Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winterizing the chickens and lessons learned

We've had a warmer than normal fall so far.  Last year the girls were wintered up in the first week of November.  This year, we've had some cold nights, but nothing too bad.  The biggest issue is always the water.  I've been able to bang the waterer on the ground to break up the ice.  This morning was different though.  It was 21 degrees when I woke up and their water was a giant block of ice.  It was time to get them winterized. 

We learned a lot last year.  There is a learning curve with everything and chickens are certainly no exception.  Last year we had them under J's deck.  There were a lot of problems with that though.  I had to shovel a huge path out to them, which then turned to slippery ice.  If there was an issue in their yard, we had to climb under the deck, which just wasnt' fun.  It also didn't give them too much light under there, in addition to limited protection from snow. 

We got smarter this year.  They're now between the house and shed on J's side of our duplex.  It's south facing, so more sun.  It's right off the walkway, so snow is easier to deal with.  We don't have to climb under the deck either.  In order to offer even more protection, we put plastic sheeting over their yard to minimize the snow and wet.  Last year I spent hours trying to get snow out of their yard so that they would go out to eat and drink.  (Their food is in the yard out of necessity.)  I was just a little obsessive about it, actually.  Ok, I was a lot obsessive about it.  J laughed at me a lot. 

They seem pretty happy about the set up.  What's even better, is that their food and shavings are kept in the shed.  Last year they were in my kitchen.  It was messy, a major pain and I ended up with a nasty pantry moth infestation brought in by the feed. 

I can't tell you how happy I am with this new set up.  Of course I drove J crazy getting it set up today.  He calls me his 'Wife without benefits', but is easily placated with peach butter.  Men are easy.  The girls seem happy, but they need to start laying better!  We're only getting 1 to 2 eggs a day.  I didn't get the lights going early enough and it's taking a while for them to get back into the groove.  There will definitely be more chickens next year. 

11 comments:

meemsnyc said...

It definitely looks like a good spot for them. I see that you have Christmas lights strung up, is this so they have some sort of light for the lack of sun?

kitsapFG said...

We covered the run with clear plastic sometime ago to ensure they have an area that is relatively dry but outside of the coop. They seem to appreciate the ability to move about without dealing with slop and snow. Our hens are having a hard time finding much to forage in the back yard right now as they have mowed all the weeds down in the walkways of the garden and nothing is growing right now so once nibbled down - they are out of luck until the sun strength begins increasing and the day length grows longer in February. They find bugs and various other things but they are eating alot more of the layer crumbles right now due to the decreased forage. I think the hens will be as happy as I am to see spring return.

The Mom said...

Meemsnyc, the lights are to give them extra light at night. They'll lay through the winter with the supplemental light.

Laura, we have nothing for them on the ground at this point. We kept them on the grass for as long as possible, but there just simply isn't anything left. They're stuck with their crumbles and leftovers for the next few months.

Karen Anne said...

Don't they freeze their feathery behinds off when it's below freezing? (Now I'm trying to think, where did chickens originate, I guess they're just like regular birds :-) in their weather tolerance.)

The Mom said...

Karen, they actually do very well in the cold. It's easier on them than July is.

Daphne said...

I don't have chickens, but now I have to eat eggs that are not free ranged eggs. So sad. I hate that our farmers market closes down in the winter, but really, any hen out there isn't getting anything but feed right now anyway.

Karen Anne said...

Daphne,

Winter farmers' markets have started up where I live here in RI, I'm so happy about that. They have eggs, root vegetables, jams and crafts, etc.

One last year, two this year, so they must be doing well. There was an article in the paper within the last few weeks saying local farmers can't keep up with the demand from farmers' markets and local restaurants. That's news I like to hear.

The Mom said...

Karen, I have friend's that go down to the market in Providence I believe. They love it. I know anyone that sells eggs is having problems keeping them in stock.

Veggie PAK said...

The chickens look happy where they are. I would really like to have some chickens, but no dice. Wife and city ordinance say no.

Keep up the good work! We enjoy reading about it and seeing the pics.

I remember my Mother giving the chickens cracked oyster shells to strengthen the shells of their eggs so they wouldn't break so easily when getting jostled around during collection time.

The Mom said...

Veggie PAK, that stinks that you can't do chickens. I used to live near you, but never looked into chickens then. We give them oyster shells every now and again.

Lorie said...

Those girls do look happy. Your broccoli looks super!