Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Winter Chickens

 This photo is out of order but refuses to move.  Here are a couple eggs in the nest. For the most part, hens will lay early in the morning.  On these really cold days, I have to collect eggs first thing, or I will find them frozen.   In minus 9 degrees, they freeze pretty fast. They will be cracked and hard as a rock if this happens. I will still feed them to the dogs
Keeping any kind of animal, even something as simple as chickens, requires extra attention in the winter.
Besides making sure that they have a little extra fat and protein to help keep them warm on these frigid days and nights, you have to especially watch that they have fresh water that isn't frozen. I solved the frozen water problem by purchasing a heated water dish. But they still tend to muck it up, and I haul fresh water out twice a day for  them.
This is the path to the chicken coop.  Before I can care for the hens, I have to get to the coop.  In winter, that means clearing a path through the snow, and making sure you have clear access and the doors and run are accessible to the hens.
I carry out food for them, and, at some point during the day, they also get some home grown greens or sprouts, and kitchen scraps.  the chicken bucket is on the left with some fresh microgreens.What can't be used by the hens, goes in the compost bucket.  That's the bucket on the right. That is dog fur on top from brushing the dog. Nothing gets wasted.  It is compostable, and also a favorite of the birds in spring when building nests.   So things like coffee grounds, tea bags, leftover veggies that have gone bad in the back of the frig because I didn't see them (that NEVER happens to you, right?)... all these things go to compost. I even empty the vacuum cannister into the compost since at my house it is mostly just a little grit or sand, dog fur, and ashes from around the fireplace.
The girls heard me approach and know this means TREAT!!! They are waiting for goodies.
This is the path I shoveled out in their run, so they can have a little space to get outside.  It's getting kinda deep in there.  I spread a little straw for them to encourage them to scratch around. They don't much like the snow and refuse to go out there if there isn't straw. I know, spoiled hens they are!  When I got these hens as 20 week old pullets, they had only ever known being inside a huge warehouse type building with thousands of other chickens. Not very sanitary, and they had never ever been outside.  They didn't even have roosts. They just had to sleep on the ground with all the poop and sometimes the occasional dead chicken.  I deplore this kind of animal husbandry.  I actually did not know, when I ordered the pullets form the local farm store, that this was the kind of facility they were coming from.  I would not have purchased them. But, now, it is like these little hens have just blossomed. Whereas they did not know what it mean to see sunshine and dirt outside, now they eagerly run out when I open their little pop door to the run. They had never had anything but highly processed chicken feed.  Now they relish organic feed and fresh greens and kitchen scraps, even some meal worms on occasion.  So I feel I sort of rescued them from a bad existance.   They return the favor by providing wonderful wholesome eggs, and manure for the garden, and weed control come summertime.  The entertainment factor can't be ignored either. If you have had a stressful day or just a busy one, sitting down and just watching the hens do their thing is mighty good therapy.

Here they are, enjoying those microgreens.  This will make them healthier.  You are what you eat, you know. And this goes for chickens as well as us human folk..  If they are healthier, their eggs are healthier. The eggs will be deeper in color (which is an indication of its nutrient content, by the way) and just more robust.     If eggs were muscles, I would say that store bought eggs are soft and flabby and weak. The yolks sort of flatten out when you crack the egg into a bowl.They are pale and runny. Naturally raised hens, with access to greens and bugs and all the things chickens are meant to eat, will lay eggs that are firmer - the yolks remain round and strong and denser. And they grow darker in color the more natural greens the hens can eat.

Its a little more work to give them access to greens in the winter.  Well, it's really not THAT much work. Anybody can give them all the lettuce and kale and other scraps, and it's only a few minutes a day to sprout them some greens.  And it's well worth it, in my opinion.

Weather:  cold and sunny. Was minus 9 this morning, and has only reached about 20 degrees today.
Wildlife.  The turkeys have stayed home today. Maybe because it is so difficult to get through 4 feet of snow!
Training: a snowshoe romp through the woods in deep snow, with the dogs.


  1. Deb, I have been meaning to write, been following your blog since I discovered it a week or two ago!
    We've been thinking about getting chickens. Still haven't come to a conclusion.

    Our tip with veggies that are about to go "Bad". Dennis takes all fresh veggies that are about to become suspect and chops them up and freezes them. These then go into whatever curry he makes. Can't believe how much veg we've saved by this route.

    Hope to see you at RevRing, weather permitting travel and all!

  2. HeyKimba!
    thats a great idea with the veggies.... i sure hate it when anything gets wasted...
    chickens are SO EASY. They practically raise themselves. I wont say it is cheaper to raise your own eggs, especially if you do it right, but you will have control over the quality, get a better garden as a side benefit, and alot of joy. Chickens are alot smarter than people think... they will know you and trust you and having that sort of partnership with another being is more than rewarding. Plus, they are like little old laides in bloomers when they run... always good for a laugh!

  3. Deb, the best eggs our family ever had was the ones you gave us. The yolks were orange, not yellow, and they tasted amazing. Glad to see you are continuing the nutritional goodness.

  4. Chris, wish ya'll were closer. Adding a couple dozen more hens soon (chicks) and there are going to be so many eggs! Going out now for the late layers, so the eggs dont freeze... whadya know, its snowing here again.