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Winter care for tired hens & new youngsters?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by wateboe, Sep 9, 2008.

  1. wateboe

    wateboe Songster

    Sep 8, 2008
    Lebanon, Ohio
    We keep layers, and though I understand that I can encourage them to lay throught he winter by controlling the light, I am wondering if I should.

    A handful of our hens are new to us, but are roughly a year to eighteen months old. They were used as producers of "purebred" fertilized eggs before they came to us a week ago. They seem to be healthy, but a bit worn out from the experience! (our original small flock-members look great but these new girls have lots of missing feathers.) I am inclined to let the whole group adjust with the natural light changes and slow down egg production... but what does that mean, exactly? Is there a "typical" measurable reduction in eggs? Will this benefit then hens as far as their health goes?

    We also have a handful of chicks (hatched betwween 8/20 and 9/1) in a different space, of course. Should we care for them differently as far as lighting goes? I have heard that we should adjust the lighting to help them mature successfully since they were hatched late in the year. (We are hoping that they are female, so will proceed as if they are for now!)

    The adults' indoor space is large (a five stall barn) and secure, but I wonder if I should create a smaller, more enclosed space for them to roost in for the winter... any thoughts?
  2. Wynette

    Wynette Moderator Staff Member

    Sep 25, 2007
    First, I hope you've got the new ones separated for now....you should quarantine them for a minimum of 3 weeks.

    The new ones missing feathers are probably in molt right now. Nothing to worry about; this a natural part of their cycle.

    As far as controlling their laying via light - that's completely up to you. I personally feel that the daylight hours becoming shorter, and the hens laying less is a natural part of what they need to go through to rejuvenate a bit. But, some folks have a light on a timer to add a few hours of light each day, so they continue to lay. It's really up to you on how you want to handle that.

    As far as making a smaller spot for them for winter to roost in, that would be a good idea. I have one pen in a large barn, and I ended up building an enclosure for them that is 4x8 with a few roosts in it. They huddle together on their roost to help keep each other warm in the winter in this little enclosure. DH made a nice little pophole in the side of the barn, and they go out during the day, and back in at night. We close the pophole door at night to keep predators out. It works out nicely, as I can take care of the chickens in this pen as I'm tending to my horses & donkeys, all in the same building.

    Good luck!
  3. wateboe

    wateboe Songster

    Sep 8, 2008
    Lebanon, Ohio
    Yes, Wynette, everyone is separated for quarantine purposes right now. We should be able to get them all together before the cold weather moves in.

    It sounds like you are of the same mind as I as far as the winter light goes. We do not depend on the eggs for anything other than the pleasure they provide us in the kitchen, so I think that we will let the girls winter-over in a more natural way.

    Do they lay at all during the winter? (My mother and grandmother will really miss their weekly dozen eggs if they don't! Ow, I will never hear the end of that from my mother... )

    I like the idea of a small "house" inside their current indoor space for the winter. They overnight in what is essentially a large broodmare stall that we modified to guard aginst predators and to provide roosting space. I was not excited by the prospect of trying to winterize the entire stall! A smaller house inside the stall would still give them access to the larger indoor space and the outdoor run during the day when the weather is agreeable.

    I guessed that the tired looking hens were probably molting. I am relieved to hear you say it as well!

    I would still like to hear any opinions about the late season chicks and light requirements for healthy maturation.... any ideas?

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