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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Our Winterized Hen Pen

Since this is our first year with backyard town chickens, we weren't really sure what we would do for wintering them over but still wanted to give it a shot. We have been going back and forth for quite a while trying to decide how to give them a winter house.

After our garden was done this fall, we started to move our chicken pen around on it so that they could do some fertilizing and clean up. We had planned to move them off of the garden and beside a shed where we would make modifications for their winter home, but the snow came before we got around to moving it. So the chickens have been sitting on the garden in their pen just as it was this summer, with the addition of some hay thrown inside to keep their feet off of the frozen mud.

They seemed to be pretty content there though. They hopped down during the day to scratch around and are continued to give us eggs. We have heard (and I experienced while growing up) that egg production drops quite a bit in the winter due to the shorter days. Although we have been getting a few less eggs than in the summer and fall, it wasn't as dramatic of a drop as I would have guessed. I think that it helps that they don't have solid walls around them. They get as much light as the day gives - from the time the sun comes up until when it goes down.

Even though the girls seemed content, I started to feel a little sorry for them as the snow piled up around their cage. We want to practice good animal husbandry too so I decided to take a trip to Walmart to see if I could find anything to use for winterizing their home a bit more. I had seen a great idea for a chicken sunroom from Sugar Mountain so I thought maybe we could do something along the lines of that. I ended up finding some 2 mil plastic wrap for about $2.00 that I thought we could try. I could have spent quite a bit more for higher mil, but I decided that since it wasn't going to serve as an insulator - just a wind break and sun catcher - spending the extra money wasn't necessary.

After bring the plastic home, my wonderful husband helped me wrap it around the cage, secure it in place, and retarp the top. It isn't exactly like Sugar Mountain's, but we don't have the time or materials to make a solid night house and daytime sunroom so this will have to do.

It does seem to be serving it's purpose though. I crawled inside of it on a day when it was 6 degrees to take this picture. I felt quite cozy and it looks like the hens did too. I wish I would have had a thermometer because there was definitely a temperature difference - the water didn't even have ice in it. The chickens are down and scratching around more during the day now, and we are getting 3-4 eggs most days with just 5 hens so I think this will do for this year.

Next year we want to try another design for our hen pen, and now we know a bit more of how to keep winter in mind while designing it.


Julie said...

I enjoy reading your blog and sharing in your dreams even though I'm single and living in an apartment. I don't recall where you're located, but I heard this morning that late next week a bad cold front is to come down and the upper midwest may find it hard to get out of the single digits for highs, so the chicken house was completed just in time! It looks great. J

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

We just got 4 inches of snow, and it is quite cold, so you heard right. :) I have heard and read of people who do some neat homesteading type things even from apartments - I wish I had a book to reference for you or something, but I didn't write them down. Hopefully you will have the opportunity to be in a place where you can do a bit more someday.

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