"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Friday, January 23, 2009

All Cooped Up

This has been a fairly cold winter, the night time temperature has ranged from lows of -10 ° to the high 20's with daytime temps all over the place. Not too cold, but we have received record snow this year. It usually starts to warm up a bit around here come February, so that is something to look forward to.

We are fortunate to have electricity in our chicken house and have been able to keep their sleeping quarters around 35° when necessary. I set up an old oil heater on a stand figuring this would be the safest heating device. The heater is encased in wire so that no members of the flock will try to use it as a personal heating pad. I also attached it to the ceiling with a chain so that it could not possibly get knocked down. So far so good.

In order to keep the outside water dish from freezing my wife picked up a bird bath heating pad that fits perfectly in the bottom of an old metal pot. It works really well as long as I keep the water dish full so that it does not get too warm for them. We leave another water dish in the heated room and it only freezes occasionally. They seem to prefer the ice cold water best.

Even though we have tried to keep it warm the roosters and a couple hens got frost bite on their combs, nothing too serious. We started rubbing bag balm on their combs and waddles during the coldest days and that seems to have helped prevent any further damage.

I could keep them locked up in their sleeping quarters on cold days but instead have given them access to the entire coop. They seem to appreciate this. We built chicken doors with a sliding panel so that they can come and go as they please between the three areas. I have invited them outside on numerous occasions this winter but they have decided it would be best to wait for the snow to melt and have thus far declined my invitations.

I try to keep them happy, healthy, and entertained as much as possible. They receive salads made especially for them every day. Yeah I know, spoiled chickens...but I try to remember that what goes into the birds comes out in the eggs. We grew extra Chantenay carrots, potatoes, and Mammoth Mangles (beets) just for the birds and they are very grateful to receive the aforementioned mixed with any greens that I can find on a daily basis.

Once a week we bring in a few buckets of dirt for them to play in and also provide alfalfa hay.

All of this may seem extreme but it has cut the feed bill in half and also proves most beneficial to us via the healthy eggs.


Anonymous said...

Well, it makes sense to me all the extra work you go through for their meals. We do the same thing too. It's one of the reasons I have the greenhouses: extra green goodness for those poor cooped-up birds. We use vaseline on their combs but bag balm probably would work better, so thanks for that tip.

Mr. H. said...


Glad that I'm not the only one who feels sorry for the birds in winter. Sometimes my wife comes into the kitchen when I am making the salads and has to ask whether it is for us or the girls.

Scarecrow said...

Love your set up there!
Just as you are struggling to keep your chickens warm, we are busy putting up extra shade to keep ours cool...
We are expecting a heatwave here this week with temps over 104F in the forecast. It's not unusual for our summer but still something we have to make allowances for.

Don't tell my girls you have heating in your henhouse...mine will want air conditioning. ;)

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Oh. And there's my answer. So you can disregard that first comment . . .

Anonymous said...

Mr. H.,
I way back here reading about your chickens -I would love to have some. Will wait till spring!

Mr. H. said...


They are the best and in my honest opinion the only farm animal a small scale food system requires. I hope you get some.:)

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