here in the northern hemisphere,
What are you doing for your chickens? Let's hear some stories.
My coop is built like a house, raised piers foundation, 2x4 insulated walls, south facing with the south wall being almost all dual-paned glass. (recycled) It gets nice and cozy during the day, and retains heat pretty well all night. I actually have an infra-red bulb for them too, but I am starting to think that is overkill. Going to cut that out, now that the littler ones are all feathered out too. So far, they lay eggs at full capacity like it is the middle of summer.
The concept was to build the coop very well and hopefully it will last a lifetime, with only minor maintenance. And because I live in a mountain climate, I wanted it to keep the chickens warm all winter so egg production would not drop off. Cost more in the beginning, but as a long-term investment, I think it will be worthwhile.
Hi, Scott & Chip,
I agree that a well built chicken coop is a very sound investment. I designed a coop with the usual nesting boxes, tree branch perches, feeder, waterer, plus an infirmary pen and a broody condo. It's worked very well for all the situations that come up with introducing new people to the flock each spring, etc. I also have a chicken tractor and smaller shed/coop in the field for my other, free-range flock. Keeping separate flocks allows me to inter-breed for a couple of years before having to introduce outside stock.
I agree with Scott that an infrared light is probably overkill, provided there are enough chickens in the flock so they can roost right next to each other. They do a good job of keeping each other warm. If you have any with more than a "rose comb" -- any with a comb that stands up -- you may want to put petroleum (or "unpetroleum) jelly on the comb to prevent frostbite. I do have CFLs on timers to extend the day. It's the light, of course, not the heat, which keeps the hens laying. They need about 14 hours' light to produce three eggs per week in their first year and until they molt.
Good luck with your birds, everyone. Thanks for the group, Chip.
I forgot to mention I have visible light (CFL) also on a timer to extend their day until about 7:30pm. Today, I unplugged the heat lamp and replaced with with infared LED (no visible light) so I can still see my birdies in the dark on the night-vision chicken cam. It will be darker for them at night, which is probably better too. However, they may get caught a bit off guard tonight with the CFLs go out suddenly and there will be almost no visible light left. Maybe I should have put a night light in there to ease the transition... I am keeping an eye on them now from my computer.
I am curious about your broody condo. How much space in the coop did you dedicate for it (how big is it compared to the coop)?. I am hoping one of my hens goes broody soon and then I will whirlwind construct a broody condo for her, but I would like to have the designs well thought out in my head so I can bang it together quickly when the time comes. I had considered making a broody condo in my garage, but I would really rather have all the chicken activities outside because my garage is small enough as it is, and filled with, well, garage-like stuff...
I also plan to have two independent flocks going by this spring. My plan is to build a non-insulated coop and separate run for flock number two- which will be meaties or dual purpose. So come fall, the only heat they will concerned about will be the warmth of the crock pot. My layers will be the primary flock and I *may* have some dual purpose breeds integrated in from time to time.
I wish I had fenced property so I could free range. I may try it with a few hens at some point and see what happens. Last thing I want is a neighbor calling me up wondering why there is a chicken on their porch eating cat food... :) I don't have any flat grassy areas, or I would definitely do the tractor thing like you have.