Long Do Chickens Stop Laying Eggs in Winter?
Chickens usually stop laying for the winter once they molt. The “winter break” can last anywhere from 40-90 days. They’ll resume laying eggs once the days start getting longer again. That’s usually in late February or March.
Our chickens usually go on “winter break” from late November to late February. We’ve got a fun mix of Americaunas, Rhode Island Reds, and Buff Orpingtons.
However, our first-year chickens (pullets) still usually lay a few eggs in the winter. And sometimes our adult chickens surprise us with an egg. But in the winter, we don’t usually count on there being too many eggs – if any.
How To Increase Off-Season (Winter) Egg Production Naturally
It’s normal for chickens to take a winter break from laying as many eggs. You may still get a few here and there. Or you may not get any.
But if taking a break from eggs is a deal-breaker in your book, then there are ways to artificially stimulate or encourage your chickens into continuing to lay eggs all winter long.
Here are the things you’ll need to set up to simulate a year-round summer for year-round egg-laying. I’ve got them listed in order of importance.
- Food – chickens will need a protein-rich, balanced diet year-round. I’d recommend using both natural and formulated feed in this particular case. And go ahead and spring for the 20% protein layer feed over the usual 16% protein layer feed. That way, your chickens will have the food they need to sustain long-term egg-laying.
- Light – your chickens will need 12-14 hours of sunlight every day. The best way to make sure your chickens get enough light (while still staying on a normal-ish schedule) is to use a timer with your lights. Set it to turn on for 12-14 hours before natural sunset. Then, have them turn off at sunset. I’ve seen many recommendations for incandescent rope lights or even Christmas lights, with a warning to avoid fluorescent lights, as it’s not as compatible with normal chicken vision. Heat lamps don’t count as light.
- Water – your flock needs constant access to fresh, clean water. I guess technically this could be listed first, as water is essential to life. However, protein has been determined to be the most important macronutrient when it comes to eggs, so water goes third.
- Calcium and other micronutrients – your flock will also need sufficient calcium for strong eggshells. This doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. Chickens love crushed oyster shells, and that usually provides enough calcium and other micronutrients.
- Housing – your chickens may need more covered or enclosed space during the cold season. Barns, sheds, chicken cold frames, or a covered run may all get the job done just fine. Just be sure to check them all for proper ventilation and moisture buildup.
- Temperature – your chickens prefer a regular temperature. However, you do need to be careful about how you go about this. The safest way to control the temperature is to provide insulating bedding (think straw or pine shavings) to help keep your flock warm.
Oh, a quick and super-important note about keeping your chickens warm during the cold season.
Heat lamps are a fire hazard. Please skip them.
Heaters or heat lamps plus all that insulating bedding is a huge fire risk. Please don’t use the heat lamp or heater.
Plus, what happens if the power goes out? Your chickens, who are acclimated to the heater (and not the outside weather) will not be happy. If the temperature change is too big of a shock, they will die from it.
It’s just fine to set your chickens up for year-round egg-laying. Just be smart about it.
Will Year-Round Egg-Laying Affect My Chicken’s Health or Life Expectancy?
This is a hot topic. I’ve read and heard vastly different opinions from various veterinarians and agricultural experts.
- Some say that year-round egg-laying isn’t natural for chickens. And that it can deplete their bodies of essential nutrients – without giving them time to recover.
- Others say that, as long as they’re getting enough dietary intake of their essential nutrients, that they’ll be just fine.
- Chicken owners seem to be split down the middle along with the professionals.
I’m not sure which is the right or wrong answer. I’m still figuring it out, too. Especially since the advice given by professionals seems to vary so dramatically. In the “final thoughts” section of this article, I’ll tell you what we decided to do in regards to year-round versus seasonal egg-laying (and why).
But in the meantime, here is my safe, blanket statement. Whatever you do, this may affect the overall life expectancy and health of your chickens. Weigh the pros and cons of any decision before diving into it all the way. And always remember that I’m not a veterinarian, so please ask yours for specific advice to your flock.
How Molting Affects Egg Production
I know that molting technically isn’t weather. It is, however, triggered by the change in weather and light associated with fall. So it’s kind of related – and affects egg production enough that I figured we’d cover it. That way, we don’t leave any questions unanswered.
Molting is triggered in the fall with the normal drop in sunlight. While molting, chickens lose significant portions of their feathers. And they look dang ugly.
Pullets (chickens in their first year) won’t experience the annual, fall molt. After all, they’ve already had a molt – when they went from chick to pullet. However, 2nd-year chickens will molt their feathers at 15-18 months of age.
This usually means that chickens molt in late summer, fall, or early winter, depending on when they hatched. We tend to stick to spring chicks, so our chickens all molt in the fall. We don’t want them being light on feathers and getting too cold once the snow hits!
In any case, molting is an exhausting time for chickens. Not only are they losing feathers, but they’re also re-growing them. This puts a huge strain on their system and available stores, which means they will lay fewer eggs.
Now, you can offset some of the protein shortage by increasing the protein available in their diet. For example, you could switch from a 16% protein layer feed to a 20% layer feed. Or you could provide more natural sources of proteins, like mealworms or fly larvae.
In my experience, however, molting birds take at least a couple of weeks to recover. And even then, egg production recovery may be temporary. They may only lay a few eggs before egg production drops for the winter.
In any case, the molting chickens will lay fewer eggs until they’ve recovered – which could be as long as in the spring. Or, feel free to use the above tips (in the how to stimulate egg production in the winter section of this article) to keep eggs coming, even in the off-season.
FAQs about Weather, Light, Temperature, and Egg Production
It’s always fun to find the answer you’ve been looking for. And I want to make this article as helpful as possible. So, next let’s go into some related and frequently-asked-questions about light, weather, temperature, and egg production.
Oh, and if I didn’t answer your specific question – I’d love to fix that. Please contact me (here’s my contact info) and ask me your question. I’ll do my best to find you a factual, relevant answer. And I’ll add it here for the others who are bound to have the same question.
Does Rain Affect Chickens Laying Eggs?
Rainy days may or may not affect egg production, depending on the time of year and overall light levels. If it’s a super-cloudy sort of rainy day in a cooler part of the year, then there may be a short blip in egg-laying.
Our overall flock may lay an egg or two fewer than normal on cloudy, rainy days. And it may take a few days to see a return to normal production levels – or as many days as it’s darker than usual.
But sometimes, rainy weather has zero effect on their egg production levels. It really seems to depend more on the light (and clouds) than the rain.
Does Hot Weather Affect Chickens Laying Eggs?
If it gets too hot, then the chickens do experience a change in their laying pattern. This seems to have more to do with stress and hydration levels than anything else, though.
We’ve found that as long as we’re providing constant access to clean, cool water, that our chickens stay hydrated. And if we notice that they’re at all heat-stressed, we make sure to help them stay cool.
If heat is an issue for you, please check out my article on keeping chicken coops cool. Keeping the coop cool is the #1 trick to helping your flock stay cool. But I also cover other tricks, too. 🙂
Does Light and Sunlight Affect Chickens Laying Eggs?
Light and sunlight absolutely affect how many eggs your chickens lay. Light stimulates hormones in people and animals – including chickens. A chicken needs 12-14 hours of daylight AND 6-8 hours of darkness each day for optimal egg-laying hormones to flood its body.
Because chickens can see a bigger light spectrum than we can, they can naturally still get enough sunlight in the spring and fall.
There’s not usually enough light during the winter season to stimulate optimal egg-laying hormones in a chicken, unless you augment the natural light with the right kind of artificial lights.
What Time Of The Year Do Chickens Lay The Most Eggs?
Chickens lay the most eggs during the spring, summer, and fall. Most breeds have a heavy, egg-laying streak for 20 weeks of the year. This streak starts in the spring.
In Utah, our egg-laying season starts in late February or early March, depending on the weather. Our flock lays eggs reliably until late October. Eggs usually keep coming, albeit less reliably, until the end of November or early December. Again, it does somewhat depend on the weather.
How Do I Encourage My Chickens to Lay Eggs?
Cheerleading and verbal encouragement to your chickens won’t get them to lay more eggs. Instead, you have to provide the right physical conditions to encourage your chickens to lay eggs.
This can mean:
- providing the right kind of lights in the coop or run to stimulate the chicken’s brain into thinking it’s spring or summer.
- setting up a temperature-controlling device (usually a heater) to simulate warmer temperatures associated with heavy egg-production seasons.
- and a ton more, so please refer back to the earlier section of this article.
Getting all of this done right in a backyard homestead setting can be difficult unless you’ve got a barn or shed for housing your chickens. Difficult, but not impossible – as long as you’re willing to be creative.
What’s the Ideal Temperature for Laying Eggs?
Poultry scientists say that chickens lay best when the temperature is between 11 and 26 degrees Celsius or about 52 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
In my experience, however, chickens do just fine between 40-100 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4-37 degrees Celsius, as long as you make sure they’re adjusted to the current temperature.
What Do Chickens Do in Bad Weather?
When my chickens decide that the weather is too awful to deal with, then they hide in their coop. They’ll come out to their covered run to get food and water, but then they’re right back inside their coop.
For my chickens, any weather deemed as “too much to handle” is usually at least two of the following weather conditions: cold, wet, rainy, and/or snowy.
Every other day of the year, they’re out foraging. But on cold, rainy days or snow days? They’re going to stay in the coop as much as possible.
Is Climate Change Affecting Chickens?
Climate change is a hot topic term. I know a lot of people don’t like to talk about it. So instead, let’s talk about global weather patterns, as most people agree that there are global weather patterns – and that those change.
As the weather patterns change across the globe, it will trickle down and affect our backyard homesteads and chickens. This is most obvious in Utah via the El Nino and La Nina weather patterns. Some years, we get a lot of rain and snow. Others, not so much.
What can I say? Utah is a desert.
In any case, those patterns do affect individual years. So it’s safe to say that global weather patterns do affect our chickens. They affect us, too.
So take those weather patterns into account as you plan your backyard homestead. That way, you’ll be prepared for the coming years – and be able to keep your chickens living happy, healthy, and laying as many delicious eggs as they can.
Weather affects eggs. It really does. However, it’s more than just the weather – it’s everything that comes with it: light, heat, temperature, humidity, molting, chicken hormones, and more.
And now you need to decide if you’re going to be okay with the natural status quo – or if you want to go for year-round egg production. Earlier I promised to tell you what we chose (and do).
We chose not to worry about it. We go with the natural flow of things. This is mainly because of how our yard is set up. We don’t have electricity running out to the coop – unless we run an extension cord out the 100+ feet to the coop.
At that distance, we have to get the upgraded (and more expensive) extension cords to minimize electrical degradation in the flow. This also means that we want to avoid using electricity out there as much as possible. This means no lights in the coop for us. All we use the extension cord for is the de-icer. The chickens do need running water, after all.
We thought about using solar power to manage the lights – however, we have yet to come up with a safe battery storage plan. So until that happens, keeping a battery that close to so much bedding (we use pine shavings) is too much of a fire risk.
So for now, our chickens get the winters off from laying eggs. That doesn’t mean we won’t change our minds in the future – or as we better figure out the logistics of things. But for now, that’s how we’re doing things.
Feel free to find out what works (and doesn’t) for your backyard homestead. And then go with it. Happy homesteading, friends!
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to also learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Alphin, Bob. “Impact of Light on Poultry.” University of Delaware Department of Animal and Food Services, 2020, extension.umd.edu/sites/extension.umd.edu/files/_images/programs/poultry/Alphin%20Light%20Impact%20on%20Poultry%203-11-14.pdf.
- Bunning, M., and J. Avens. “Home-Produced Chicken Eggs.” Colorado State University Extension, Mar. 2010, extension.usu.edu/poultry/files/Egg_Care_from_Colorado_State_Extension.pdf.
- “Egg Production.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2003, www.fao.org/3/Y4628E/y4628e03.htm.
- Frame, David. “Basics for Raising Backyard Chickens.” Utah State University Extension, 2010, digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=2294&context=extension_curall&_ga=2.221863256.1531761714.1608124506-882998616.1608124506.
- Frame, David. “Molting and Determining Production of Laying Hens.” Utah State University Extension, 2009, extension.usu.edu/poultry/files/Chicken_Fact_Sheet-_Laying_Hens.pdf.
- Jacob, Jacquie, and Tony Pescatore. “Why Have My Hens Stopped Laying?” University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, 2012, www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/ASC/ASC192/ASC192.pdf.
- Jacqueline P. Jacob, Henry R. Wilson. “Factors Affecting Egg Production in Backyard Chicken Flocks.” EDIS New Publications RSS, Animal Sciences, 1 June 2018, edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ps029.