Do they slow down or stop completely? Lighting? Help me Northerners!


10 Years
Feb 26, 2009
Yarmouth, Maine
I live in Maine and have a beautiful 8x6 coop that my husband built for our 8 hens. About half the bunch is laying so far and we couldn't be more thrilled!! Eggs are delicious and girls are happy! This will be our first winter with the chickens and the coop doesn't have electricity. I have a couple questions:
(FYI: Breeds are Dominique, Australorp, SL Wyandotte, Cochin, Campine, Sizzle and 2 EE's)

1) Do I have to have a light on to extend the daylight hours to keep them laying?

2) If they haven't started by now will they wait until spring? The EE's and the Cochin aren't laying yet. ( 28 weeks)

3) If I don't have a light will they slow down in egg production or stop completely?

4) How cold is too cold? I plan to weatherize the coop fairly well -- stop some of the big drafts and leave some openings for ventilation but on those weeks when it stays in the single digits do I need add some sort of heating device? Will they go on egg-strike if it gets too cold?

5) Will the eggs freeze while I am at work? Speaking of freezing any great ideas on keeping the water from freezing?

Thanks to all you northerners -- as a beautiful fall unfolds I can't help but think what is around the corner!!
Hey Mainer,
I will be watching this post closely... Our first winter too.
I had the same question about the eggs freezing.

Citychook has a great post on winter chickens on her site. I found it helpful.

I insulated, but have no plans for heat. The water issue is still a puzzle.

Enjoy this beautiful day!
Hey Shawn - it really is a beautiful fall day! I'll check on citychooks page and hopefully we'll get some responses on here as well~ cheers -kelly
well i dont know if my way is the right way, but i keep a red heat lamp on in the coop all winter. its right over the waterer. it does keep the water from freezeing and also the eggs. my birds layed all threw the winter, with out a slow down. but it does depend on the breed as well.
I was told not to put a supplemental light by an old timer. He said it may get them to lay more but shortens their laying life
he said they rest for a reason, cuz they need it. I only used insulation in my coop last year, was also told not to use a heat lamp because unless you have a generator the chickens will not acclimate to the cold and the first power outage you have(we always have at least one) you will lose a LOT of your chickens. You need proper ventilation without drafts. The only problem I had with the eggs freezing were the ones that were laid after I locked them up for the night, if it got real cold out they would freeze solid and split. Other than that I would collect the eggs in the morning and then as early as I could get there in the late afternoon/early evening. I know many people use an electric waterer, it has a heating coil in it. I don't have that option as my coop is across the street from my house/power source. I would fill the rubber bowls with warm water in the morning and dump/refill it when I did the later egg check. It's a little more work but I didn't lose any to the cold and they all free ranged last year. They did lay, but not every day. It was usually every other day and they lay every day in the summer. I think it would depend on the breed and how cold hardy they are, my EE's don't lay everyday now so I am not expecting much for the winter

you wouldn't happen to have any recent pics of that sizzle would ya?
I'm going to keep an eye on this thread as well since its my first winter with chickens too!!! I keep hearing differing advice and can't decide on what exactly I want to do!
Last winter, I had an uninsulated, unheated coop, and didn't lose a bird. This winter, I've insulated the ceiling, and plan to do everything the same, lots of litter on the floor, fresh warm water in the morning and afternoon, and sometimes the evening too. We lost a few eggs to freezing, but otherwise it was all fine. They did stop laying for the 'holiday' season... thanksgiving - groundhog day....
I live on the CT/MA line so not quite as far north as you but here is my 2 cents

I use a red heat lamp during the winter months to extend the light and provide a little heat in the coop. It gets turned on just before night fall and I shut it off around 8:00 PM. My first coop is insulated so as long as I change the water in the morning and before bed they never have to deal with it freezing. Due to the heat generated by my birds and the hay I use during the winter months for the nesting boxes I have not had an issue with any eggs freezing, we gather in the morning when we let the girls out and again at night when they get put away. Most of my hens slowed way down during the winter months and a few of them stopped until they were done molting in the spring. My first flock of birds were aquired in the summer and started laying in November with snow on the ground - I think having a full 12 hours of light helped also. I personally like to give my girls a break and let them go through their normal cycles. Best wishes and enjoy the beautiful fall day - The maple leaves are starting to get their wonderful colors here now that we are having cooler nights.
I keep hearing this, but I have a hard time believing it. What do hens do closer to the equator, where the day is the same length all year long?

(Now shorter laying "life" is believable, but unless you're raising them as pets, they'll likely be in the soup-pot at age 3 anyway).

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