Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cluck and Quack Happenings: Around the Coop

Feathers are flying everywhere! It's been a rough fall for our hens - both chicken and duck - as they're all going through their first molts. Still. ::sigh::



Each year, sometime in the fall, chickens and ducks lose some, most or all their feathers and replace that with new ones. It's a protein-zapping process that ends egg laying for months. The hens haven't laid a single egg since early September! And 2 weeks ago the ducks stopped.



I've had to buy STORE eggs! Can you imagine?! ::sigh::



Otherwise all the girls are doing their thing and settling in for the colder winter months.



The chickens forage for bits of something or another under the fallen leaves. What they find, I do not know! ::wink:: They've been finding cozy patches of warm sunlight near the trees to nap or dust bathe in pine needles. But you won't see them outside the covered fun if there's even a smidgen of snow on the ground.




And the ducks waddle out to the icy brook to swim and forage, preening afterwards. Poor Olive is still coughing occasionally and has a dry-sounding quack despite her round of antibiotics and now VetRx. But she is alert and active and definitely enjoys her dried mealworms.



With the colder weather here and the snow coming, White Pine and I wrapped up the run with plastic sheeting a month or so ago. Transparent plastic sheeting, which you can get get Lowe's or Home Depot, is wonderful for letting in sunlight but keeping out snow, freezing rain and chilly breezes. And we don't have to get into the run and shovel out mountains of snow through the season! 



To give them some added insulation and warmth, I've been adding dry, fallen leaves to the run. We have an abundance of leaves and they make great bedding! Not only do they provide some insulation against the cold ground, but the hens can scratch through it for exercise, searching for scratch grains or mealworms we randomly throw in. And they'll decompose with "flock fertilizer" easily through the winter months and can be raked out and added to the garden or simply left in the run.




We've begun "deep litter" inside the coop. Our coop does not have electricity as we believe its better to keep things as "au natural" as possible (while still protecting our flock) and so it's unheated. "Deep litter" is a method of allowing straw to compost inside the coop over the winter, releasing warmth in the process, and in the spring providing seasoned fertilizer for the garden. (Read more about "deep litter" on Fresh Eggs Daily.) Believe it or not, done right, "deep litter" isn't smelly at all.


Now, if only they would stay laying eggs again! ::sigh::

The Chicken Chick

ETA: Guess what? I was surprised and excited to see our FIRST EGG since molting started this morning on the coop floor!

10 comments:

  1. Cherish that egg! Frame it! :) I was going to ask, will deep litter work with pine shavings? I have heard of this, but wonder if it will work with what we use. :)

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    1. I'm not sure, Rachel, as I've always used hay or straw and have never read about others using pine shavings. Perhaps a Google search?

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  2. Wow, that is a lot of feathers! Our hens are through with their molting and have gorgeous fluffy feathers in! Not back to laying yet. Luckily we get some eggs from our new pullets :)

    I love the transparent sheet covering for your run. What a great idea!

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    1. The plastic covering is really an inexpensive solution to give the hens protection from wind, freezing rain and snow during winter months. (It's even a little warmer inside the run!) We just cut and stapled (with a staple gun) the plastic to the wood, leaving part of the far end and a flap (across the front) open for ventilation.

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  3. Wow, those chickens are an education in themselves! I love your fowl stories. :)

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    1. That they are, Laurie! There is so much to be learned from having animals and pets...even if it's a Betta in a little bowl! LOL

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  4. I wish my girls would get back to work too!

    Thank you for linking up with the Clever Chicks this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Cheers,
    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick
    http://www.The-Chicken-Chick.com

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  5. Looks great!! I have seen some designs that use he compost pile to heat chicken coops. But I think our plan is to heat a mini green house that way.

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  6. Looks like you had a lot of work done. Have a lovely day :)

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  7. love the idea of plastic sheeting. We really dont get snow but tons of rain all winter long. I am going to have to try this.:)

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