There is one question I get asked all the time from new chicken owners. Do chickens lay eggs in the winter? And the answer is, yes, they absolutely do.
It’s not the cold that slows down egg production so much for a hen it’s the amount of daylight. For that reason, many backyard chicken owners will use artificial light in the chicken coop to help their chickens lay more eggs throughout the winter months. And once you have the egg production up again you are then faced with another problem. How do we keep eggs from freezing in the bitter cold of winter?
That is another issue entirely and one we are going to dive into today.
It happens to the best of us.
We need to get out and collect the eggs but it is just so darn cold and our home is so nice and toasty.
So we delay trudging out into the snow enjoying the warmth just a bit longer. And when we do head out into the chicken coop we are greeted with ice-cold and frozen eggs. Frustrating yes, but actually not the end of the world. Or the egg for that matter.
Before we dive into what to do with frozen eggs from the chicken coop, let’s first talk about tips on how to keep eggs from freezing in the first place.
No matter how cold it is where you are, there are a few things you can do to keep your chicken’s eggs from freezing. Pick and choose the best tips for you for where you live and please be sure to put safety first and foremost when choosing.
How To Keep Eggs From Freezing In The Winter
Tip # 1. Insulate the Nesting Boxes
And the very best way to do this is with lots and lots of straw or hay. I like to fill our boxes full so my chickens can make a bed inside that comfortable and more importantly toasty warm. Some of my hens will do such a good job that I will find 6 or more eggs in one box and none in the others.
How does a straw in a nesting box keep chicken’s eggs from freezing?
The straw helps to keep the egg from freezing by insulating it from the frigid air allowing the natural warmth of the egg to remain. This is just a temporary fix, however, and not one you cannot completely rely on in the deep cold temperatures of northern areas.
You will want to keep an eye on the straw and replenish it as needed. The more a box gets used the more the straw will be kicked out or compressed down. Just make a note to bring more straw with you at chore time a couple of times a week and fill as needed. Remember you can not overstuff a nesting box. If there is too much straw, your chickens will kick the excess out onto the floor. This will, in turn, put a warm coating over the frigid floor of the chicken coop. Either way, the straw you added is serving a purpose.
If you live in a snowy area, it can already be tricky enough bringing in all the supplies you need each time you do chores. To help make things easier, you may want to try a sled. I just purchased this utility sled from Amazon and I absolutely love it! I am now able to bring everything I need with me on one trip and no longer have to walk back and forth for all of my feeding supplies.
By far the very best purchase I have made to-date!
Tip # 2. Keep Your Chicken Coop Draft Free
This is an important step even if you do not live in a frigid winter zone and one I like to have on my project to-do list each fall. Drafts can be deadly so be sure to find them all and do what you can to correct them.
Simple Pro Tip: Set up a fall coop checklist of all the things you need to do to prepare your chicken coop for the winter. By doing a yearly coop inspection you will catch any issues before they become a major problem.
Inspect the walls, ceiling, and even the floors and replace rotted boards if needed. This will not only keep your flock healthier but it will also keep predators out.
Simple Pro Tip: You can also apply tarps to your outside chicken run to help keep down heavy winter winds. This will make it easier for your chickens to get out into the fresh air. Coops can be dirty and dusty even in winter so proper airflow is key. If you must add a tarp, I would suggest just on the side that takes the brunt of the winds to keep that chilly air out yet still allow for ventilation on the other sides.
Tip #3. Keep Your Nesting Boxes on the Warmest Wall
Most of us know already which direction the winds blow in our particular area. Set up your chicken coop so the door is away from the wind and the nesting boxes are on the warmest wall away from the wind as well. By placing your nesting boxes on a wall that will get the least of the winds and as far from the coop door as you can you will give your chickens a bit of warmth as well as their fragile eggs.
You can also put your nesting boxes on the east side to take advantage of the sun in the morning. Even in the frigid winter, the sun is surprisingly warm. Use mother nature to help you heat things up a bit more.
If you have a small coop then you may not have room to keep your boxes far from the door, if that is the case then at the very least choose the wall furthest from the cold winds. Even these small tips can make a big difference in the warmth of your chicken coop.
Tip #4. Add Curtains
If you have windows in your coop then consider adding curtains to keep the drafts out. You might be amazed at how much this helps with the cold. Windows can be very drafty and even though we do want ventilation we do not want drafts. Consider hanging a few thick curtains over your windows and keep the gals warmer along with their eggs.
You can make curtains with any leftover material. Reuse what you have such as a sweatshirt, old bath towels or even bluejeans. Just cut out a square of material that is several inches larger than the window and nail it into place. If you find you have a heavy draft coming in through the outside of your windows you may need to do some repair work to help seal things up a bit more.
Tip # 5. Collect Eggs More Often
One of the easiest ways to keep eggs from freezing is to collect them before they do. If you have had your chickens for long, then you probably have a pretty good idea of when they lay their eggs. My hens tend to lay either very late morning or early afternoon. In the winter I like to go out at 11 am and then again at 3 pm to collect eggs. The second collection is important especially on very cold days. Eggs can freeze quickly and by adding a second collection time you can lessen the frequency of frozen and cracked eggs.
If you are new to chickens you can discover your flock’s laying schedule just by visiting the chicken coop every few hours each day for about a week. This will give you a pretty good idea of when your hens lay so you can collect eggs a bit more efficiently.
Tip # 5. Bring in Some Heat
Before we dive into heat lamps, let me first say that these things are dangerous and you must do this at your own risk. I prefer to avoid heat lamps in our coops altogether even when the temperatures plummet to below zero. For us, the risk of fire is too risky to mess with. I prefer instead to acclimatize our flock to the cold naturally and trust that their bodies can adapt and adjust as the temperatures get colder.
We have used heat lamps before and one close call almost burnt down our barn. Because of this, we no longer use them in our chicken coop.
Disclaimer: Heat lamps are dangerous and one of the biggest causes of fires in barns and coops so please proceed with caution here. Just last week there was a fire in a chicken coop that destroyed the coop and the attached garage. So, please proceed with caution.
On our homestead, we prefer to use the deep litter method and we find the natural insulation it provides does well enough to keep our gals warm.
If, however, you want to bring in a bit more heat you do have a few options.
A heat lamp is a light and bulb that is specifically made to produce heat. You will need an electric source in your coop for this. Please know that an extension cord is absolutely not a safe option.
If you do have electric inside of your chicken coop and choose to use a heat lamp be sure to use every safety measure you can. Double secure the light with chains and zip ties to keep the hot lamp securely in place. Also, put lights far away from chicken roosts and nesting boxes so the chickens do not fly and accidentally knock the heat lamp to the ground.
Heat lamps get hot, very hot, and since the coop is filled with dry brittle straw or hay one touch can quickly mean disaster. I am not saying this to scare you, I just want you to be fully and completely aware of the risks involved so you take every precaution if you choose to use lamps to heat your coop.
Chicken Coop Heater
A portable coop heater is a newer option that seems to be a bit safer however, I have never seen one in person or used one myself. Again, you will need to have electric in your coop to use this since an extension cord is not safely recommended.
Depending on the size of your coop, you may need two of these but from what I have heard and read they seem to work surprisingly well.
Heated Chicken Mat
You can also try a heated chicken mat, but since it is a floor mat I am not sure how much it will help to keep eggs from freezing. Your chicken’s feet will be cozy but not necessarily the eggs.
Again, this is not something I have tried so you will want to do a bit of research before purchasing.
So, now that we covered a few ways to keep eggs from freezing what can we do if our eggs are already frozen?
In the winter, chicken eggs can freeze in just 3 hours so it is only natural that we will all encounter a few frozen eggs in our chicken raising lifetime.
There are a few options you can do if your eggs that are frozen and no, tossing them is not one of them.
Disclaimer: If you find a frozen egg that is cracked I would not eat this egg. Chicken eggs can be dirty even if they do not look it. For that reason, my option for cracked and frozen eggs is always to feed to our flock, other animals, or toss all together.
What to do with frozen chicken eggs
Before you dive into any of these options, you will first need to thaw your eggs. If they have cracks do NOT use these eggs for human consumption. First, remove any dirt or debris from the eggs and inspect them for cracks. To thaw, put uncracked eggs in a bowl and place inside of the refrigerator allowing them to thaw slowly. If you see the eggs do have cracks thaw these separately in a bowl the same way.
Before using eggs for you or your family check it thoroughly once again for any cracks. If you find cracks then open them into a jar to save for use for your animals.
#1 Feed Them (Cooked) Back to the flock
Eggs are an amazing source of protein and great for chickens. I like to feed a few eggs back to my flock each week as a warm treat especially on those cold winter mornings. The key here is to cook the eggs before you feed them so you do not run the risk of your chickens developing a taste for raw eggs.
Simple Pro Tip: You can add herbs to your eggs to create a healthy treat for your hens as well. I love this recipe for chicken egg casserole from Timber Creek Farm and my hens do too!
#2 Feed Them to Other Livestock
If you have pigs they love eggs. Scramble up a few eggs and toss in their bowl and they will come running. The same is true with any cats you have.
Warm eggs on a cold morning is a treat they will love as well.
#3 Thaw and Eat
If an egg is not cracked then you can simply thaw it and eat it yourself.
To thaw, clean the egg and place it in your refrigerator to bring the frozen temp down slowly. Once it is thawed, the best way to then to eat the egg is to hard boil it. I am told you can scramble it as well, but I have not tried it to see how the taste or consistency is altered.
If you live in a very cold climate then prevention is always the best way to go with our animals. When we help ensure our animals are warm in the winter our eggs will stay unfrozen as well.
A solid coop, nesting box placement, and insulation and frequent egg collecting should all be enough to keep eggs from freezing in the winter.
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