Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prepared for Winter

Chicken keeping in the winter does require more planning.  How do you keep the water from freezing?  Do you heat the coop?  Do you provide artificial light to keep the hens laying?  How do you make sure that the coop has enough ventilation but no drafts?  What will you do to provide shelter from the wind and snow?

The water was the easy part.  We got a heated water bowl.  That works fairly well but the Ladies get tons of dirt into it and I need to refill at least once a day.  We'll be tweaking that for next winter.

 Do we heat the coop?   Big "No" for us.  I figure people have been raising chickens in New England long before electricity.  And I was careful to get cold hearty breeds.  They do have big down coats of their own anyway.   And for that matter, when was the last time you saw people providing the wild birds with a heater?  At least mine have a cozy coop.  And another big "No" for me on providing artificial light to keep them laying through the darker part of the year.  Again chickens did ok before electricity.  And who am I to argue with Mother Nature?  If she says the chickens need to slow down during the winter, then ok!  I'm not dependent on the eggs anyway.

Luna is no "chicken" when it comes to snow!

I admit the ventilation vs no drafts has been a bit confusing to me.  I asked someone on one of the web sites and got a lecture on Thermo Dynamics.  Still have no idea.  But I guess I just watch the Ladies and see how they fare.  It they make it through the winter with no frostbite on their combs I guess I'm doing ok.

The issue of providing shelter from wind, rain, and snow was more up my alley.  It took me a few attempts to get the plastic to not just tear off at the first big wind but we did it.  Unfortunately, I finally figured it out on the coldest day!  Ladies happy, Farmer Jenn not so much!  Then we got our first snow and my domed run top caved in.  Back to the drawing board.  It's fixed now - thanks to some 1/4 inch pvc.  And it only involved one wipe out by Farmer Jenn in the chicken run!

Here's to making it through our first winter with the Ladies!

The Chicken Chick

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cold Mornings

Ok, I'll be honest.  The one thing I have been dreading about having the Ladies is chicken chores in the winter.  It's one thing getting up and heading out to bring them water and food and let them out of the coop on a beautiful fall morning.  It's quite another thing when it's snowy and cold. 

It turns out it's not so bad.  It continues to be amazing to me how peaceful it is in the early morning.  It's quiet.  I never particularly notice the traffic noises from the main street just a house away.  But I definitely notice it's absence.  And it's still.  Even on the days that turn out to be blustery, the early morning is usually calm.  If I manage to get out there early enough I even get to see the sky brightening as the sun comes up over the mountain.  And just maybe I get treated to a pretty pink sky. 

I am truly not a morning person.  Maybe I should say, I never used to be a morning person.  Ever since those little chicks arrived and I would get up early to make sure they had all survived the night, I've been a bit of a convert.  I think maybe I just needed a chance to experience the natural peace of an early morning.  And a reason to realize that even in the cold - it's nice.

The Ladies clearly know the simply joy of a morning.  Granted they are probably just happy to be let out of the coop.  But joy is joy.  I open the coop and out they run.  Clucking and cooing.  Some go straight to whatever warm food I've brought them but one or two usually run right over to the side of the run to greet me.  And they don't shake two tail feathers at the cold or snow.  Sure the first snow startled them a bit.  They paraded up and down making alarmed noises and tasting the snow.  Now they're experienced big chickens and don't even notice the snow.

I'm still a little smarter than they are so I DO still notice the snow.  But so far it's ok.  Interestingly, I had also been dreading having to go out and shut them up for the night in the winter.  Mainly because I'm sort of in hibernation mode.  I like to be in my PJs earlier in the winter.  Well - the time change took care of that for me.  And apparently the Ladies like to be tucked in earlier too.  It all works out.

The Chicken Chick