New to chickens

by Judy Britton
(unknown)

Question

This is my first dealing with chickens. I split a straight run of rare breed bantams with another person. They were hatched May 6th. Odd as it was she ended up getting 8 or 9 roosters I got only a couple.

My hens (2 Mille Fleur, a Japanese Buff, and a white Japanese started laying eggs and have not stopped. It has been a month now. Some times a couple laying two eggs each.

My first egg layer was one of my Mille Fleurs, and she laid 2 eggs that first day. I have one Sebright, a Blue Cochin, a Rhode Island Red and two Silkie pullets that have not laid anything yet.

One of the three Silkies, I see now is a rooster. That little Silkie group stays pretty much to themselves.

Lots more of that to say, but I had another question.

My coop inside is 6 feet across 4 feet deep and 5 feet tall. I have 4 nesting boxes I fill with hay or pine shavings. The floor of the coop is piled with 2 feet of pine shavings.

It stands 2 feet off the ground on four legs. The front of the coop facing out and has
a very large screened in window.

The chickens when perched have a nice view out and it provides very good ventilation. I can close this when it rains or if it gets too windy. The coop has a trap door underneath for coming and going.

I live in middle West New Hampshire, and right now it is 20 degrees outside. The coop over night did not get below 35 degrees.

I want to heat the coop this winter so they can stay nice and toasty. What happens if I lose power and I will many times this winter? Won't the chickens suddenly get freezing cold?

The coop is inside a 6 foot chain link fence next to the house to keep out predators, I can tarp that in at night or when it gets rainy and windy.

This last surprise snow storm gave me a foot of snow. I had no snow inside the pen. Once the sun was out down came the tarp and they have dirt to dig in.

I have read and read everything I can get my hands on, and I was thinking of not heating the coop. Nine chickens snuggle tight high on their perch at night. The three Silkies sleep in one of the nesting boxes.

I have not gotten into any of the funny behavior I have seen in the past weeks. Anyway I need chickens like I need a hole in the head but this has been so much fun.

Oh, lastly, I have a very small watt red light I keep on 24/7.

Answer
Wow, Judy, that is a lot! I’ll try to fill in the blanks for you.

1. Keeping a light on 24/7 is probably why you have some hens laying a lot. I really don’t recommend this. Chickens need a good night’s sleep, just like we do.

That much lighting can cause chickens to burn the candle at both ends. Lack of enough black out sleep for chickens can lead to over laying, weak immune systems, diseases and early death.

They should have 8 hours of dark every night. If you want to extent hours of light for good laying through the winter, it’s best to have a timed light that comes on in the morning after 8 hours of dark.

2. Different breeds mature at different rates, which is probably why some of your hens haven’t laid yet.

3. You raise and excellent point about heating the coop, knowing you will not always be able to. Healthy mature chickens shouldn’t need extra warmth when allowed to adapt as the weather changes naturally.

If chickens get used to added warmth and suddenly you cannot provide it, this could cause health problems.

4. I’m a little concerned about 2’ of shavings on the floor of the coop with bantams. I would think it might be difficult for them to get around, unless it’s packed very tightly. Shavings or hay are good insulation.

Sounds like you’re doing a great job with the chickens, even though you hadn’t really planned on it. Thanks for writing. Hope this answer helps you.

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not so new
by: Anonymous

Sounds awesome! I would love to have a nice big dog run around my chicken house.

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not so new anymore, thank you
by: Anonymous

Hi back,

The chain link fence that surrounds the coop and run is next to the house and is inside my 3/4 acre dog yard. Nothing has dared enter so far. The coop is under my deck.

It faces south west so lots of sun. The chickens have shade under the coop and next to the house.
Big dish of water under the coop stays fresh and so far has not frozen.

The pine shavings I have on the floor of the coop is packed firmly and I use DE, there and outside.

The coop is for sleeping and laying eggs. At noon
for some reason all the chickens go up the ramp
and snuggle for an hour or so and then go back down the ramp and have mid afternoon lunch.


They love watermellon and cooked pumpkin wedges.

Judy





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New to Chickens
by: Sharon

Forgot one important thing. A 6' chain link fence may deter some predators. Small opossums, raccoons, or skunks can go right through standard chain link. (My next door neighbor has this problem.) Rats and weasels go right through. Adult raccoons and opossums are good climbers and can go right over.

I would highly suggest closing the entrance into the coop each night, if you aren't already doing that.

A wire top on the run will keep the larger climbing predators out. Chicken wire is best. It's designed specifically to keep chicken predators out.

I have a chicken yard fence that raccoons can and have climbed, so I just make sure to lock the chickens into the coop every night, once they go to roost.

Since you have electricity in the chicken house you might consider using a warmer that will keep water from freezing. Sounds like you might be in for a cold winter with temps in the 20s already.

I really appreciate your energy and dedication to these chickens. Once you're set up for keeping them their care is pretty simple. Sounds like you're almost there.

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