Help! New mother of chickens with questions regarding egglaying & heating!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by michelle127, Nov 2, 2013.

  1. michelle127

    michelle127 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 2, 2013



    I am a "new mother" to our chickens. Our girls were born on May 5th, 2013 so tomorrow they will be 26 weeks old. We got them when they were a day old on May 6th. We have a Black Australorp (Muffin), Buff Orpington (Nugget), Silver Laced Wyandotte (Oreo), and an Americauna (Peanut). Against what some people advised, we chose to keep their brooder in our house. We chose to do this because of the extra time and interaction we would have with them. They moved outside after all of their feathers came in. We constructed a roughly 4x4 coop. It was constructed with typical lumber and plywood, with insulation and then paneling for walls. There is also siding on the outside. (Pretty well insulated!) We live in Wisconsin where it can get down right cold during the winter. Right now, our lows are around 25F and highs around 45F. I actually have a wireless thermometer in the coop with the receiver in the house. Generally at night, it stays around 40F right now. I have done quite a bit of research and am still undecided with many things which leaves me with few questions.
    First question is, should I be worried that they aren't laying eggs? Right now, we get roughly 10-10.5 hours of natural daylight right now and by the end of the month, it'll be down to about 9 hours. Mid-winter, it'll be down close to 0F at night with some highs in the single digits. My father in law asks frequently and continues to tell me they should be laying by now. They are on laying feed- have been for about 3-4 weeks. They receive shelled corn for a snack almost daily. There is oyster shells mixed in with their feed. They also free range almost daily (weather depending).
    So should we offer supplemental lighting? We are not in it for dozens of eggs a month, but would like fresh eggs throughout the winter for baking. Since they have not laid a single egg, I'm wondering if this isn't the way to go to get the process rolling? Also from reading, we have come to the conclusion that if we use a light, we would use a white light. Our girls get along very well so no need for red. I also picked up an outdoor light fixture with a glass cover so that the girls can't bump the light, or if the bulb shatters, it won't fall out of the fixture. My thoughts would be to turn it on at 5 am, off when the sun comes up, and then back on around 4 pm-8 pm to give them enough lighting.
    Next question being what are people's thoughts on heating? We actually bought a panel heater which is installed on the ceiling right now. It has only kicked on once. We have a thermostat that kicks on at 38F and off at 50F. My thoughts with the heater is that it keeps the water and eventually eggs from freezing. I also don't want to "spoil" the girls so they don't want to go outside or if they do they wouldn't have a decent coat. My thought was 38-50F isn't really overly heated but helps keep the chill out. All of our chickens are cold hardy but I never want to walk out to find one of them dead.
    Any advice for this newer mom would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    I just added pictures to show the coop. The heater is flat mounted against the ceiling and is a smooth finish. It has been in there about 3 weeks and has a very minor amount of dust on it. We clean the coop 1-2x weekly (taking everything out). We don't do the deep litter method.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
  2. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    I'd be very worried about the heater starting a fire. Chickens produce a lot of dander and before long, it will be coated in dust. Chickens handle cold very well, provided there are no drafts.

    As for lighting, that is a personal preference. 26 weeks is not that old, they will start without light, but you will certainly get more eggs with light.
  3. chick2flick

    chick2flick Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 1, 2013
    I agree about the heater being a potential hazard and that your birds are still fairly young. Not all chickens follow a set schedule when beginning to lay. Mine are about the same age or a bit older and still haven't started. And chickens are much hardier than most people realize.
    I love your coop design & how it matches with the house. From what I can see, you have 4 birds (?). My greatest concern is what I don't see and that is adequate ventilation. Even in the coldest regions, chickens do need ventilation for air circulation. With the coop being insulated, litter and body heat they should be okay for warmth. But without ventilation, they may suffocate. It will create condensation (excess moisture) and that will freeze and possibly kill them.
    If at all possible, cut or drill a couple of holes along the top on two sides for cross air circulation. (unless of course it's already there & I just can't see it). As your temps dip below teens, you can put some Vaseline on their combs & wattles (maybe even their feet) to help protect from frostbite. Also make sure their water doesn't freeze over and you can feed them some corn that creates more body heat
    I am not an expert, just sharing what I've learned. Your temps run much colder for longer times, but we have had winter temps in the high teens for highs and single digits for lows for over a week at a time (and highs less than 35 for about a month) with only a tarp on 3 sides (shed wall was 4th side) for protection. I use deep litter method in the coop and stir it up atleast once a week, this too helps to create heat and change or check their water several times a day. You can also give them a warm treat before roost time. Even if you don't think they'd want to, let them out to range even in the snow & ice. Movement creates body heat. There are a lot of little things you can do to help ensure their winter survival and it all adds up.

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