Weening off a heat lamp?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by 6RandomBrownLayers, Dec 22, 2011.

  1. 6RandomBrownLayers

    6RandomBrownLayers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 23, 2011
    not sure if this is in the right topic.

    But, my 6 chickens are 14 weeks old and have been under a heat lamp for all of those days except maybe 3 or 4 odd days when I didn't have one, or it blew. ANYWAY, not all of them are roosting. The coop is rather small, 4'x4' but they free range all day from 7:30 to about 4:45 so they are only in the coop to sleep. I heard from another thread that light will keep them from roosting? The lamp is red but even so is still a little bright. They have what I would think of as plenty of roosting room, three 2x4's that all together equal 5 1/2 feet. Is that to small? I would be able to add more if need be. I was wondering if I took the lamp out they would all roost? What do you guys think?
     
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    I wean off the heat lamp at 6 weeks. I also "train" the chicks, even the little ones, with a miniature roost in the brooder. Then, when they are in the grow out pen, I provide another roost about a foot high. Once they go into their "adult" pen at 16 weeks, they get their full sized roost and they take to it naturally.

    Again, the heat lamp goes off here at 6 weeks of age. They are feathered out and no longer need any additional heat.
     
  3. 6RandomBrownLayers

    6RandomBrownLayers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    One day the heat lamp blew and I didn't put one in until I got home. They seemed lost. They had been in the coop before I got home before, but that day when I got home they were wandering around almost like they didn't know where it was. Did they just want to stay out late or were they lost? Now they stay out till after dark and I have to "herd" them into the coop even with the heat lamp. If I took it out would the be lost?
     
  4. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Heading into the coop at dusk is also a learned behavior. Leaving a night light (not a heat lamp) with a timer, inside the coop sometimes helps. They sometimes gravitate toward the lighted coop and settle in. Then, the light snaps off and they sleep. Sometimes.

    You shouldn't have to "herd" them. Their instinct should be to go to where they are secure. Is there some obstacle or steep ramp that they need to climb to get into the coop?
     
  5. 6RandomBrownLayers

    6RandomBrownLayers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The ramp isn't that steep. But they kind of have to hop an inch or 2. I wouldn't think that tht would be much of an inconvenience, would it?
     
  6. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    No, the ramp isn't the issue. If you've been leaving that lamp on all night, in my experience, they haven't learned their days from their nights well enough. This is a skill they would have mastered by now, and correct me if I'm wrong, but if they've had the light on all night, they have not had to rely on their own sense of "darkness is falling and we need to get our butts inside the coop" instinct.

    Chickens are amazingly time sensitive. They "get it" that night is falling and they need to be inside where they feel safe. Chicken should "fear" the darkness, because they are vulnerable in the dark to predators. Their natural instinct will kick in and they will settle themselves in long before dusk and prepare for what they KNOW will be darkness. Does that make sense? This happens when they actually experience total darkness at night. They learn to prepare for its coming with some urgency and predictability.
     
  7. 6RandomBrownLayers

    6RandomBrownLayers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So should I ween them off the lamp or take it away all at once? The coop is somewhat close to the house so they can still see the light from the house. Will this affect the total darkness? And if I take away the lamp will it take them a few nights before they go to the coop before it gets dark? Sorry for all the questions if this is becoming tedious.
     
  8. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    First, change the bulb to a small, low wattage lamp. I like to use the min-Flors because they don't take much electricity. To each their own. Use a timer. Have the light snap off 1/2 hour after sunset. The timer is important to provide consistency. Take away the human "I have to remember" factor. They'll learn. They are smart. Hopefully, in a week to 10 days, they'll head toward to roost, or at least indoors at about 4:30 pm all by themselves. Give it a try. Give them a week or 10 days to master it, but my guess is that they will.

    They will prefer the roost once they no longer huddle under a heat lamp. They will also instinctively choose the roost as they prefer roosting high up in the darkness.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2011
  9. 6RandomBrownLayers

    6RandomBrownLayers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 23, 2011
    If I didn't use the light would they learn to go in the coop?
     
  10. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Hard to say. There is an element of re-learning, re-training here. Try it and see what happens. The first step is this. They need to sleep in the dark. Then, they will come to "expect" the darkness and "prepare" appropriately for it. I've had a few stragglers over the years, but really, they all learn this. It is their instinct.
     

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