Sunday 4 August 2013

Red Light District Hen House

Red Light - Hot Chicks

In order to keep the girls warm and at optimum health over the Winter, one of the strategies we were advised to invest in was placing a heat lamp into their sleeping hutch.  I've had a red globe and heat lamp in the cupboard for months and some weeks ago we finally pulled our finger out and got the girls Uncle to come over and install it.  

It involved running  a trench from the house to accommodate the cabling, allowing a power point to go in next to the pen.  Unfortunately there was a hold up when the power point ended up being faulty - the first dodgy Clipsal power point my brother had ever come across in 30 years of electrical work.  So we were stuck at the starting post for a little longer.  I was genuinely excited for the girls and happy that the cold weather hadn't really kicked in - we have had such a late winter this year.  

So the power point was fixed and we were off and running.  It's funny how hindsight can make you question just what the heck was running through the brain cell during past, odd decisions, especially when at the time you were so adamantly clear that you were bang on target.  I bought the girls a heat globe that was designed for reptiles, as per the recommendation.  What I didn't stop and think about was the fact that the globe was red.

The first night I switched it on I was really happy and loved being able to see the girls at night when opening the roof of their sleeping hutch.  What I did not initially take into account was the fact that the light would keep the girls up all night.  It was like a party zone.  This is a brilliant photo (below) of recently departed hen Holly, bright eyed and completely alert well after the sun had gone down.  The girls were up all night, every night.  

I would turn the light off in the morning and the girls would automatically begin to settle down to go to sleep.  Then they'd realise it was morning and wander out to begin the day - no doubt rotten tired and very confused.  They would then consequently taken themselves off to bed in the mid afternoon - only to be woken up again when I turned on the red light at night all over again.  I can't imagine why I thought it would be any different.  

After a week and the girls being totally exhausted, we went out of the way to get a black, ceramic, 75 watt globe that was all heat and no light.  It's been a big hit - albeit with some initial unexpected moments.  Like the 2nd or 3rd morning when I could smell burning feathers and found our Silkie hen Farrah slowly baking about 2 inches from the globe.  I learnt to tilt the lamp head slightly up after that.  Our Wyandotte Bantam hen Rosie loves it and in the morning she allows me to clean up all around her whilst she bakes herself for as long as possible before heading out into the very crisp morning air.  Rosie is terribly skittish and the fact that she allows me to work a hands length from her is testament to the fact that the heat is much loved and well appreciated.  As the nights have become consistently colder, there has been a migration away from the right hand, ventilated side of the sleeping hutch and towards the heated, cosier end of the sleep compartment.  

So it's been a worthwhile move.  The girls seem to love it and I don't have the anxiety I had last Winter when they were suffering so much from the respiratory virus that was attacking them so vigorously and I had little to offer them once night fell.  

The next challenge is to think about how to keep them cool and well ventilated during the hot Summer evenings.  Might be time to invest in a chicken sized fan?  

(left to right) Holly and Jewel - up all night, exhausted by day. 

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