Half the year the chickens live in the barn and the other half they live in the outside coop or the summer house. Last fall we moved them all into the barn. You can see that adventure here: http://minabema.blogspot.com/2008/11/great-garden-clean-up-of-2008.html They can't spend the winter outside or they would all freeze to death. But now the temps are warmer and there is enough day light for them to continue laying. There needs to be 14 hours of day light for a chicken to lay an egg or something inside of them tells them to shut down production. In the winter we leave a light on so they continue to lay year around. They don't lay as many with the light as they do in the height of the summer, but we do get a fair amount.
The move went much smoother than we were expecting. They were out of food so were hungry. A little handful of corn and oats brought them over and we were able to just bend down and scoop them up. That tactic worked well for about the first ten of them. The chickens are use to us being in the coop for egg collection and watering and feeding chores. Many of them also seem to enjoy a little pet now and again. Picking them up though is another matter, they tend to squawk which makes the others take notice that something is up. After we had caught a few more, the rooster started to realize that his hen count was quickly diminishing and he became agitated and whipped the hens up. He was the next to move out to the summer house and with him out of the barn coop the remaining hens didn't put up such a big fuss. As soon as they got out in the new house they started on their suntans. They were laying in the sunny spot of the dirt and rolling around for a dust bath. It seemed like they remembered when they lived out there last year.
We left three broody hens behind in the barn in hopes that they will hatch the eggs they have been sitting on. They have four nests going and don't always sit on the same one every day so we will see if they are successful in their hatching efforts or not. If not, then they will go outside in the next couple of weeks.
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