There were so many questions about chickens I thought I would answer them here.
Yes, chickens do lay eggs according to the amount of light they get.
Commercial egg farms keep light on pretty much all the time. They want maximum egg production. But this wears the chicken out.
Generally chickens lay most eggs the first 2 years of life. They start laying around 5-7 months old. Most egg laying breeds lay an egg a day, when they first start laying. Some breeds are more for meat or even feathers, and they lay slightly less, and taper off laying faster. Again, this is like picking plants for your area, you need to know what you want. After about 1 1/2 to 2 years they start slowing down. For instance, they may slow down to maybe an egg every other day in the beginning, then every 3 or 4 days, then one a week, and so on.... But some breeds not known to be egg producers will slow down even more, and faster. That is why, in general, farmers change flocks every two years. (egg producing farms may change flocks every year) A chickens natural life span is 12 or more years.
Chickens lay most of their eggs in the spring. They taper off as fall comes, and stop laying in the winter. If you provide light for chickens (usually if a farmer is going to provide light it may be added in the morning side of the dark..) Then they will lay eggs as if it were spring or summer, even though it is the winter. What this does is stimulate the eye/brain to think it is spring. But when do they get a rest? I choose not to add light to them. Imagine their little bodies working over time to provide eggs and never getting a rest. I use a flash light at night if I have to go out there, and I talk to them to let them know it is me and not some predator.
That's just me, I like to do things naturally..and with animals I think they live longer. Which may or may not mean they are "happy". We have had chickens that were still laying pretty regular at 6 and 7 years old, before they slow down drastically. We used to sell eggs (if you can call it selling..we used a "donation" system rather then a set price) to local neighbors and exchange them for services to others. In that way when we had a large number of chickens, they paid for themselves, because we used "egg" money to pay for feed. And most people we know give us egg boxes when they have them.
I generally used to try and get around 12 to 20 chickens because I know after the initial onslaught (first year or 2), they are going to slow down. Some will die or be killed etc. And after all-we weren't really in the egg business. And once everything is settled that leaves you with a good dozen or more for the family. Of course a lot of loss can be due to over crowding, so a smaller number is easier to care for. Our chicken house can hold around 35 birds, (at 4 sq feet each) so we have plenty of room for only 20 or 25. Even better for a dozen.(It makes it like a mansion for only a dozen!) I do not close them up in rain or snow if the chicken house is full of birds. I want them to have to option of going out...animals, and especially chickens get nervous when they are crowded. I do now that there is only a half dozen, because they have the room to move around freely.
But what to do with ALL those eggs, if you start with a flock of 25 or more? (or even 12?) That's an egg day from almost every chicken...(we're talking about 25 or more chickens a day) that's dozens of eggs a week.
There is a way to save eggs in the heavier producing summer months, so you can have fresh eggs in the colder slower months (and they probably are fresher then store bought anyway, even though preserved.) It is relatively simple.
Freeze them. Beat whole eggs and add either a teaspoon of salt or a teaspoon of sugar (as a stabilizer) depending on what you want to use them for. Don't forget to label them! Use ice cube trays to freeze them. Approximately 3 Tablespoons to a compartment equals one egg.
You can also freeze plain yokes the same way, with either sugar or salt, but the result isn't as good. Egg whites can be frozen as is with nothing added. In fact when I make something that uses only yokes, I have a container in the freezer and I keep adding whites to it, and mark on the lid how many are in the container, until I have 13-15 and make an Angel Food Cake.
I am way over due for new chickens. The last 25 I got I split the order with someone, and that was 7 years ago. I am down to 6 old hens and a rooster, and they are laying pretty few and far between. I have been putting off getting new ones, because what will I do with them if we move? We do have a local park that "adopts". It was an original farm in the area, and it was deeded to the town as long as it stays a "farm" ..so the buildings still stand, and are used as natural museums, the little barn, house, sheds, etc. There are wilderness paths through the woods for walking and hiking, picnic tables, baseball and soccer fields, play ground, pavillion for rainy days and open air free concerts in the summer months, etc. In the farm area they have animals. Many DOZENS of chickens, and even MORE roosters...adopted as people move, or don't know what to do with them after they stop laying, or that rooster the neighbor complains about....goats, pigs, a donkey, rabbits galore. But outside of regular feeding and water, the barn is for the larger animals, the goats and donkey occasional cow, etc, and they are put in at night and closed up (it is an open air barn though so small animals and birds can come and go) ...but for the birds..chickens, Guineas, ducks geese and cats, whatever they happen to have at the time, grabs....it is first come first served. They are technically on their own..and it can be a brutal pecking order. And I KNOW me...I would be wondering always if they were protected, or fed or still alive..I guess I get attached to living things... I might just have to get a half dozen or something this spring, just to have them. There is nothing like the first eggs of the spring...although if I get them chances are they aren't going to be laying until late fall..sooo...decisions decisions...
Chickens have personalities, you know. (Like Koi. Anyone have any Koi? They know who feeds them, and come to the surface when they see them...will stay below if it is not the feeder. They will come right up out of the water to greet you and let you pet them.) And like Koi, chickens are all different. They recognize who feeds them, and they come when called. Some are gentle, some are brutal..and they are always funny. I Love their growth stages..the "infants" and the "teens"..they are just so funny!
I was trying to find some pictures but I really don't have any and after 63 degrees, yesterday, it is 41 with high wind, and a wind chill of 31 today, so I don't feel like standing out there to take any new ones...haha! So heres's a picture of one of the last storms...remember in the north..it is STILL winter...(I have to keep reminding myself of that)
See ya later,