I have had a light on during the winter because my thinking was that I wanted a fairly steady egg production. NOW, I am thinking maybe not. Maybe I'll just let nature take it's course and let them be. I ask you this now. In the winter I will keep them in all the time because their door faces west and all the wind blows right into their coop so I close it. Their window faces north- same thing. I live in NY. Quite bitter and windy where the barn is. Their coop is quite roomy. The light really gives off no heat per say and I hadn't put a heat lamp in there for them but have a water heater. Do any of you believe I should put a heat lamp in there for them? The coop is approx 10' x 8' and 7' tall. I have, I think, 20 chickens. Hard to count them when they move around! They seem to have done well so far but perhaps they would need less food if I kept them warmer. Hmm?
Nancy, when the temp drops below freezing, water will also freeze. How do you keep the water available/flowing for the chickens to drink??
Also, with freezing temps, a hen's comb can actually get frostbite, very dangerous not to mention painful for a chicken to endure. If your area is typically below freezing in the Winter, not just bouncing up and down a degree or to, provide protection to your chickens to ward off the evils of freezing weather.
We are in Virginia but we still watch for below freezing weather. We use a red heat lamp set up like we do with our meat chicks (they are susceptible to cold when peeps). With winter temps below freezing, that same lamp and light are used (a brooder lamp) are used. We don't use the heat lamp all the time, but if night temps are to drop below 32, we will leave the light on at night in the coop. The red light makes the coop glow and it's lovely. lol Needless to say, around here we listen to and watch the local weather. Using a heat lamp with the water supply kept nearby will keep the water from freezing too. (Just make sure there is no issue with water and electricity!)
During the day if you let your chickens out of the coop, make sure they're not exposed to freezing temps if/when sleeting because this can create problems if a chicken is able to roost outside and the feet freeze on a tree branch. Many years ago this happened to one of our roosters and I had to get warm water from the house to pour over the feet so he could be taken off of his outdoor roosting branch. Thankfully he did not suffer any problems from that and there was no frostbite.
BTW, chickens do consume more feed when they are stressed from cold but I don't know the stats on feed consumption. Give the Backyardchickens.com Forum a try, too, Nancy -- lots of experienced chicken lovers there with many years of experience in general care, breeding, disease, etc.
Nancy, the chickens will be alert and more active during the day so I would use the heat lamp at night (it's often colder during the night anyway). If the temps get really cold, you can keep that heat lamp on during the day, too -- we have when the weather was extreme at times. We spent 4 1/2 days totally off-grid without power during last Winter's blizzard and were so worried the hens would get frostbite but we watched them very closely and monitored the temps knowing the snowpack was actually helping to insulate the bottom portion of their coop. Had the temp dropped into the upper 20s, we had decided that they'd spend a night in our basement caged in. Thankfully we didn't have to go that route!! lol
Most coops have ventilation and aren't air tight -- that's a good thing and in your case it works to your flock's benefit. There have been inclement days where we've not let our hens out during the day and I know it's a more boring day for them, but it's to protect them.
We try to keep it as simple as possible around here so we supply some supplemental lighting when the daylight wanes. We simply set the timer at night so the light goes on at nightfall and we increase the timer as the season progresses.
I sure do understand about that bleeding-heart mindset. People think meat comes from styrofoam packages at the store. lol I was once called a 'murderer' because I saw a caterpillar crawling and picked it up, tossed it to the hens.
You're doing fine so keep it up!!