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Monthly Archives: January 2013

This post is to answer 2 questions from Willow Creek Farm.

Lets start with egg production.  My 5 hens laid 5 eggs every day all through the fall, When the days got shorter and colder some days I would get 4 eggs, even an occasional 3.  My father-in-law grew up on a farm, dairy cows, chickens and horses to do the work before they got a tractor.  He rolls his eyes when we tell him what we are doing for our chickens. I think he likes that we have them.  He told me that they would bring out hot water for the chickens in the winter so egg production would stay up.

I have a light bulb under my waterer in the coop to keep the water from freezing.  With this cold spell I put in a 100 watt bulb under the waterer to add a little heat to the coop.  The water in the waterer is quite warm and my ladies for the past 11 days have had 3 days where they laid 4 eggs each day and 8 days where they laid 5 eggs each day.  They are drinking a lot more water from the heated waterer because it is now their only source.  Everything else is frozen.

8" cement block with light bulb inside

8″ cement block with light bulb inside

So, are my ladies laying more because of the hot water??

Coop plans.

I designed and built my coop.  I looked at a lot of designs on “backyardchickens.com” and visited 3 coops  in the area.  I borrowed ideas from everyone.  The outside nesting boxes, the water heater, the coop on stilts, the sliding up coop-run door, the wire floor with removable boards, so the poop would fall under the coop and there would be less cleaning of the coop (this idea didn’t work), the recycled dog run for the run and many more I borrowed.  The 2 foot over hanging roof in the front and over the nesting boxes so I don’t get wet when it is raining, the feeder, the recycled swimming pool metal for the roofing material were some of my ideas.  I love my coop.  Is it perfect?? NO. And we are still making little changes to it.  The ladies call it home and I think they are very safe in it.

There is a ———-well we call it a bridge that connects the coop to the run.  A covered bridge and a 2 X 6 ramp with cleats for the chickens to walk up and down.  This is the best picture in my file of the bridge and ramp. If you click on the picture it should enlarge.

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Two stories, one about the ramp and one about the bridge.

My wife thought the ramp was too steep for the ladies. She was right, the first time they slid down the ramp wings-a-flapping.  So I roughed up the surface with a carving bit in a router.  This worked quite well till we got our first freezing rain on it.  Slip-sliding-away with their wing-a-flapping.  So I put cleats on the ramp.

I was showing the coop to a neighbor one afternoon and demonstrating the coop-run door.  I left the door down.  After it got dark I went out to say good night and the coop was empty.  Where are my chickens??  They were all squished into the bridge.  They were done for the day.  I had to push them into the coop they weren’t going on their own.  I felt real bad.  With years of therapy, they’ll be alright.

Ed

We are getting our first deep chill for the season.  Temperatures will have a hard time getting above freezing even in the daytime sun.  Lows will be in the single digits F. and may even go below ZERO F. and this will continue for 3 to 4 days.   Me, I’m fine, the wood stove is cranking, I’ll make some hot cocoa add a splash of Butterscotch Schnapps, maybe 2 splashes and sit by the stove while I sip it.

My wife is very concerned about the chickens, I am too, just not as much.  All of the wild birds, the turkeys down to the chickadees don’t have a heated coop.

What is the problem??

They are our pets.  So we take better care of them.

I’m not moving them into the big house.  This is what I have done, The side vents on the coop have been Blocked as have the vents at the roof on the front of the coop.  The back of the coop has the same vents as the front, these I have left open because everything I have read about coops state that ventilation even in the winter is a must.  This picture shows the front vents before I blocked them.  If you click on the picture it should enlarge.

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To keep the chickens water from freezing I have an eight inch cement block with a light bulb in it.  A 40 watt bulb has been working wonderfully.  I replaced the 40 watt bulb with a 60 watt bulb 2 nights ago and the coop was  26 degrees F. while it was 18 degrees F. outside.  Last night I put in a 100 watt  bulb ( all of these bulbs are incandescent light bulbs ) and the coop low was 28 degrees F. while it was again 18 degrees F. outside.  You can see the switch to the left of the coop door.  This picture shows the cement block and waterer without the shavings.

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If you enlarge the cement block picture you will see a small hole in the front of the block that I drilled so I could see if the light bulb was on.  The cap under the waterer is so tight  that no light gets out.  I also have inserted my instant-read thermometer  into the hole to see how hot it was inside.

We will see how it goes tonight.  Right now it is 8:00 pm and the coop is 24 degrees F and outside it is 14 degrees F.   I think with just the back vents open and the run door closed for the night, there won’t a draft and the light bulb will work well.  The cement block is rather warm to the touch on the sides and the water is luke warm.   They’ll be fine.

Ed

I’ve stated before that the 3rd reason I got chickens was the fresh eggs, now that I’ve been getting fresh eggs for almost 6 months I might have to move them up in status.  The eggs are amazing, and when I run out, I know there will be more next morning.  Like magic.

The first egg was a surprise.  The chicks came home April 4th, 2012, one day old, six little yellow fuzzballs. So when Jasmine laid the first egg on August 4th, my wife and I were very surprised.  Four months was just too early.  I had blocked off the nesting boxes so the chickens wouldn’t roost in them and Jasmine was making a fuss out in the leaves behind the shed.  Looked like she was trying to make a nest around her.  I went back a little later and this is what I found.

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Jasmines first egg 8/4/2012

I opened up the nesting boxes and two days latter an egg appeared in the nesting box.  Then the eggs started coming. One-a-day, two-a-day, three-a-day ——— till we got to five-a-day.  The ladies (I have five hens) produced five eggs a day almost all fall.  On thanksgiving day our 500th egg was laid.  Amazing.  We are over 700 eggs a week ago and still producing.

With the colder temperatures and the shorter days there are more days with 4 eggs than 5.  Still very impressive.

“Mother Earth News” had an article on free-range eggs vs commercial eggs.  What I got out of it was that my eggs may contain:

  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  •  2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  •  7 times more beta carotene

than commercial eggs.  Lets see if we can set up a link to this article.  “Meet Real Free-Range Eggs”

Yesterday we got 4 eggs, here they are.

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Two of the ladies lay large eggs, two lay regular eggs and Mini lays small eggs.

Ed

Here in New England, the middle of January, and this weekend was 52 degrees F (16 C) for a high.  It was so nice I decided to clean the run and coop because it isn’t frozen solid.  I start by shoveling out the run, this took 3 trips with the wheelbarrow over to the compost pile.  Then I scrap out the shavings and poop in the coop and spread them in the run.

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run with coop shavings

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scrapped out coop

I then spread the shaving from the nesting boxes into the coop, refill the nesting boxes and add more shavings to the coop.  I will add more shavings to the coop as needed to cover the poop and keep it dry.  I’m hoping this will get me through till spring.

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cleaned nesting boxes

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coop with clean shavings, board at door to keep shaving in

The run then gets a layer of fall leaves, about 5 to 6 inches.  The ladies (and Jack) will scratch this up and turn it into almost ready compost for my garden.  If they could handle the wheelbarrow they  could help out even more.

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some of the ladies checking out my work

The ladies (and Jack) are liking this weather, the snow is just about gone and they are roaming into the woods again.  They even found a couple of small frogs that they played keep-a-way with before  enjoying them for lunch.

I find it hard to get a good picture of Jack, he’s always moving his head, but I did get this one this weekend.

Jack on the deck

Jack on the deck

WATER

In the coop I started with a hanging waterer.  The Ladies and Jack had a party one night and this is what I found in the morning.

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So I changed it to a pedestal waterer.  Which is an 8″ cement block with an electric light bulb inside it to keep their water from freezing.  I wired the coop with a weatherproof switch by the coop door.  If the temperature will fall below freezing I turn it on.  This is working very well.  It was 2 degrees out and 10 degrees inside the coop the other morning, ( 2 degrees F or -16 degrees C. ) and the water did not freeze.  There is one spot where the roosting girls poop on a 2X4 that I scrap off every morning and the poop was as hard as a brick and frozen solid to the 2X4.

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I left the chain hanging over the waterer to discourage roosting on it, that seems to be working.

I also fill a 2 liter bottle with water for the run.

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FOOD.

I made my feeder from the cut off bottom of a 5 gallon plastic pail, a 1 gallon plastic paint can and two different sized funnels. The smaller funnel is inside the gallon paint can to direct  the feed  out the feed holes.  I can hang it in the coop or the run.  At night I put it in the coop and if the weather is dry I hang it in the run during the day.  I know I can buy one, but being a “Fugal Yankee” I like to reuse or recycle as much as I can.  And it is good to use some of the tons of stuff that I have gathered over the years.  My wife says ” throw it out” and I say “but it’s good stuff, I might need it some day”.

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Because I don’t like eating my meals off of a dirty floor I try to hang anything I give the chickens so their food stays a little cleaner.  Well until they drag it through the dirt.  I have a couple of heavy wire hooks on the chain-link of the run, an old dish drying basket also hanging on the out side of the chain-link and a wire hanging down in a corner of the run.

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My wonderful wife has been getting old produce at our local Whole Foods store for the girls so they are getting greens even in the winter.  Heads of lettuce, cabbage and carrots hang nicely.  Loose leaves like kale and swiss chard I stuff into the dish drying basket.  I also will place a peeled banana in the dish basket but they eat the banana so fast I don’t have a picture of it.  They are quick.

Ed

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