Once the temperature starts falling, we know it’s not going to be long before we are making several trips per day to the coop to collect eggs. There is only one thing worse than getting to the nest boxes and finding all the eggs frozen- and that is your chickens not laying eggs at all!
The wintertime can be grueling for your hens and only certain breeds copy well in this weather.
Frozen eggs have the potential to make you very ill. Once an egg freezes, the contents inside the shell expand, causing the shell to have cracks. Sometimes these cracks are noticeable, other times they are hairline cracks and cannot be seen.
These cracks are entry points for bacteria. I know what you are thinking – its sub-zero out there – no bacteria will survive! This is not necessarily so as you will see.
Why Are Frozen Eggs Bad For You?
We all know where the egg comes from, essentially the same place as the chicken’s other major product- poop.
Although there are mechanisms in place to prevent the two things from happening together, the vent area is still not the cleanest of places. Occasionally an egg will get contaminated by poop and when the shell is intact this is not a problem, but when there is a crack in the shell it is a problem.
When in a warmer environment and the egg starts to thaw, the bacteria get to feast on the nutrient rich contents of the egg. So any eggs with hairline cracks should be tossed out or cooked and fed back to the chickens fairly quickly.
How To Prevent My Egg From Freezing?
In sub-zero temperatures it takes less than three hours for an egg to freeze, so unless we are setting alarms to remind us, what else can we do to keep the eggs unfrozen?
There are a few ways you can delay the inevitable:
Firstly, is there any way you can insulate the coop better? Depending on the size and location of the hen house, things such as wrapping with plastic or tarps will help to keep it a little warmer. Please remember to maintain good ventilation in the coop- this is vitally important for the hens’ welfare.
If your coop is larger than the hens require, is there any way you can partition off part of the area to make a smaller area to keep warm?
Secondly, you can pad the nest boxes with some newspaper, cardboard or even nesting pads and cover liberally with straw or other bedding material. This extra bedding will help to keep the eggs warmer for longer! Extra bedding over the floor of the coop also helps.
Thirdly, as daft as it might sound, curtains in the nest boxes help to keep it a bit warmer. It also provides the hen with privacy for her most important task of the day!
Finally, you might try stacking straw bales around the outside of the coop to create a small ‘buffer’ area. Make sure you don’t stack them inside the coop though, as this can cause respiratory problems for your girls. Also be on the lookout for rodents- warm straw bale, near food is heaven for Rats so watch out!
How Often Should I Collect The Eggs?
During the summer months I collect my eggs once a day, however during the cold winter months I visit the nesting box at least three times each day.
Leaving eggs in the nesting box for several hours in the summer is perfectly OK, this doesn’t do any harm. However, as mentioned above, leaving eggs in the nesting box for several hours during the winter can completely ruin the egg.
This is a nightmare because your hens will be laying fewer eggs during this time anyway, so loosing even more eggs is a big no-no!
All of the measures above can help to delay the freezing of the egg and its contents, but the best way to ensure your eggs aren’t frozen is to visit the coop every three hours or so.
I like to feed my girls as soon as I let them out, so I return around 9am, 12noon, then again in the afternoon around 3pm to check for eggs.
Once you’ve collected your eggs make sure you are storing them correctly to maintain their flavor.
Another way to collect eggs is to time it with replacing your chickens’ water. If you don’t use a waterer that’s heated, you will probably be out there replacing their water every 3 hours or so to stop the water from freezing. You can just check for eggs as you go out to replace their water.
Remember: If hens are denied access to water even for a couple of hours, it can throw them off laying eggs for at least a couple of days.
If you have noticed that the amount of eggs your hens have laid is slowing down during the winter, make sure to read: How To Keep Chickens Laying Eggs During Winter.
Lastly, while this is a bit of a hot topic, and controversial amongst chicken keepers, you may want to consider heating your coop or nesting boxes.
If you live in an extremely cold climate, it might make sense to add some heat to your coop during the winter months.
While chickens don’t necessarily need the added heat, the nesting box may benefit from it instead.
If you decide to add heat lamps or other forms of electrical heating elements, be sure you’ve done your due diligence in ensuring you’ve done everything you can to protect your coop, and flock from fires.
Keeping the ladies dry and in a draft free environment is of paramount importance. Good nutrition and hydration follow as a very close second.
Chickens will do quite well over the winter as long as you pay attention to the basics. They don’t require much else to keep them content and healthy over the winter months. In fact, the highlights of their day is going to be your visits to collect the eggs!
Collect the eggs frequently- it really isn’t too much of a hardship to go and collect those perfect, tasty treasures! You should try to collect your eggs every 3 hours or do, when the weather is below 32F. This will prevent the eggs from freezing.
If your eggs happen to be frozen when you collect them, make sure you don’t eat them as they can make you ill. Instead you should cook and feed them to the hens, they will love you for it!
What Do You Think Is The Best Way To Keep Your Eggs From Freezing?