Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Beautiful Pacific Northwest
• Horses: 0
Dead Rabbit is absolutely correct on all her posts. I might be able to add a little bit from personal experience and research I've dug up since having my flock.
When the amount of daylight drops below 15 hours a day, that triggers a molt, or if not a molt, it decreases egg production. Basically, mother nature is telling the birds that now is not a good time to have chicks and expect them to survive, so stop laying until the days get longer in the Spring.
Artificial light can fool them, but make sure the artificial light is in the correct wavelength range. It has to be in the red end of the spectrum. I use a 9W flourescent bulb with wavelength 2700K. 60W should be good with an incandescent bulb, again, make sure it's the right wavelength.
Set a timer so you get 14-16 hours of light. More than that, and your birds won't get good sleep, and you'll have other problems.
Since your birds have already slowed down, it may be too late to give them artificial light. Usually, once the slowdown process is triggered, that's it, though I've heard of some people being able to start them back up.
I let my birds molt. It gives their systems a rest and re-boots them. But my birds are as much pets as layers, so I'm not dependent on egg-sales or anything. I just let them go natural. Some of my birds are 5 years old and still lay almost an egg a day after they start up in the Spring.
I've found that when they're molting they love extra-protein treats. As mentioned cat food is a favorite. They also go bonkers over tuna-fish (any fish) and any meat bones I have left from the kitchen. Man, can they ever pick a bone clean. Old Goldie got such a meat-craving yesterday that I saw her on the deck challenging my 100-pound lab for his beef-bone. Then some of the other chickens joined in. That poor dog! He brought his bone inside to get some peace this morning.