Yesterday we picked up 15 hardy pullets (= young hen 16-20 wks) from a grower near Lancaster. They are about 17 weeks old and will begin laying eggs within the next couple weeks. They were raised out doors so they are already used to the winter cold and have more insulative feathers than birds raised indoors.
These chickens are red sexlinks, meaning their color is linked to their gender; a handy way to tell hens from roosters at a young age!
They will live in a coop we built from cattle panel, 2x4's and a some left-over greenhouse plastic. This structure was economical and easy to build, is lightweight, and is very warm and bright on sunny days.
We are feeding them many kitchen scraps and a mix of grains specifically for layers from an organic/transitional organic grain grower in Oley. We will be soaking their grain in water (or milk when we have it) overnight in our mudroom before feeding them first thing in the morning. This makes the grain more digestible and nutritious. Their first grain was soaked in milk from our neighbor's cow. She's an Austrailian lowline, not meant for milking usually, but she lost a calf and had milk to spare. With another flock that shared a farm with dairy cows, I've observed winter laying increase dramatically when excess milk was added to their grain.