You may have noticed that the chickens at NRT’s Sheep Pasture slow down their egg production dramatically during the winter months, but have you ever wondered why this change happens? Do other birds do this?
All animals, including humans, follow a circadian clock, which is an internal schedule guided by the 24-hours of the day and how many hours of light and dark there are. Throughout the year, the ratio of daylight hours to hours of darkness changes. We see the most hours of sunlight in the summertime and shorter days with less hours of daylight throughout the winter. These changes in light-dark transitions cause chemical changes within animals’ bodies.
For mammals who become inactive during the winter, either by hibernating or going into a state of torpor, shorter days indicate that it is time to start collecting food and upping fat storage within in their bodies. For many birds, the transition of shorter days in the fall is often a cue to start migrating, however; even before birds begin their migration journeys, their bodies have already picked up on the light-dark changes and many birds will begin molting and getting a new set of feathers for optimal flight conditions.
Although we miss fresh eggs in the wintertime, we also know it’s an important process in a bird’s life so that the energy that would normally be used for egg production can be used for molting, migration and keeping warm! We look forward to longer days in the spring and delicious eggs from our happy, healthy chickens when the time is right!
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