Seasonal chickens vs Year round layers

A bucket of fresh eggs collected from my hens. All chickens are seasonal  layers to some extent.

With a surplus of eggs in spring and a shortage in the winter months, is there anything you can do to smooth out the laying cycle and gets eggs all year round?

It is important to remember seasonal laying is perfectly natural and is what wild chickens did before we domesticated them. 

What is a seasonal layer?

A seasonal layer is a chicken that quits laying for a few months over winter. Chickens also become more seasonal as they get older and lay fewer eggs.

All types of  poultry lay in the season which affords them the best chance of successfully raising their young. 

Below: These red sex-linked hybrids are the least seasonal of all chickens.

The fall or autumn brings the biggest seasonal change for your flock. The shortening of the days triggers the moult and the beginning of the rest period for birds.

Egg colour has no effect on seasonality.

Are chickens seasonal layers?

All chickens are to some extent seasonal layers. Some breeds exhibit this trait more than others and in the the hybrid chickens they have tried to breed it out almost completely.

There are four things that make a hen a seasonal layer:

  • The first and most important is day length, anything less than 12 hours of light and most chickens will stop laying.
  • Their evolution. Wild chickens evolved to lay eggs in spring and early summer.
  • The breed. Some breeds are better winter layers than others, My Barnevelders were always good winter egg producers.
  • The diet. Short days mean less hours to feed. Nutritious food and a full crop at bedtime will help chickens into lay.

For many years I kept La Bresse Gauloise, a french meat chicken and they were extremely seasonal  layers, never starting to lay before March and finishing by October. My Barnevelder hens on the other hand were excellent winter layers, giving me at least 2 eggs a week per chicken. 

Nearly all chickens stop laying eggs while they moult and change their feathers