With everything going on, both stuff we intended and stuff we did not expect, we have been navigating caring for our chickens as the weather grows colder and the days are shorter.
I’m not going to lie: I fret that I am not being a good chicken keeper. I do worry about three times per day as the days grow shorter and the weather worsens with winter. Are they warm enough? Dry enough? Happy enough (versus bored)? Nice enough (to each other)? Are we smart enough to recognize a problem if there is one?
Our chickens are not allowed to free range. We do what we can to keep them satisfied and try to provide entertainment to keep them content. In nicer weather, it was easier. See below. Here Mr. Gordon mowed the lawns and I filled the run with fresh clippings – which they really liked.
Mr. Gordon and I work from home (pretty much chained to our work laptops) but we are really fortunate in that we can check on the girls during the day. For example, at lunch we can make sure the water is clean (they LOVE to kick the wood chips from the run into the hanging waterer) and give them a treat, like scratch. Which encourages them to kick wood chips into their water, yes.
Frequently, we’ll give them peeled apples on sticks. (We buy apples in bulk.) However, by the time the j-o-b workday is over, the girls have put themselves into the coop and we close it up. On weekends I try to talk to them a little more, but again, sometimes the weather works against that.
The morning routine has changed since I wrote the post on chicken chores. Mr. Gordon put a sink/tub into the basement where I can wash up chicken dishes and fill their water. This is a good thing, of course, with the colder weather. But again, it’s like I’m in and out of their run in the morning so quickly. Outdoor food and water delivered (both hang in run just under coop), plus morning treats. Sometimes it’s warm oatmeal which they love, sometimes it’s grapes and spinach on mornings with better temperatures. Then a second waterer gets added to the back of the coop (blog reader Bekah suggested that we take it out of the coop overnight during winter time). Scoop poop if there is any around their hanging “always-inside the coop” feeder plus check for the occasional early morning egg. Grab dishes from the run if oatmeal was served, then back inside I go.
It feels like a chicken drive-by. So, again, I fret.
The girls have hardly slowed in their laying of eggs. Somedays we’ll get six, somedays eight. A few days here and there, four. We’re actually pretty well stocked on eggs right now. We’ve been sharing with neighbors. We finished the eggs we kept on the counter in our “egg spiral” and now store the new ones in the fridge so they will keep longer.
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For treats, we have switched them to Grubblies. They are a bit expensive, but I wanted to buy from a company that sources their product in the USA. This company sources their black soldier fly grubs in the US and Canada, which works for me. They also enjoyed their share of pumpkins and pumpkin seeds this fall. I looked it up because I wasn’t sure about the seeds especially because of the size, but turns out as long as they have access to grit (mine do all day long), you can give them the seeds. By the way, they also love pumpkin cracked open, guts offered up with a sprinkling of scratch on it.
Winter prep: I asked Mr. Gordon to help combat any possible drafts around windows or doors with some strong plastic weather stripping. He also wrapped three sides of the “under coop” and some of the run with heavy plastic to help keep out the cold wind and snow/rain. Newsflash: The girls will stand in the run when the rain is blowing in. It drives me nuts. I stress when they get wet.
I stress a lot, have you noticed? Yes, I drive Mr. Gordon nuts.
On the plus side, the girls seem to be healthy and the coop is staying dry on the inside, so it must be pretty solid. I still have to give myself a “talk down” when the temperatures dip low: We have a solid coop, they will be able to stay warm. Sometimes that works. 😉 All in all they seem to be okay.
I think there was a bit of a change-up in pecking order, and Barred Rock Mimi is hanging back more in the mornings (she’s the cute, little one). She does eventually get in there for treats, but Alice (another Barred) – who I think WAS at the bottom of the pecking order – seems to be a little more willing to jump in. Peaches continues to be… well, Peaches. She is such a spaz. She loves to jump into the gathered group from the coop ramp and scatter everyone to the wind. She always, um, has sort of a goofy look on her face, too.
It’s kind of hard to explain, but she will get this really dorky, goofy expression. Her neck often seems longer than the other chickens, too.
The others, Daisy, Penelope, Maxine, Zorro (all Australorps) and Gert (the fourth Barred Rock), seem to be holding at the status quo. I think Zorro got bit or pecked a few weeks back and I saw a little dried blood on her comb. (Picture my stress levels in that moment.) But everything seems to be recovered. Daisy continues to serve as flock lead. She’s pretty loud when she’s yelling.
I am so glad that Mr. Gordon and I finally made the leap to bring home chickens after YEARS of debating, but I need to stress the point to anyone considering doing the same: It’s a lot of work and you don’t get to take a day off.
Chicken Updates on Your End?
Flock keepers, how are your chickens doing? What’s the update?
Blog Drop Series
This post is part of my December 2020 blog drop series (that is, four posts published at once.) You might also like: