Yet another lighting question.......

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by khable, Sep 7, 2007.

  1. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    Another issue with artificial daylight hours in winter is that hens who are pushed to lay at high rates all winter have been shown to develop reproductive cancer. I provided a little artificial light at both ends of the day during my first winter of having chickens. This winter, I am choosing to have a heatlamp hanging over the large galvanized waterer come on around 5 or 6 a.m. to melt any ice that may have formed in the tray. I will not add extra at night. Heatlamps, as a rule, do not give off bright light anyway, so I am not really adding artificial light, per se.
     
  2. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

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    Personally I would put more weight on the diet part and breed than heat or light.
    Lets say that you had little experience and were just going to give this whole off-season laying thing a try. You have what you have running amok in your yard, so to speak, and must stack the deck in your favor. All matters of breeding fly out the window, so then what? If you'll note, Mr. Kains said nothing of artificial light, since he didnt really have any in 1910! That part of it was mine, based on what has been learned since he published his comments a century ago.

    If you are buying feed like most of us, then diet is practically taken care of for you. About all you need tt add is green feed during the fall and winter. In preceding chapters, Mr Kains goes into great lengths on formulating feed - thus his emphasis on dietary components. I edited much because it didnt apply, but I left the important part: you must understand the shift in dietary NEEDS during the winter.

    We hit -16 here during the winter and they still lay. Although production does drop from the summer #'s. Draft free coop and lots of bedding and they do just fine.
    A tight coop will be warmer than you might think. I'm always surprised come winter at how "cozy" it is compared to outside. However, if a chicken does not have to expend so much food energy to keep warm, there will be more for egg production. That wasn't covered in this quote because it is well known and covered elsewhere.
    Given this, it behooves you to give them a some heat if you can - if maximum egg results are truly your goal.

    I'm also curious to know if you add any supplemental heat or have you done so in the past and recorded any increase in production for it?
    Also, would you elaborate on the timing issue as it applies to you? Do you just use the same hens over and over, without refereshing the laying flock?

    I have 5 year old hens here that are reliable winter layers. The characteristic has been passed on to their progeny. So the lineage of your birds will have an impact also. Pushing hens too hard to lay in the winter just burns them out quicker. That is OK from the commercial perspective but not so desirable from the hobbyists point of view.

    > > > > > > This was Mr. Kains main point and really the most critical one. If you get nothing else out of all this, get this burned in.... Ready??:

    Having chickens in the laying phase of their year at the right point on the calender is what makes for eggs - regardless of the season.


    Now, there is little doubt of it, but layers that lay are important. That, too was stessed in the quote. It seems simple, but I guarantee many who read this do not recognize that. They have chickens, that's it. When laying slows or stops in the fall/winter, they either worry that something is wrong or shrug their shoulders. Little thought is normally given to actually managing for a purpose...

    Mr. Kains was writing from a profitability perspective, remember. He would have also culled undesirables from his flock as needed and, if you caught it, would replace birds at planned intervals through the year... all part of being in what was for him a seasonal egg business.

    The same rules apply to hobbyists - they are in the 'seasonal egg business', too. However, most hobbyists will refuse to cull any of their "pets" and most add birds based on "cuteness," serendipity or whim. Well and good, I suppose, but the discussion here is to have quality layers that actually lay well in the winter.

    Some readers will see these things as the penultimate of the process, that which is to be reached for if you are serious. I hope so - that was my intent in presenting it. But many, if not most, will discount all that as unimportant. I disagree with them fervently.

    It does little but drain your finances to feed hens that don't lay well, are out of season, etc. Who buys the feed, you or them? At any given time, there is usually at least one post on BYC lamenting the high cost of feed... so we know that answer!
    As long as you are the one feeding them, your aim should be to get the maximum results from them. Feeding unproductive hens only burdens you, not them. This is especially so if you intend to apply the extra effort required to have them lay out of their natural season. For the "fishtank" folks, e.g., those who just like to see lots of chickens running around in a poultryesque "aquarium," none of this is likely to apply. I'd be surprised to learn that they were still with it this far. For the rest, those who are still reading this, it very likely should.

    I realize, too, that this thread does not offer a step-by-step plan. We could do that, if we wanted and perhaps that would make for a good extension of this topic. Instead it was my intent to offer the hobbyist some food for thought, from someone who did what were talking about, back when there wasn't any fancy science, pseudo or otherwise. He essentially refined what we hobbyists do today... make do with less and what is on hand, in order to get more.

    I hope it did just that and will help add more determined effort to everybody's flock.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 8, 2007
  3. ozark hen

    ozark hen Living My Dream

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    My dh and I were discussing artificial lighting this morning..after reading Cyn's and elderroo's advice I have made up my mind not to use it. thank you for the info
     
  4. AK-Bird-brain

    AK-Bird-brain I gots Duckies!

    May 7, 2007
    Sterling, Alaska
    We get extremely cold all winter here. We use two heat lamps in a double insulated coop... a red lamp right over the roosts for nighttime, and a white one during the day. They're on timers, so when the red is on the white is off, and visa versa, with the white on for about 14 hours. There's a red lamp on the water all the time, because otherwise it will freeze solid in about 5 minutes. We got our chicks in May, and by October they were laying, and kept going strong all winter. Some of the older hens that we bought full grown are going through molt right now, so they should start laying again next month and go all winter. We don't "force" them to lay all winter... we just give them a "normal day" with the lamps, and keep a warm (50-60F) coop for them. We just doubled up an old towel and stapled it over the little trap door so that it keeps the drafts to a minimum, and they come and go as they please. I would keep the protein high, and corn high during the winter so they have plenty of energy and internal heat, and just try to keep them as normal and comfortable as possible.
    Good luck! [​IMG]
     
  5. ozark hen

    ozark hen Living My Dream

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    AK- you and Donna are the exception to the rule now aren't you? LOL I would be using heat lamps if I lived there, too. Your days get extremely short on daylight, right? It is so beautiful where you live..Donna sends me photos. Hope to visit that state someday. Have a good one!
     
  6. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

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    We get extremely cold all winter here. We use two heat lamps in a double insulated coop... a red lamp right over the roosts for nighttime, and a white one during the day. They're on timers, so when the red is on the white is off, and visa versa, with the white on for about 14 hours.
    Perfect.

    There's a red lamp on the water all the time, because otherwise it will freeze solid in about 5 minutes.
    Get one of those coffer mug warmers for a $1 at the thrift store. Maybe two. Set your waterer on it and make a shroud to keep the cluckers out of the water. Works good and uses less energy.

    We got our chicks in May, and by October they were laying, and kept going strong all winter. Some of the older hens that we bought full grown are going through molt right now, so they should start laying again next month and go all winter.
    Perfect timing, too.

    We don't "force" them to lay all winter... we just give them a "normal day" with the lamps, and keep a warm (50-60F) coop for them.
    Perfect.

    We just doubled up an old towel and stapled it over the little trap door so that it keeps the drafts to a minimum, and they come and go as they please.
    As they should. Perfect.

    I would keep the protein high, and corn high during the winter so they have plenty of energy and internal heat, and just try to keep them as normal and comfortable as possible.
    Perfect. Normal laying rations should do fine. Dont forget the green feedstuffs, too.

    You got it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2007
  7. kstaven

    kstaven Crowing

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    I just go with what light the sun provides zenbirder. Chicken coops have big windows so they catch a lot of sun in the winter that way and it does warm the coops a lot. hanging rubber strips like a commercial freezer access also helps keep the heat in. I tried a temperature boost above the norm last year and there was no marked difference in rate of lay. They range year round and diet is altered in the late fall and winter. New layers for this year are just coming to age for laying now.

    I do refresh a percentage of my flock every year and the non productive birds end up in the freezer. I also bring in new blood periodically to suppliment my own lines. It is getting harder up here to find good laying hens in many breeds as many are breeding for that one "pretty" bird and ignoring the other traits that our grandparents would have considered vital. Namely a good hardy bird that lays well. In this case you can have the best of both worlds but it is a lot more work.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2007
  8. My chickens usually stop laying cackleberries in winter, however last winter I insulated the coop with silver foil lined insulation wool, and it made the girls very toasty .
    They went off the lay only for a few weeks.
     
  9. Zenbirder

    Zenbirder Songster

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    I have really appreciated all the discussion on this topic. It has been a challenge for me to anticipate the needs of my first winter with hens. My hen house is 8' X10' and I have 20 hens. It is well insulated, and has double paned windows. We get a lot of sun in the winter, and it is our dry season so typically very little snow. Because we tend to be so dry we get huge temperature swings night to day, teens at night and mid to low 50's many days. I shouldn't have any problems free ranging after the sun comes up. After reading the discussions I am less worried about having problems with cold or light. I like the idea of the rubber strips across their access door, it should help minimize daytime drafts. I shouldn't have any problem with moisture buildup, last winter we had one day where our home weather station recorded a humidity of zero [​IMG] and typically the humidity is single digits to teens. We go out in the morning and there is no dew, not even when it hits 2 degrees! When we do get snow it rarely lasts long and it sometimes sublimates more than melts.
     
  10. Davaroo

    Davaroo Poultry Crank

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    Hanging rubber strips like a commercial freezer access also helps keep the heat in.

    Things like these strips, towels or what have you over popholes work great, but are no proof against preds. Bear that in mind. Something else that comes to mind is to reduce the size of the opening. It only needs to be 12" - maybe a little less, depending on the size of your cacklers.

    I tried a temperature boost above the norm last year and there was no marked difference in rate of lay.

    It strikes me as odd to even be suggesting things to you - I know you have as much experience as anyone. Temperature is only one factor, of course.

    New layers for this year are just coming to age for laying now. I do refresh a percentage of my flock every year and the non productive birds end up in the freezer.

    Smart, smart. I like it.

    I also bring in new blood periodically to suppliment my own lines. It is getting harder up here to find good laying hens in many breeds as many are breeding for that one "pretty" bird and ignoring the other traits that our grandparents would have considered vital. Namely a good hardy bird that lays well. In this case you can have the best of both worlds but it is a lot more work.

    My I expand on this?

    I think thet "pretty bird" syndrome has been exchanged for the concept of "chickens as vital food for humans." Few people in our affluent nations subsist anymore purely on their own food-producing labor, even in rural areas.

    The closest many people come to a chicken is a decorative plate picked up at the fleamarket. Few know how to raise poultry well and many fancy chickens as "pets" or just a hobby, often learning the hard way about raising them. Boards like this one exist exist in no small part because a few of us wish to reclaim our cultural links with the chicken.

    In great grandpa's day, far fewer folks were into fancy breeding and far more steps were taken to work to a simple food production plan. So it is when you produce your own groceries. Even those breeders who developed birds were doing so, as a rule, to improve on utility.

    However, contrary to what many think, chickens tended to be an after thought on most farmsteads. Eggs were usually their most valued output, so ensuring a well-managed quality flock wasn't as important as having plenty of self-supporting birds running around. What we idealistically fancy a rustic notion, ie, the barnyard flock, is really just poor practice.

    Every old book I have from the early 1900's is devoted to changing that. They expand at length on the topic of sound poultry management as bothprofit maker and food source. Huge markets were being opened and exploited to absorb the output of what was hoped to be an agricultural "goldmine" for the American farmer. There is a reason for this that not many know.

    By 1900 the poor state of American poultyr rearing was starkly illustated when Australia began trumping the world in egg production. They won every international competition of the time, much to everyone's surprise. The telegraph lines were abuzz with the news of it. This didn't sit well with the American agriculture machine in that day, as you might expect. When the reasons why the Aussies had done this were analyzed, it was found that Yankee farmers were just plain bad chicken raisers!

    A vivid example of this comes to mind from the film, "The Wizard of Oz." Remember the scene when the tornado was looming and everyone was running around the barnyard in panic? There for all to see where the chickens - just a bunch of scrubs, really, dodging to and fro amid the chaos! "Take care of the horses!" was the cry that went up... but no one cared one iota for the chickens.
    THAT was the reality of American chicken rearing; the film was made in the 1930's. If it is true that "film mimics the culture of the people it portrays," then change was slow in coming for the American farmer and his chickens.

    This whole "chickens-as-afterthought" mentality created a competitive spirit among agri-professionals and the government in those days to be the best - and sparked what would eventually become the Golden Age of Small Flock Management, 1900-1960.​
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2007

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