Friday, October 10, 2008

Light to Lay By

Consistent with the usual rhythm of our life together, Joe has spent the last month or two researching how to get light and heat to the chicken coop... Then as he went to implement his efforts, I stopped him, suggesting that I wanted to research IF we should.

Originally we were going to send these ladies back to the farm they came from.

Of course, now they each have names, and Joe and Maya are awfully fond of them, so plans have changed.

At issue, is it ethically okay to artificially light the coop to force these ladies to lay? Over the past three years, I've developed an overstimulated sense of injustice for dairy cattle. Is it just as bad for backyard laying hens?

I really can't find much information against the lighting except that it's an added expense and isn't their natural rhythm. Chickens don't seem to be harmed by year-round laying as long as they get good nutrition.

So then, I guess the question is what do they need for the winter:

1. 14 hours of light, using artificial light in the morning ONLY. Apparently, sudden darkness caused by turning the coop light out at night can cause them to huddle in the corner and possibly suffocate each other!

2. Heat the coop on extremely cold days (below zero... some owners wait for even lower temps) to prevent frost bite, otherwise leave the coop door open for proper ventilation.

3. Keep water unfrozen by using a heating base with a large dog dish, or buy two large rubber bowls and trade them out... filling one up with warm water and setting it out int he morning and another in the evening.

I guess we'll follow these guidelines, take our cues from the chickens, and see how it goes.

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