SO...feel like answering a few questions for a new chicken mom?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by bearz, Aug 20, 2008.

  1. bearz

    bearz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 20, 2008
    My MIL died this spring. She raised chickens and in 14 years never taught me a thing about them. My DS inherited her chickens. He's 8 and loves them, so now I'm chicken mama. I've managed to incubate and hatch about a dozen, ordered 25, had 5 from grandma and have a broody hen hatching in the next couple of days. Of course now I'm hooked on these fuzzy butts and need to learn how to care for them all winter.

    SO, here are my questions:

    My batch of 25 pullet chicks are a rainbow layer mix. They are about 8 or so weeks old. At what point can I expect them to start laying? Since I live in WI and the nights are getting colder, will they not lay until next spring? I have people waiting anxiously for eggs.

    Am I supposed to have heat lamps in the coop in the winter? I remember she always had a light going but I'm sure it was just a regular bulb. The coop is a 14x16 new shed, not insulated, about 1 foot off the ground so there is air circulation underneath. For winter I'm thinking we'll probably have 40 chickens in there. There will also be a rabbit in a separate cage in there. Will this be enough to keep them warm or will I have to heat it. The coop is sheltered from winds by a 50x90 shed on one side and a small work shed on the other side, so only 2 sides are directly exposed to the worst of the elements.

    Just how warm should it be in the coop in the winter. I have heard that combs can get frostbite and I don't want that because DS will be showing some of these chickens at the fair next year.

    Will chickens lay eggs thru the winter?

    Can I keep all the roos together in one separate cage in the coop or will they tear each other apart? I only want certain eggs fertilized (brown leghorns, cochins and RIRs) since I want to build up the brown egg layer stock.

    Thanks for the advice!
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2008
  2. bearz

    bearz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 20, 2008
    Oh, also, we have a ton of straw bales and I'm wondering if I should stack them up against a couple of the walls for insulation and perches?
     
  3. cjeanean

    cjeanean Can't Decide

    Mar 5, 2008
    Missouri
    LOL!!! I know about the addiction, as does everyone else here...to answer your questions (I don't know too terribly much about chickens, but hopefully I can shed some light):

    Egg laying: hens usually start laying around 22 weeks

    Coop warmth: chickens give off quite a bit of body heat, and with a 14 x 16 coop they *MAY* be okay. You might want to rig something up for heat just in case, and only use it if they're noticeably cold (huddling up, etc). If you have really hard winters you might want to go ahead and count on needing a heat source. Some breeds are more cold hardy than others.

    Wintertime laying: The light you're talking about your MIL having was probably to give the hens a full 14-16 hour day. Their laying cycle depends on the length of the days, so as the days get shorter they won't lay. However, if you have a light turned on early in the morning to start their day a few hours early, they should be fine and continue laying. I've heard that some breeds won't lay if it's cold, but my understanding is that weather doesn't really matter, it's the length of the day.

    Roos: from what I've been told, BACHELOR VIRGIN roos are okay together. They have to have NO hens and they can't get the whole mating thing going, otherwise you'll have problems. You'll want to keep them out of sight of the hens, if possible out of earshot as well, but definately keep them separated and don't let them mate even once, otherwise they'll go at it. When you select one to use as a stud, he must be separated from then on out, otherwise he'll fight the others. You can't just throw him back in with your other bachelor virgin roos.

    Hay bales: YES!!! Those should do very well for insulation, definately give it a shot! Don't know if they'll roost on it, but you never know....mine roost wherever they can, except for the area I built as a roost....
     
  4. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    My batch of 25 pullet chicks are a rainbow layer mix. They are about 8 or so weeks old. At what point can I expect them to start laying? Since I live in WI and the nights are getting colder, will they not lay until next spring? I have people waiting anxiously for eggs.

    Figure they will start to lay about 5-6 months old. I've had some start to lay in Feb when they were born in August. They may take 6-7 months but in the long run will be better in the bodies for it.



    Am I supposed to have heat lamps in the coop in the winter?

    It is not always necessary. I do not heat my coops and unless it's in the teens, my birds sleep outside by choice because they are silly. [​IMG] The important thing is LOTS of ventilation. Make sure air flows and humidity does not get too high as humidity and cold = frostbite.


    I remember she always had a light going but I'm sure it was just a regular bulb. The coop is a 14x16 new shed, not insulated, about 1 foot off the ground so there is air circulation underneath. For winter I'm thinking we'll probably have 40 chickens in there. There will also be a rabbit in a separate cage in there. Will this be enough to keep them warm or will I have to heat it. The coop is sheltered from winds by a 50x90 shed on one side and a small work shed on the other side, so only 2 sides are directly exposed to the worst of the elements.

    Will they have a run? If not, just over 4 sq feet a bird may stress them out in the winter. They can tolerate cold pretty well and being able to get out would be a good thing. Rule of thumb is 4 in and 10 out. Many find this too small though so for each situation, do what works and if pecking or bullying occurs, change it. It's best to prevent it though as bad habits can be very hard to break in birds, with many culling becomes the best option. Key point is ventilation with the coop. Keep air flowing and humidity low or they will frost bite. Cold is better than humid. A water heater will let them have fresh water. Lots of bedding is also a good thing.


    Just how warm should it be in the coop in the winter. I have heard that combs can get frostbite and I don't want that because DS will be showing some of these chickens at the fair next year.

    Ventilation and more ventilation. If I had a real coop vs tractors with hutches, I'd probably see if I could keep the low just above freezing at 34-38. If you heated it till 60 and they go out to 20, they will be more prone to frost bite. If she wants to show, I would try to give as much space as possible and keep as few roos as possible. Roos and close quarters can lead to feather damage that won't be replaced till after moult. Damage = not the best for show, even if it's just a 4H type where showman ship is a large portion of points.


    Will chickens lay eggs thru the winter?

    Some do, some don't, but it will taper off and if winter is really hard, they may stop. Younger birds will be more prone to lay though winter.

    Can I keep all the roos together in one separate cage in the coop or will they tear each other apart? I only want certain eggs fertilized (brown leghorns, cochins and RIRs) since I want to build up the brown egg layer stock.

    If they can see the girls or access them, they will fight. You can have a batchlor pad, but keep the girls out. If you're going for egg production, use the RIR roos over your stock. Brown leghorns are large white egg layers so not good if you want brown eggs. Cochins like to set on eggs and don't lay big ones. They are good broodies though but I'd say I got about 5 dozen from my cochin girl the whole year.

    You can use straw bales on the inside for insulaton but watch for mice hiding in it and moisture. If you make some perches with 2x4's with the 4 side up, and put in a droppings pit you can clean out daily, that will reduce humidity in the coop. DE or stall dry to reduce moisture in the coop would also be a good idea.
     
  5. bearz

    bearz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thats good to know about the experienced Roo. I have my only experienced one in with a virgin right now and they get along, but they've been together since the other was a baby. They are silkies and I"m told they are better behaved than most. I probably only have about 6 roos out of the 40 and I'll be using most of them for breeding next spring so I'll keep that in mind.
     
  6. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    2-3 roos is probably all you'll need to keep the flock of 34 girls fertile. I've had non virgin males living together before in sight of the free ranging hens and they just paced the tractor all day trying to get to them. Had them cooped as they were slated for dinner. If you do just keep two roo's, if they have enough outside space, you can just grow them up with the girls and keep them together. With enough girls and constant exposure, the girls will be laying fertilized eggs and you don't have to wait around wondering if the girls are comfortable enough with the roos to let them mate. I've had roos living with the girls no problem, just had to make sure there were lots of hens to go around.
     
  7. bearz

    bearz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well, I do have another coop, about 4x8. Maybe I should put the roos in there with the rabbit? That would keep it pretty warm. 6 birds and a rabbit?
     
  8. bearz

    bearz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 20, 2008
    So chickens can go outside in the winter? We are putting up a run this weekend...just haven't got around to it before now. It has to be good and secure since I have 5 farm cats that are excellent hunters. I just thought chickens were too fragile to be in cold weather?

    I guess I have a lot to learn!
     
  9. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    The feral hunters here are lower on the pecking order than even the young silkies. However, they do go out in the winter.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  10. bearz

    bearz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 20, 2008
    WOW! Well, I guess they'll be going out in the winter! Ya learn something new every day!

    Next thing you'll be telling me the rabbit can go out in the winter too! *snicker snicker*
     

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