Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day and Night

As seasons have changed, we've been a little late getting our lights in the coop, and it has really thrown the hens for a loop (hey, a bonus rhyme!).

Is it day or is it night?
With days getting shorter, the chickens have slowed down on egg production, but by extending the hours of light they get we can ramp up their egg laying for summer-like production. Last year, we tried a red heat lamp and thought maybe it would provide enough light for their chicken brains to be tricked into laying more eggs. Some hens produced fairly well last winter, but we had four young pullets who weren’t producing yet anyway, so it wasn’t really a good measure. I did read that a red light won’t provide the stimulation that a white light will.

I liked having that heat lamp up in the coop for really cold days, though most poultry people will tell you that your chickens don’t need the heat. In fact, there is the chance that they won’t be acclimated as well to the cold when you have a heat lamp in the coop, and a power outage during frigid weather could be disastrous for your flock.

So I hemmed and hawed over what kind of light to hang in the coop.

The hens have not been laying much lately. Thelma and Pip have been pretty regular, but one to two eggs a day from seven hens just seemed a bit on the skimpy side. I really hate buying eggs at the store when I’m feeding my own suppliers.

This year we decided to try just putting a white light in the coop, on a timer that would extend the day a few more hours. But we should have hung it earlier in the fall for a more gradual adjustment.  For the last month or so, the hens have been heading for the coop early – sometimes at 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon – even though it was light a little longer.

Last week, K tacked up the light and set the timer for it to come on from 5:30 to 9:00 pm. It’s a very bright light. It’s like someone is going to be interrogated. 

I went out to shut the coop the first night the light was on, and realized that the hens were confused. Inside their coop, it was daylight. So they went out into the yard, expecting daylight there as well, but it was dark. They saw me, and crowded around, tentatively looking for treats. But I could sense bewilderment clouding their feathered features. If they had dialogue balloons above their heads, they’d have looked like this:

?  or ?!

“Silly hens,” I said to them. “It’s bedtime.” I shooed them into the coop and they looked uncertain.

The next morning I found eggs scattered around the coop as if they were surprised by this sudden development—“OH my! An egg!” The rest of the week, I found myself feeling like the grand manipulator, because instead of one or two eggs each day, we were suddenly getting five a day. The light was definitely making a difference.

But evenings were still confusing to them. They’d head into the coop as normal, get all roosty and ready for bed, then the light would come on and out they’d go, bleary eyed as if the night had passed really quickly and they hurried out to meet the day. Poor things didn't know what to think.

I’d see them milling around in front of the gate. I could almost hear the conversations:
“I thought you said it was morning?”
“It was—you saw how bright it was.”
“But now it’s dark.”
“I know. It’s the darnedest thing. It’s like someone keeps turning the sun on and off.”
“That’s impossible.”
“I know, I know! Right?!”

And so I go out and shoo their confused and disgruntled selves into the coop, again. Note to self for next year: Be more gradual with our sudden substitute sunshine.

1 comment:

  1. This totally tickled my funny bone this morning! Thanks!