The nights are becoming chilly at this time of the year. We’ve heard that many places are actually starting to experience a freeze at night. So now is a good time to get down to the chicken coop, talk to the girls, sing them a song and make winter preparations for your chickens.
Here are some quick suggestions:
- Time to clean the coop thoroughly, which means remove everything and wash the floor, walls and stands. We always spread some DE all around the coop. It is important to ONLY use food-grade Diatomaceous Earth for animal use, NOT the pool house supply! This will kill off any unwanted critters harmful to the chickens like mites and lice. We use DE all through the summer to keep the fly population down. This is a natural product that won’t hurt your animals.
- Fresh bedding makes for happy chickens. We provide fresh bedding of straw after each cleaning. Straw bales are not too expensive. We open up the strings, remove enough to spread around, and then retie the strings leaving the bale available for the chickens to play with. We find chickens are happy when they have something to do. They are very industrious critters and the bale of straw keeps them busy. Come winter time we always leave them a pile of straw outside the coop too.
- Check the coop for drafts. You do want some airflow, but large openings for drafts can make it too cold in the coop for the girls.
- Prepare a source for warming the coop. Usually a good heat lamp works great. Make sure you use the kind of heat lamp with the metal guard, just in case it should fall to the ground the bulb won’t touch the floor. The only difference between the white lamp and the red lamp is how much light you want in your coop. Our chickens take their rest in late summer from laying eggs and to molt and are ready again to produce eggs come winter. Giving them extra light will help them produce eggs in the winter. We set our heat lamp on a timer to provide light after sunset for 2 more hours, and to go back on providing light about 2 hours prior to sunrise. When it is very cold, we will have two heat lamps, one white light bulb for extra light and one red bulb for heat that stays on when the white bulb for light is off.
- Chickens need lots of clean water. We have found the best way to keep water the cleanest is by using poultry nipples installed in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket. We hang this bucket so that the nipples are the height of the heads of the chickens. If you coop is heated in the winter, we find that this type of watering system won’t freeze. But if it does, no worries … it will thaw without breaking the nipples! Outside the coop, watering will depend upon how cold it gets during your winter. In more temperate areas where it warms up during the days, fresh water in a chicken waterer every morning does the trick. But if you are located in the areas of great freezing, you might want to get a heater for your waterer to sit on top.
- Feed needs change for chickens during the stress of the colder months. We keep feeding the basic feed, but add a corn based scratch as a snack. We continue to give them alfalfa hay every so often as a good source of protein. And remember I said that chickens are very industrious? Give them some special food sources to keep them busy like a whole cabbage head or whole carrots. And then the special treats: cooked oatmeal, pasta or rice. Leftovers are great to give the girls, but we cook these treats especially for them. They will love you for all wonderful things you do for them!
The trees are turning, revealing amazing fall colors of reds, yellows, pinks, oranges and browns… the garden survived the first frost and is winding down production. We built up the box stalls in the barn to ensure that the cow and horse had a warm and dry place to bed down at night. The days of fall are getting colder and shorter.
We’ve been in Wisconsin for about three months now and it’s already time to start planning for the coming winter months. We talked about what it is we’ll need to get done before winter and I realized, as the discussion went on, how different the climate in Wisconsin will be from that of Arizona. In Arizona, we’d get snow… sometimes at least a foot in a good overnight storm, but it would typically melt off in a day or so and while it was cool outside, it was rarely bitter cold. I am thinking that those mild winter days are behind me with the move to Wisconsin! So, today’s blog will toss around our winter planning ideas and I would encourage hearing from all of you on how you’re planning for your winter months.
|130 bales of 2 string hay plus the loose pile
First item on our list was to ensure a good food supply for Do and Cookie cow. We did end up finding a great resource for hay. We purchased about 100 bales of Alf-Alfa and about 30 bales of grass hay.We hadn’t been here long enough to find a resource for used pallets… so for this year we used two 12′ x 5′ corral panels as an air gap beneath the pile. I am hoping it is enough to keep it from molding. So far, the bales we’ve fed have been lush and green with zero mold smell or evidence of too much moisture. We did stack this in the corner of the 30 x 60 pole barn / garage. One thing completed on our list!!
Today’s big task is to go through the barn and garage to pull out anything that can’t tolerate freezing temperatures! I use Espree Aloe Herbal Fly Repellent on the cow and horse… this doesn’t tolerate freezing well so I’ve made a livestock shelf in the basement for this and other items I’ll pull from the tack room. Ivomec, Blu Kote, etc… Really, any liquid items in your tack room should be pulled for the winter months to avoid container splitting or reducing the effectiveness of the product.
Tack was another question that popped into my mind, though from what I’ve read on many forums, a good oiling in the fall and covering your tack will keep it safe from damage through the cold months.
|Heated auto fill water source
Water sources for Cookie and Do are another consideration for the Wisconsin winters. We have a heated water source. It’s an auto fill, tied directly to the well, and has a heater inside the housing to keep the water from freezing. While I am comfortable with this, and love that it has access from front and back (though not visible in the picture)… I’m thinking I want a back up water source in the barn. In Arizona, I used a large metal garbage can that I purchased specifically for a back up water source. I put a large rock in the bottom and set a submersible heating element on top of the rock. I used the rock just to create a larger heat source. We had temperatures in AZ that would dip to -9 degrees and this stayed at 40 degrees. As long as I can make sure that the furry kids have access to water, I’m happy!!!
So, in summary… the furry kids have a warm place to sleep for winter… plenty of food…. and a good water source. All items that can freeze have been removed from the tack room and into the heated basement. Tack has been oiled and covered for protection. Have I missed anything that you can think of???
Happy Homesteading and I hope you all are enjoying the hot cider and amazing fall colors!!!
Having a breeding pair of emu offers not only a bit of livestock guardianship… but also the blessing of six to ten eggs per year. Each egg is equal to approximately ten to twelve chicken eggs. Our emu laid an egg yesterday, so today we had a ONE EGG QUICHE!! Yes, in a 13 x 9 pan we used only ONE EGG! To say it was amazing, wonderful, delicious… well.. that’s an understatement!
Flaky pie crust was the foundation… then sauteed spinach, mushroom and half of a sweet onion… the addition of pork sausage crumbled, fried and drained… finally, some shredded cheese and the emu egg whipped with approximately one and a half cups of fresh milk… WOW!!!! We cut into it and not a bit of drainage in the pan… it cooked solid and the flavor was amazing… if you have access to emu eggs.. this is a must DO!!
“I despise a flogging rooster…” is one of my favorite quotes from the movie “Cold Mountain” and for good reason… I DO despise a floggin’ rooster! If you’ve ever gone into the hen house to collect eggs and had a rooster come at you, flapping his wings and leading with his spurs… you know exactly what I mean!
My experience has led me to keep a more mellow flock… rooster free if at all possible, however every once in a while a run of pullets will sneak in a rooster or two. I had a rooster last season and ended up with a broody hen and a small batch of chicks.. yep… one is a rooster who has recently started his two o’clock a.m. practice crowing. Three days in a row now I’ve had the pleasure of a three a.m. wake up call from this small boy. So, I get up this morning to see what people are doing with their roosters and find posts about ‘amazing tamales’ or ‘chicken noodle soup’…. hmmmmm thinking soup is sounding pretty good on this rainy day.
What do you do with your roosters when you have more than your place needs? Do you try to sell them? Do you butcher them out? I tend not to put the effort into butchering roosters because typically they are quite skinny chested birds… the hens have so much more meat on them, that is unless they are the meat birds and then gender doesn’t really matter. I’m thinking this young man will have a bit more time to figure out that crowing at two a.m. isn’t healthy and if that lesson isn’t learned… he’ll be fodder for the coyote… it’s a nice horse back ride out to state land!!!!
Many people choose to raise chickens in the winter in the hopes of getting eggs that spring. Keeping the chicks warm enough is always a concern during the spring and especially in the winter months. Chicks need to be kept at 95 degrees for the first week or so and then dropping the temperature by five degrees a week as their feathers come in and begin to do the job of keeping them warm. Another reason people choose to brood chicks is for the fair. Having chicks in January brings mature and fully feathered birds to the county fair each year. Those couple of extra months provide for a lot of growth and mature birds for the fair.
Raising chickens is a fun hobby with eggs or meat as a benefit. In the picture above I have Buff Orpington and Fast Growing meat birds. The meat birds were a huge failure. We live just under five thousand feet in elevation and the warning for the birds was to not raise above five thousand feet. I thought I’d be safe… well four thousand six hundred feet is apparently close enough to five thousand feet.. because I lost each and every chick to pneumonia as they grew older. I also found out that free feeding these chicks is a no-no… they will eat themselves to death. Food for twelve hours on and then twelve hours off (pull the food through the night) is the most recommended feeding schedule I’ve seen out there. My other failure came in with raising egg birds and meat birds in the same brooder. They tended to pile up at night and as time passed the meat birds were twice the size of the little buff chicks. When I’d check on them in the morning I’d find flat buffs on the bottom of the huddle. The temps held fine, the birds just liked to huddle. It was a learning experience for sure… I’ll certainly do things differently next time!
There are a lot of tricks and tidbits to raising chickens, turkey poults or any birds. What tidbits have you learned over the years.?
City dwellers and country folks alike are realizing the benefits of back yard homesteading. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out and buy a horse, cows, goats and fill acres with fences and animals. Back yard homesteading could be as simple as a few chickens and a nice garden for summer time vegetables. Homesteading is simply making the best use out of the land you have to use. If you have a small city plot, plant a garden in addition to flowers for an edible landscape design. If city ordinances allow, add a few chickens for a fresh supply of eggs. Despite a common misconception, you do not need a rooster to have fresh eggs. You only need a rooster if you want fertile eggs!
Chickens are an easy addition to the back yard homestead because they require very little maintenance. A clean source of water is a must and a constant supply of a healthy chicken crumble from your local feed store will have you enjoying fresh eggs in no time. A great benefit to chickens is the built in composting option. They LOVE table scraps, vegetable peels and cuttings and pretty much any food stuffs you’d normally throw away. In return they will give you fertilizer for your grass or garden. We coop our chickens at
night and let them run free in the yard during the day. This does require fencing around any gardens, as I said, they do love fresh vegetables and you’ll find a patch full of half eaten cucumbers and the lettuce will be gone if you don’t lock them out. I clean out the chicken coop every month or so. I compost the straw bedding for the garden soil. We use five gallon buckets in a wooden rack that we built for nesting boxes. This keeps the skunks and racoons from stealing the eggs. The buckets are at a twenty degree tilt to keep the eggs from rolling out onto the ground.
Please comment with any questions and as always… Happy Homesteading!!!