The winter solstice has come and gone and along with it our egg production. Even in the coldest of days we were getting 10 - 12 eggs per day. Over the past two weeks our production has halved giving us between five and six eggs daily. We couldn't put our fingers on the cause. Examining every possibility from water and feed consumption to length of day provided by the electric light and cleanliness of the coop, we couldn't narrow it down.
For the past week we have been closely watching every change we have made in the coop. New bedding and clean nesters were the first test. Our flock has doubled in size from last year so the coop isn't staying as clean as it could be. Focusing on cleanliness, new bedding was added and nesters cleaned as soon as any accumulation of droppings were noted - no change in production. Water has been carefully checked twice a day since temperatures have fallen and remained below zero. We noted that the floor in the coop has shifted with the ice outside so the water container was leaking on the floor of the coop - no wonder it won't stay clean. Balanced platform and steady water supply - no change in production.
Feed has been supplied twice per day since the chickens arrived on the farm seven years ago. As the number of chickens increased, the amount of feed has increased. Last night I stayed in the coop and watched the birds eat. Three and one half pounds of feed were scattered on the floor of the coop to allow all the birds to eat without stomping on one another. Watching them consume that 3 1/2 lbs in less than two minutes, I realized, they were hungry. All the birds are still exhibiting good body condition, full breasts and good skin condition, most with large, moist vents. Feed was the last thing we needed to try. Off to the good old search engine as the reference materials I have did not state how much feed an average laying hen consumes daily. My search determined that an average laying bird consumes approximately 1/3 lb of feed daily.
To make sense of this, you need to know that we are up to 45 birds in the coop. Four roosters and 41 hens.
Divide 45 by 3 - 1/3 lb per bird per day - and you get 15.
Divide 15 by 2 - feeding them twice daily - and you get 7.5 lbs of feed.
We were feeding them half of what they needed per day of feed. They were maintaining their weight, but not getting enough nutrition to lay eggs. I doubled their feed ration last night and they left some on the floor indicating that they were full. This morning Little man's father fed them eight pounds of feed.
If we get seven or more eggs today then we will have solved that problem. I will let you know what we collect today.