Hello everyone, I have a couple of questions about managing my flock, and a specific one about their sleeping habits. I have 4 buffs and 2 R.I. Reds. I am getting 4 to 6 eggs a day (mostly 6) and have put a red heat lamp in the hen house that comes on at dusk and stays on all night now that it is winter. Do chickens need darkness to sleep? Do they prefer darkness at night? I have noticed that some of them are sitting on the landing of the hen house, sort of half in and half out of the doorway. Is there a rule of thumb as to how cold it needs to be outside before needing a heat lamp? I don't know if it's too warm in the hen house (it's not noticeably warm) or if they are hanging out on the porch for the darkness. I am feeding them layer crumbles and table scraps and have had no problems with soft shells, just the opposite. Their shells are quite hard and thick. They get scratch once a day, now that it's cold. And lots of dried bread, pumpkins (from halloween from a neighbor), and have been cooking them oatmeal lately as we have had an unnatural cold snap for the last week. (18 degrees at night and low 30's for a high). I occasionally give them grit, but am wondering if they need it constantly (is oyster shell for the same purpose, or is it for the shells). The run has a dirt floor so I suppose they get grit from there, but I am not opposed to providing it either. My girls have always headed for the barn, so to speak, at dusk but lately (above mentioned cold snap) I have been hanging a trouble light by their water to keep it from freezing (not working too well)' and have noticed that now they don't head in at dusk. They will hang out in the run as long as the light is on (except for one of the Reds, which obviously has more sense then the others to get in out of the cold) and I have been going out and turning it off so they will head into the hen house. I am sorry for so many questions. My girls are about 7 months old, and have been laying for about 2 months. thanks for all the help. Sincerely, Chris Washington P.S. All of my girls are very tame, as we held them every day when they were chicks, and love to picked up and cuddled. All that is except the R.I. Reds, you can pick them up but they don't like to cuddle and if you pick them up without holding the wings they flap away. The reds are named Cinnamon and Cocoa, and the buffs are named Abby, Cleo (very regal), McNugget (daughters pick), and Matilda (the baby of the group) who lays little baby eggs.