Although Sally held on and laid up until early December, our chickens haven't been laying for the past eight or ten weeks. That's perfectly normal in the wintertime — chickens' hormones are triggered by the amount of daylight they are exposed to, and they commonly stop laying during the dark days of winter. We didn't give them any light-adjustment therapy this year to keep them laying, because they needed to molt. Dropping feathers is also a process dictated by daylight, and once they stop laying in the fall, they divert their protein reserves to producing new feathers. It's too hard on the birds to make eggs and feathers at the same time, so this winter they've been experiencing real darkness while their new feathers come in.
Our "Easter-Eggers" (Abigail and Martha) molted early, while Sally (a Barred Rock) and Dolley (a Red Star) didn't start until January. Dolley was the last to do so, and is still not quite finished (though she's close — no bare spots or anything).
Since the girls are done molting (and since Dolley is very close), we decided to turn the light back on to get them laying again. We set it this morning to come on at 6 a.m., giving the girls an extra 45 minutes of daylight, for a total of about 11 hours of daylight right now. (The light turns off at 7 a.m., because the sun is up by then.) Each day we will back up the timer by 30 minutes in the morning, until they start laying or until we reach the 17 hour mark of light for them (making "sunrise" in the coop at midnight!). Once all the girls are laying again, we adjust the light as needed to provide 14 hours of daylight each day, until the sun takes over for us in the spring.
But wouldn't you know it? On Day One of light therapy, Tiegan found a surprise in the nesting box when she checked on the ladies this afternoon:
One gorgeous, full-sized egg from Sally!
Now, I think this has a lot less to do with 45 minutes of extra light than it does with the fact that Sally is the very best layer we have, and she's been done molting for a couple of weeks. And we do have more daylight now — Groundhog Day matches up with Halloween as far as sun angle and daylight hours are concerned, and the girls are always still laying at that point in the fall.
We'll have to see if this egg is an aberration, or if Sally is back in business for the season. If so, she is a absolute prize-winner of a layer.
And not a moment to soon — we are down to our last half dozen frozen eggs for the year. Whew!