Northern Lights?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Howard E, Dec 11, 2016.

  1. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't live far enough north to worry about it, but I'm wondering about how folks living in the northern latitudes deal with the reduced levels of lighting in the winter. Not talking about hours of light they say you need to keep them laying, I'm talking about surviving at all.

    In Mid MO, we are down to about 9 1/2 hours of daylight, so birds head for and are on the roost the rest of the time, or about 15 hours of each day.......which happens to be our coldest time of the year. We can get temps down to -5 or -10.

    Farther north, I would think that gets down to 6 to 8 hours of daylight / 16 to 18 hours of darkness and temps in the -20 or more range. Again, when it's not light out, my assumption is they are on the roost. They may not be asleep, but are huddled on the roost. No water, no food for 16 to 18 hours in sub freezing temps. Taken to the extreme up near the arctic circle, they may not get much natural light at all.

    Is there a point where you folks up north add and hour or two of light to allow them to activate to eat and drink? Again, not to stimulate winter laying, but simply to survive? Or put another way, how far north can birds survive without supplemental lighting?

    They can't migrate, so are stuck where we put em.
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    I think there comes a point where it's too cold for chickens to survive without extra care. My birds do okay down to -20's here in Wisconsin, but much colder than that I think animals start freezing to death, so light doesn't really matter I think. I would assume if people from Alaska keep birds they would need to heat and light them. I don't know if anyone on this site is from that far north. How far north are you asking about?
     
  3. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am thinking it is not so much about the cold as when you go far enough north, the days are so short the birds may not have enough time to eat and drink enough in the limited hours of daylight to survive the long hours of darkness, and that would be complicated by the cold that goes with it. A doubled edged sword.

    They can't migrate and they don't hibernate. So at some point, I would think a person wanting to keep chickens would have to offer some amount of supplemental light just to keep them active long enough to survive. And again, not thinking about the extra light to stimulate egg production, just survival.

    Just wondering where that line is? (and grateful I live south of it)
     
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  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Hopefully a northern neighbor will answer how they do it, or don't do it.
     
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    We just grit our teeth, and wait for spring! Along with the shorter days, comes the cold, and the dreary overcast days on end. When the sun does shine, that's when it tends to be even colder, because cloud cover tends to keep things just a tad warmer. I just started a light for my birds a couple of weeks ago. I delay adding the light until they've had a break from laying for a bit, then I start the light and ramp it up a bit each week till they reach 14 hours. Finally getting some eggs.
     
  6. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That isn't my question. Forgetting the eggs, would the birds survive until spring if not for the supplemental lights?

    I'm curious........if you go far enough north, is their a line you cross when it is not possible to keep birds alive without supplemental light?
     
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Yes, they will survive... but I think it does take a toll on them. I have never added light, and I have never had a real long lived chicken. Some people on here post about birds that are 7-8 + years old. I have never even come close! I did have a BO that if she had not met a coon, might have made 4 this spring.

    I have had chickens out and about, quite active in -20 degrees. We don't get a lot of it, a couple of weeks, and even then, the temperature tends to bounce around, but we have had days where the high is -15 to -20, with the nights getting colder. Once in a while, I will find an older bird dead in that weather, but not real often, maybe 3 times in 10 years of keeping chickens.

    We are in the shortest days, longest nights. For instance, mine are roosting up by 3:30 pm if it is cloudy. Not coming off the roost until 7:30, and only then because they hear me. It is daylight, they are just not real active that early in the morning. For us in the north, good ventilation and adequate space in the coop is imperative at this time of year in my opinion. I also think that birds have different feed requirements depending on where they live. I have trouble providing liquid water this time of year. It freezes solid. I soak and drain, grain, and I am setting up a small fodder station. Chicken feed is very dry, but if you wet it, it becomes an ice block that is unusable.

    I have seen posts on here from Alaska and Canada. It will be interesting to see what they say.

    Mrs K
     
  8. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    I live in North Central Alberta, Canada........

    I run a red heat lamp all winter for my Birds.....Not warm by no means but keeps my water from from freezing solid....Here the day light starts at around 8:30 am and it is Dark again before 5:00 pm....Winter solstice is next week, days will start getting longer...My Rooster starts crowing here a 5:00 am....I collect eggs in the Dark before the Sun is up....My Birds do not suffer from the Darkness...All my group of friends with Chickens run heat for their birds.....I use sand in my Coop to help prevent fires....I have Heavy set Breeds that do not flap around.....My Birds are Happy Healthy and produce eggs all winter....I have 10 Hens and got 10 eggs yesterday......I never Change feed....I open the pop door even on cold days to allow them to get outside, some go outside while others dust bath in the coop......
    I know of Some people that have zero heat or light and they lose Birds every winter......My Losses are zero......



    Cheers!
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Might be good to ask this question in the alaska chat thread.
    (it's not real active, but there is one active member that could probably help you out)
    to get someone in a situation where they really lose daylight hours.
    ...and conversely have really long summer days.

    Out of curiosity, I googled and fond this chart....interesting:
    http://www.absak.com/library/average-annual-insolation-alaska
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016
  10. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Your hours of daylight are actually much longer than I would have expected. BUT, if you are running a red heat lamp, you are providing light as well as whatever heat it produces, so in some ways, you are confirming what I suspected. If your neighbors are not, and they lose birds, you may be on the upper limit of how far they can survive without light.........and maybe heat.
     

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