Monday, December 8, 2008

The Egg Factory

The egg factory or Chicken Palace, which ever you want to call it but the hen house is important to my girls happiness. It used to be a storage shed but I decided to change it to a coop. It is 8X8 feet and probably 7ft at the peek of the roof inside. The ceiling is insulated but the walls are not. The walls are double with a vapor barrier behind the inner wall. The winters get quite cold here but this house is a lot better than the one I had for my hens as a kid so I knew it would be fine. The house is sealed up to prevent any drafts from coming in. It is the drafts you need to worry about, not so much the cold.

I added another window for more light and air flow in summer, there is a large window in the back. The pen is about 6X8, it has heavy gauge 2X4 wire to stop big animals like raccoons and foxes, plus smaller chicken wire on the outside to stop smaller things from getting in. The wire goes under ground and I placed large flat cement blocks to stop anything from digging underneath. The coop is near a busy highway so I can't let them run free-range as I would like to, maybe one day I will own a hobby farm and then they can run free. The little door stays open all the time so that they can go out as soon as they wake up.Right now it is -20C or -4F depends which temp you read so the door to the out side is shut with shavings piled against it to stop any cold drafts. On sunny days if the temperatures rise closer to 32F or 0C I let them back out.

They have wooden laying boxes and seem to favour one box for a few weeks and then switch, I guess they like a change. I use straw in the boxes and I was using shavings on the floor. The shavings I find keeps them cleaner but I have been using straw on the floor the last few weeks, I find they move around more and scratch more with straw on the floor, they say to keep them active like this helps get them to lay over the winter.

They have food ahead of them free choice, I placed a heat lamp over their water container and that seems to keep it from freezing, it is a metal one so don't try that with a plastic water container or it may melt. I also keep the water container up off the floor on a thick block of cement, less debris tossed into it when the girls are at work scratching around. I also have a light that turns on with a timer, I was told to give them 14 hours of light so it comes on at five in the morning and then again at three until eight in the evening. The heat lamp comes on a half hour before and a half hour after the other 60 watt bulb. This way they know it is about to get bright or dark and they will get up or get ready for bed just like the sun rising or setting. At the moment with the extreme cold, I am leaving the heat lamp on almost 24 hours but I heard this is not good as they may not sleep well and it could affect their laying. As for laying the girls had stopped, two started to molt and two were too young to lay. When I put in the lights, after a week they started to lay again but not as good as in summer. Two lay every other day and it seems one of the younger ones has started to lay. I try to keep it that feeding, watering and cleaning only really have to be done once a week and most other times I'm just checking up on them or giving them treats. Well any way this is the building where I spend part of my hobby time now.

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