HELLO! Quick disclaimer this blog is more for those people who are interested or are currently raising chickens, or just want to see what I have been up to around our tiny homestead! Since most of the yard work is done and has been talked about in previous posts, this is about another aspect of our homestead getting ready for winter.
So I know it seems crazy to talk about winter…but in case you are unaware we are having some chilly nights which puts my head on a winter focus, so I am not working outside in the extreme cold. Right now our average high is probably in the 50’s so I took it upon myself (and my husband) to set out to winterize the chicken coop earlier than last year.
Quick thing about last year, every time we tried to put up the plastic on the chicken run it was wayyyy too windy, which means by the time we actually got to putting the plastic on the run it was FREEZING- this was awful since hands were needed for the work!
This is why I got smart this year! I cleaned out the coop early in November. Cleaning the coop in the fall looks like: removing all fecal matter and putting it into a compost area, scooping out all the old bedding (compost), cleaning out the cobwebs, and draining the waterer we use in the spring-fall because it is a no good frozen pipe in winter.
When the coop is clean, I put in new bedding, which this year was dried leaves, as they are so convenient to find at this time of year. As we go through winter I try a deep litter method using leaves, straw, woods shavings, etc.
Once the bedding is in, I put in the heater. Our heater is an oil heater. It is more like a radiator of heat, or as my husband describes “it is like an extra warm body in the coop”. We purchased this kind of heater so that a coop fire wouldn’t happen. The oil heats up in the coils and circulates through the system and the heat radiates off of the system. If the heater were ever to fall over, it has an automatic shut off too.
Some people also keep a light on in the coop to try and keep egg production up. I have heard a theory of winter is a time to let things rest. The garden rests, I rest and I feel like my chickens can just rest too. So they go to bed early, and wake up later but that is all fine—keeps them from being too stir crazy in winter. My egg production does drop in the winter, but as I said I like rest so I may as well let them rest too 🙂 I do put a light in my coop however for when I have to work out there in the dark, filling the feeder or water in the early hours of the morning…oh wait it is dark until like 7AM some days! So I just like to have a light 🙂
We also close up the windows with wood blocks. The windows lean into the coop to allow venting in the summer, but to keep the cold out we put blocks behind them and shut the windows up.
Lastly in the coop, I have realized the water that gets spilled can freeze the door shut if too much bedding is in the door and the water is spilt, so I place a piece of wood in front of the door…this keeps me from having to bust out a blow drying in the middle of january to feed the chickens! Can anyone say hard lesson learned?!?!
This past Saturday (November 7th) we put the plastic on the outside run. We put plastic on the outside for two things. Number one is that it expands the area for the chickens in the winter, so they are not “cooped up.” Number two is that it gives a very mild green house effect, which actually helps to keep the coop warmer (especially the side with the roost poles).
We have wood poles that hold up our chicken wire normally anyway, so we just take pieces of milk jug (so the plastic doesn’t rip out) and the plastic and staple it to the wood beams. Last year we did end up with some holes in the plastic, between the snow weighting down the plastic, or the chicken wire breaking through, but all in all it held together nicely so we used the same plastic this year.
I hope this helps you with your chicken raising and that everyone has a safe and warm winter with no chicken problems 🙂