Thursday, November 10, 2011

Let there be light

Random chicken update: The chickens seem to be tolerating cooler weather better than the heat and the hellish rain we had in August, but I don't want them (or their water) to freeze this winter. Everything I've read also says that they'll continue to lay more frequently if they are provided more light, because they need between 12-16 hours of sunlight to lay regularly. And since my chickens are apparently not spring chickens, they probably really need it since egg production slows as they age.

I thought about this for a while, and what I really wanted to do was a solar setup for the coop light. How cool would that be, to have my back yard chickens go solar-powered? But since I also wanted their light on a timer, that just complicated things unnecessarily - what if there wasn't enough power stored in the solar battery to keep the timer on time? In the end, I had my handyman install an outdoor outlet by my back door, something I've been planning to have done for close to a decade anyway.

We picked up a work light at Lowe's, one of those bulb-in-a-cage deals, so my brilliant ladies don't attempt to peck at the bulb. On Sunday, since it had just turned daylight savings, I decided it was time to get to it. The bulb cage got zip-tied to the wire above the door, so that it shines up into the enclosed coop when it's on. It's also right above the waterer, so the heat from the bulb will keep the water from freezing. From there, we cut a small hole in the wire and ran the plug through, up and over the roof (and under the tarp), through the lilac tree and into the timer, which was plugged into the outlet by the back door.

The girls now have light from 4:30 to 6:00, twice a day. It seems to be working. They still go to bed before 6:00, but later than they were prior to the light going in.

Egg production is still slow, because Bonnie is now moulting. I told her she'd better get a move on; a Philadelphia winter is not the time to be a naked chicken. She just looks at me, flaps her wings, and feathers drift slowly onto the ground.

Another note: do NOT try to take an egg out of the nest box when your chickens have gone to roost on the perch above said nest box. And if you insist on trying, wear long sleeves so that their pointy little beaks don't do too much damage.


Reethi said...

I'm so fascinated by your chickens. And envious, a bit. My city apartment (or the cat) will allow no such thing.

annie said...

Time to sew them little coats!

Graca said...

I heart this post and reading about the girls.

Kathi Rank said...

I too am fascinated by your chickens and want to hear all the details. Keep us posted on their progress.

Do they ever go out in the yard for a little exercise? Do they need to? Why is one of the girls losing feathers this time of year?