I’ve been very pleased with ISA Browns. They are gentile, except we don’t seem to have good luck with Roosters; I’ve been told meanness is common in the light colored roosters. The egg production has been great. Longevity seems to be on par with what I’d read, 2 years being the peak for egg laying.
But what about winter laying of ISA Brown chickens, especially supplemental light?
In my review of the Buff Orpingtons and the Rainbow breeds as Dual purpose birds, one of the things I mentioned was that artificial light was needed to keep these breeds laying in the winter. From what I’ve read, breeds that are bread for egg laying will lay through the winter without additional lighting. I’ve even heard first hand of Rhode Island Reds laying through the winter without additional light.
I’ve not had that luck with my chickens, including the ISA Browns. Last year I did not provide extra light and they stopped laying. I could not pin down for sure if it was the light, stress, cold, or water conditions, detailed in my solar tire saga.
This year, winter 2020/2021, when egg production started dropping off, and basically stopped, I was again having predators stressing the birds, including even losing some birds. However, cold and water were not an issue, see best solar water. So I went ahead and introduced artificial lighting in the mornings and evening to ensure the birds were getting 12+ hours of light. To my satisfaction, egg production not only increased, but our egg production returned to normal. Of course, the predator situation was also taken care of; however, after a couple more months of good production, I really think it was the light.
The down side to this is that I didn’t size the solar panel and battery to accommodate running the light this much. The solar panel does help, and for now I’ve ended up adding an additional deep cycle battery and swap batteries every 5-7 days if it’s been overcast, not as hands off as I wanted. I haven’t done any calculations, but I’m considering a larger solar panel, but in the summer it would be extreme overkill just to run the automatic door. In the meantime, it’s still better than how frequently I had to change batteries without a solar panel.
Another note about the cold. Our chickens don’t seem to be bothered by the cold. The research I’ve done indicates that if you’ve chosen a cold hearty breed, which I have, then as long as you provide a dry area that’s out of the wind, the chickens will be fine. The worst thing for them is to be wet in the cold. Our coop has an open floor, but 4 solid walls and windows to let the sun in. The lowest roost is a foot off the floor, which allows for wind blockage.