Poor Pecked-On Hen & Night Light
Poor Pecked-On Hen & Night Light : We have a small flock of chickens in a 20 x 20 fenced run with a nice 6 x 6 hen house inside.
They are all a year old, nine total, five Americanas and four Barred Plymouth Rocks, one of which is a rooster.
I have a couple of questions. I've seen this addressed, but it is the my first experience with one hen being bullied. She's got a bald spot in the middle of her back.
It isn't bloody -yet- Is there anything to do without drawing further attention to the area? My second question is this.
We live in south, central Texas so it's usually not necessary to heat a hen house in winter. This year when temps dropped and the wind was high, we did have to put a heat lamp inside.
The light at night boosted egg production dramatically. We were getting two to three eggs per day during the winter months prior to our severe cold, but with the addition of the lighting at night, the eggs were back up to seven eggs from eight hens!
Is this altering nature for the hens? Do they need a break during the winter months? I'm asking because we ran electricity to the hen house and leave a light-sensitive night light plugged in now.
I don't want to decrease their overall egg laying life. I'd like your opinion on this.
a) The best thing to do is keep an eye on this bald spot for changes and take some time watching to see which, if any, chickens seem to be doing this to her.
Some roosters will try to get hold of a reluctant hen and pull feathers when she runs off. This usually happens at the back of the neck, but can happen on the back.
I would check her over for possible mites, or lice and skin irritations anywhere else. Treat with appropriate product and watch for new feather growth.
b)Heat lamps definitely keep chickens more comfortable in cold weather and can keep combs from getting frost bite damage.
Generally the red color of a heat lamp won’t keep chickens awake all night. Hens don’t have an unlimited number of potential eggs.
Keeping night lights on, as you noticed, does stimulate more egg production through the months of shorter day light hours.
You will decrease their laying life by doing this; but at what cost?
You will have to replace the hens eventually. Some breeds (not production bred) can lay for several years.
Production bred hens will usually “lay out” in the neighborhood of two years of age. They have been genetically reprogrammed for quicker growth and sexual maturity and for a high volume of egg production in the shortest time. Their healthy life span is usually shorter, as well.
I’ve been faced with the same dilemma: to light or not to light, so I did some research. What I found was a highly technical article that I was able to interpret some very helpful data from and it makes sense.
I didn’t save the reference, but this researcher found that the best quality eggs, especially the shells, were produced by hens living with a total of 16 hours of light and 8 hours of dark, every day.
The article said that stimulating egg production with excess light can cause eggs to move through the hen too quickly causing thin shells that break easily.
The article also said that 10% of eggs are lost in commercial egg farms due to thin shells caused by too much light.
I’m not interested in running an egg factory, but it makes sense to me that if shell quality is poor with too many hours of light, that health of the hens and nutrient value of the eggs might suffer, too.
My plan is to set up a timer for my light, once we run electricity down to the coop, and give them the 16 hours of light/ 8 hours of dark all year; changing the clock to meet the needs of seasonal changes in day light.
I’m interested in healthy happy chickens and the best eggs for our family and a few neighbors.
I’m feeding the chickens everyday, and increase nutrients for the molt in Fall and for Winter conditions, so it makes sense, I think, to encourage them to continue making eggs for us all winter, even if I have to replace them sooner.
I have 17 first year hens and was getting 0-2 eggs a day for about 4 months. We really missed the eggs and were sorry to disappoint the other families that came to love our abundant eggs last summer.
You might want to research the breeds you have, maybe you can find out if they are production bred or not, and think things through for how you want to manage your flock.
Thanks for writing! All the best to you and your chickens.