I often get asked at the farmers market for free range eggs in the winter and I always say "no, my hens are in the barn from November to April". Why do I not let my hens outside in the winter? There are many reasons but my first answer is that they wouldn't lay much. Since I have hens to make the farm money I need them to lay eggs regularly. Hens need at 14-16 hours of light or their body thinks that means the weather is not suitable for hatching chicks which wouldn’t survive so their body tells their hormones not to lay eggs.
Another reason why I keep my hens inside in the winter is that they don't do as well in the cold. Hens need to stay warm or all of their energy would go into making body heat instead of using it for producing eggs. Plus they eat more feed in the winter to produce that extra body heat. They could also get frostbite on their combs and wattles which is poor animal welfare.
Lastly, it would be bad for the environment. In the summer we rotate our hens on pasture using portable electric fencing and once the ground is frozen we wouldn't be able to put the fence posts in the ground. If they stayed in one spot it would eventually turn to muck and there would be too much manure in one area. The birds would also get sick from always being exposed to too much manure. On a backyard scale this would work but we have 90 hens so they always have to keep moving from paddock to paddock.
I hope you enjoyed our first blog,