The Holidays have rolled around and we are are pretty much relieved to see the cold weather show up and stay for good after the odd unseasonably warm and wet winter start. We finished the changes to make the coop more winter resistant and I thought I would post what I am doing in that department....
We switched the chicken waterer to a 5 gallon bucket with a 250 watt in-water heater with a built in thermostat and nipples on the bottom. So far so good! They drink from it, the nipples haven't froze yet, though I dread having to haul the five gallons of water out there at least I don't have to refill it nearly as often. The only problems I have run into is that I have to raise it as I raise the straw floor level (as you can see in the picture it needs raising again) and for some odd reason the chickens stop drinking from it...or can't get water from it as well...or something.....when the water level drops to about three inches. I have not figured out why really. The only reason I figured it out it was happening was because every morning with their hot chicken food mash breakfast I bring a cup or two of warm water with a touch of vinegar for them to drink if they feel like it (since the in-water heater is in the bucket I can't add the vinegar to that water cause it will corrode the metal) and when the water in the bucket level drops they are absolutely super thirsty in the morning.
As you can also see from the picture I only have a 60 watt regular bulb on a timer, and a 50 watt red heat bulb that stays on continuously to heat the coop. On the wall I have a small low watt heating pad plugged in for when it gets really cold at night. I have been surprised at how well the coop and chickens are performing. I have a remote thermometer that shows me live readings of the temperature and the humidity and keeps records of the lows and highs and I am obsessed with checking on it a billion times during the day and before I sleep. They haven't shown any signs of being stressed or frostbite or even of really being cold. So far the coldest it has gotten outside the coop is -45 degrees. Though I do worry a bit about them getting bored. I try and open the door to the covered run area for them on the warmer days but most of the time they prefer to sit inside and dig through the bedding for BOSS and forgotten treats. I get 5-7 eggs from them a day, and it's amazing not to have to buy eggs anymore! There were a few days where the eggs would freeze before I got there but now the girls bury the eggs once everyone is done laying for the day. I have to be extra special careful to keep the straw clean and check thoroughly for buried eggs but so far I stopped getting frozen eggs.
I also have been playing with ways to add a few degrees of heat when the weather gets really cold in the next month or two. It is known to get well below -60 to -70 some days...so I'm planning on it happening! I bought a microwavable 'thermo' type disc that is used for pet beds. It is supposed to release heat for 10 hours but I found that in my conditions with only works a few hours at most. It helps in a pinch and is easy to do for nights that I know will be cold. You can see it in the picture ...it's the weird pick disc being held up by rocks on the waterer.
Other than that the chickens are happy being chickens. I had a brief battle with them to try and get them to stop pecking at the blue board insulation we put up, which we should have thought about before we installed it all. lol. I took one of the tamer hens to the school for a show an tell day where I did a little speech about them and showed the eggs and such. The kids were utterly fascinated and I'm officially known as the Chicken Lady. The elementary school teachers have told me that they have an incubator and so I'm going to try and get them some eggs for them to hatch in the spring. My rooster has stopped crowing since it has gotten chilly but he is still louder than everyone else and is incredibly bossy.
As it is Small business Saturday I encourage everyone to buy a few of your Christmas gifts from small shops this year! There are tons of them that are amazing ...here: www.Etsy.com
A couple that are my personal favorites that I buy from frequently are:
Asiannataq Nay's Shop (my cousin): ASIANNATAQ
Honeyrun Farm (my honey supplier): HONEYRUN FARM
Please feel free to add links to your favorite shops in the comments!
And now some random photos!
|We adopted a dog that was ill and we were told that she has never been in heat and would probably not go into heat, so we weren't too anxious to get her fixed. ....She had 7 pups. I engage in Puppy therapy several times a day.|
|Everything is covered in frost|
|I have made a bunch of doll Christmas Tree ornaments for sale with real fursies. More info here: www.SalmonberryThoughts.Etsy.com|
|New product in my store! Found a really awesome use for coltsfoot leaf. www.SalmonberyOrigins.Etsy.com|