Thursday, November 8, 2007

Where's The Egg?

Thursdays are all about animals.

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, my thoughts turn to providing warmth and shelter to the animals. Will their nutrition needs change, now that it's colder. Will the length of the day affect them in any way? Do/can animals get SAD (seasonal affective disorder)? It's sounds kind of silly, but since I want to keep my animals in the best possible health, I must ask.

If you've been checking the egg count periodically, you will notice that it has been dropping steadily since early October. This is because once daylight hours drop below 14, chickens do not lay as many eggs. Why are there still eggs in the grocery store all year round? Are they $2 a dozen because they're flying them in from the tropics? Well, they're not exactly flying them in from the tropics. But, in large scale chicken farming the barns are kept a steady "optimal" temperature and the light is kept on for 14 hours per day. This uses energy that I can't afford. It is not cost-effective to do this for a small flock. Plus, t'ain't nachril.

I view the winter as a time to rest up and prepare for the energy of spring. Chickens that are kept up all hours of the night wear out faster. Winter also means that the chickens need to eat differently. They need to be able to have extra energy for the cold nights, so instead of feeding them only in the morning, I have to make sure they have food in the afternoon. When they eat, their body temperature rises for awhile which will help them on those frosty nights. A chicken house doesn't hurt, either. We converted an old Sears storage shed to a chicken house and they are lovin' it.

I really can't tell whether animals get SAD. I guess that one's for the scientists. My chickens are happy. And warm. And well-fed. And resting up for spring.

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