This week we are in full swing of getting the chicken coop, run and our eight birds ready for the coming winter.
Jumping up on the straw bales is a fun activity for the chickens.
We raked out the old oak leaf litter in the enclosed run and added a 3” layer of freshly fallen, dry leaves. We added them in the open run area as well as in the enclosed run area. These leaves plus adding bark chips as needed will help to prevent a lot of mud from accumulating in the run when the fall rains begin and the eventual winter snow melt.
We are in the process of tarping our two chicken coops and covered run.
We put down areas of “sand piles” where the girls can scratch, peck and eat the sand as needed.
Bales of hay provide a wind and snow barrier around our coops.
As I clean out the old vines and vegetable from the garden, I tossed any interesting food items into the chicken run; sunflower heads, small tomatoes, green bean vines and basil stems. Our chickens pick, scratch and eat most everything I throw in there and they are happy to have these snacks as well as the constant stimulation.
It’s so much fun to jump up on the hay and scratch and peck!
Large plastic tarps have been placed over the coop and run roof to prevent even the smallest of water leaks from coming inside. The plastic storms on the outside of the coop are going up ever so slowly, beginning with the west-facing side where the strongest winds blow inland off of Lake Michigan. Soon the pink Styrofoam insulation panels will be positioned in the top of both coop roofs to help hold in a bit more heat this winter.
The wooden frame protects the newly planted barley seeds until they begin to grow.
We have picked up the two loads of hay bales from a local farm. These are stacked on the outside of the run as another layer of wind protection. They also help to create buffer zone to provide an area where the snow is blocked and a narrow area for me and the chickens to walk around. This narrow pathway allows me to be able to get into both side of the coop for cleaning, filling of waters and more chicken chores. Our truck holds eight bales at once so we typically make several trips to a local hay farm for the hay we need. And we run Sassy in the Todd Farm State Game area on those same trips.
Bales of hay being thrown over the fence and into the run. Watch out girls!
We set up the heated dog bowl getting them plugged in as well as the drop lights we use in the coop for the long winter days when chickens are stuck inside the coop for hours at a time. This year the coop lights and heated water bowls got new and safer electrical cord that are lit at the end. This way I can tell at a glance if they are on and working properly. The summer-use rubber watering pans have been washed out, dried and stored for the winter.
Freshly sprouted barley seeds provide live greens and stimulation for the girls.
Today I also refreshed the bedding in the laying boxes, using more of our dry oak leaves. Although it’s a lot of work to remove the many leaves from our 47 White Oak trees we have growing on our five acres, I am happy this week that we have so many leaves available for the chickens needs.
Freckles is recovering from weeks of brooding and is now molting…this is her in her better days.
We will also bag up as many leaves as we can for use later on during the winter months ahead. Not only are these leaves free, when mixed in with the girl’s organic poop they will eventually compost down into our fertile homemade composted soil for our garden. Nothing is wasted in the Small House permaculture garden!
Normally I replace the sand litter in the coops in the fall but since that has already been done twice since April, I will not do that this fall. Each morning we carefully clean out the night poop and leave the doors open on both side of the coop to air it out. That plus the fact the girls have been free ranging and pooping outside all spring summer and fall, so I think we are good to go. I have begun to add small amounts of leaves to the sand litter to acclimate the girls to our winter litter method of what we chicken keepers call, “deep litter.”
I’ve also added firewood ash to the various sand piles for chicken dusting and we replaced a cracked playpen roost with a new roost bar and rolled in a log for a step up to the bar.
Belly up to the bar, girls!
I know we do spoil our girls but I also believe that contented Small House chickens lay tasty and healthy eggs!
Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna