Thursday, January 13, 2011

Old Man Winter is Having Way Too Much Fun

So this is what it looked like in our backyard yesterday. This was only 5 or 6 inches of snow. Easy-peasy, right? I mean, we must be getting used to this by now.

But that's easy for me to say, from the comfort of the couch in my cozy family room, with the fire burning and the new heating system cranking away. I wonder if I would feel the same way if I were a chicken and my home looked like this:
This is what it looked like out at the chicken coop, after I shoveled out the worst of the snow and spread some straw around for the ladies to play in.

Keep in mind that this henhouse, although it sports a nice solid roof and cute red paint, is little more than a wooden box on stilts. It's not heated. We placed it in a corner of the yard where we thought it would be protected from the worst of the weather, with the shed on one side and the woods and the berm of the creek on two other sides. I've hung a tarp to give them more protection from rain and snow, and I recently propped some boards against the bottom of the coop to give them an area protected from the harsh wind blowing across the backyard. But it's still darn cold out there. Even before we got this latest storm, the temperatures were very low, making for cold hard ground and a cold henhouse.
In Nesting Boxes
We've had some amusing moments this week, watching the girls trying to deal with the snow. They really don't like walking on it, we know that. I am very glad that I bought that bale of straw a few months ago. It was a monumental failure in the henhouse--the chickens hated it, and would not go in the nesting boxes when the straw was there--but it has been great for spreading on top of the snow. It's more pleasant for them to walk on than the snow, and digging in the straw gives them something to do.
This helps, because I think they are getting bored out of their tiny little minds out there in the coop. Every time one of us opens the door, they all come running and look out to see if we've gotten rid of all that troublesome and cold white stuff yet.

Occasionally, they will get desperate enough to venture a few steps onto the snow, and we have noticed that some of them are more daring in this regard than others. Daisy, for example, is much more willing to brave cold feet if it means a chance to walk around outside. Melanie is usually just a few steps behind her. The other three are less enthusiastic. In particular, Jackie is a complete and total coward, and she would much rather stay under the henhouse and call for everyone to come back and stay with her. It's ironic that the biggest of the hens is the most wimpy.

So far, they haven't cut back much on production. We still get 3 or 4 eggs a day, so they are doing their jobs.

With the cold, we've had trouble keeping their water from freezing. We have two bottles, so we change them out every few hours so that there is always one bottle with unfrozen water available for them. It's becoming a bit of a pain, though, so the other day I broke down and ordered an electrically heated water bowl. And a couple of days ago, I started bringing them a treat:
Multigrain hot cereal. This bowl has a generous sprinkling of flax seed, because my friend Elyse suggested it might help make their eggs more nutritious. Hey, I'll try anything. But would they?
Yep. They loved it.

If you'd told me a year ago that I'd be cooking for chickens, I am not sure I would have believed you.


Stripeyspots said...

I realise it's probably sooo much work but I just want you to know that you're living the dream! Well, my dream anyway... And my grandmother used to give her hens finely crushed eggshells in their feed as it apparently made the shells even stronger.

Sydney said...

Thank you so much! We are very lucky to be able to do this, I know, and it has been very rewarding so far. I've heard about the eggshells, but I am taking the lazy road so far, LOL, and using crushed oyster shells, which I have read will do the same thing. But this summer, when I get the compost going, maybe I will make some changes.

Stay warm! ~Sydney