Friday, December 18, 2009

Cold weather and Chicken coops

I just came in from night time chores. It is about ten degrees below zero and snowing. It was one of the few nights that I paused and contemplated whether I really needed to go outside. Tempting me, was not only the cold weather and lack of motivation to pile on all my layers, but the time of night and the knowledge that all the animals were probably sleeping. It is almost midnight and these days we usually give everyone dinner and close chicken doors earlier in the evening. When the weather gets this cold we toss extra hay at each feeding, so no one was going to go hungry. I went out mostly to check on everyone and make sure they were warm enough, and toss some more hay (for my conciouncse)  Rarely do I toss fresh hay into the goat stalls, but I did tonight. It can be a waste of hay. On the plus side, it adds a fresh layer of bedding and the goats don't have to stand out in the cold and blowing snow. The chickens and ducks had wanted outside this morning despite the cold. We had closed their doors earlier in the evening so their coops could start building up heat for the night. As of yet we have still not used any heat lamps this year, just regular light bulbs.

In related news, I mixed a hundred and fifty pounds of chicken feed outside today. I managed to stay warm by moving quickly. Noah even helped. Tomorrow we are having hay delivered to an area close to our driveway. We are getting three nine hundred pound bales of brome hay, second cutting. I have never used this source before but I was clear that my goats are very picky. They prefer green leafy hay. The price is less than we've paid for hay yet this year even with the delivery fee, so we'll see. I hope it doesn't snow more than the one inch forcasted, otherwise it is going to be a chore getting the truck all the way up to the bucks pen.

I took some pictures of our chicken coops a few days ago, so here they are:

This is a view of the entire structure from the north side. Before we had dug out the hillside this was a hovel for my quarter horse. After she moved we built a smaller insulated structure within her stall which became the buck stall. We built another well insulated room on the top making it a two story structure. Outside there is a pen within a pen of woven wire fencing with two strands of electric on the inside. It was designed to keep the bucks in and off the fence. They have since moved to the doe's old stall and pen. Now both structures are poultry housing. The lower coop houses three ducks, four pullets and three roosters. We are about to eat a couple of the roosters. 
The space is underused, we had four more pullets in the lower coop but they wanted to be in the upper coop and kept escaping. We moved the birds into this area in late fall and didn't have time to build a roof or taller fence so these birds are rather vulnerable. If the top coop wasn't at max capacity I would probably consolidate all the birds into the top coop. We are thinking of just housing ducks in the lower coop next year. In the picture you can see the gate on the right and some random containers I put water in for the ducks. Below is inside the coop. Perch, nesting boxes above, light, heated waterer, duck jug and feeder.

Below is a view from the south. The top coop is larger, about ten by twelve (I think). It also has a much nicer roofed outer fortress. This summer we felt safe at night leaving the chicken door to the coop open as long as they couldn't get out of their outer pen. We have two doors one on the left and one on the right. We are planning on extending their fenced area with a mesh net roofing out to give them more room to roam. The only big regret I have in this structure is that the stairs into the coop are inside their pen.

The top coop currently houses fifteen hens and two roosters. In the milder months we could put more birds in here but when they are cooped up for days at a time it gets crowded and the less dominant pullets get picked on. Starting in March or April the left side will house chicks and all the adults will be confined to the right side for a couple months.

This is the view from the door, of the left side of the coop. Heated waterer, broody box and perch. The woven wire door is to my right.

The door is obnoxious. We've been meaning to take it off as we leave it open all the time except in the spring when we have chicks on the left side. You can see the big feeder in the back, and a little feeder in the front which is for all the less dominant birds that hide on the left side of the coop. To the left of the feeder are laying boxes, You can't quite see them but they are on the back wall.


And here I am standing with my back to the nesting boxes and facing the chicken door and window. The chicken door is too big. We've been meaning to make it smaller so not as much warm air escapes or cold air enters. But we make do.


Unknown said...

Your coop looks great! Our coop is a similar repurposed and added on job too. Does anyone ever make a coop from start to finish in one plan? I like your covered area, we have a lame tarp sort of covering an area and I wish we had more dry run. Fortunately we rarely have weather as cold as yours, but we just had a two week cold snap in the teens and boy do I not enjoy the iced water founts!

Anonymous said...

are you getting delta hay? we have 800 lb rectangular bales of Ward farm hay (it has a new name/owners now, I can't remember what) before. It is great hay- leafy and green.

Emily said...

Yes, we are getting delta hay. We've gotten this size and shape of bale from at least one other delta farm selling through K BARD Apparel. The early summer bales that we bought were great, but the later hay we got was not real green and the goats will hardly touch it. Also, we had gotten some bales that were called winter wrap and had been treated with a calcium solution, suppose to be great horse hay, well the goats would hardly eat that either. Ends up as bedding. This hay is being delivered by Paul Knopp for $135 a bale which is about as good a price as I can find these days.

judith said...

where do you live? how cold does it get? We live in northern north dakota and it can get to -40 deagrees. I have some baby chicks ordered to be delivered May 3. We have an old shed we are going to convert to a chicken house. I ordered 25. That was that the minimum order. I am afraid they are going to pick each other. Any suggestions.... We need to fix something that they can get out a little bit in the dead of winter but we have deep snows so I don't know exactly what to do. Do you think an extension of chicken wire and cover the top to keep the predetors out would work. would love to hear from you. thank you. really enjoyed your photos and am envious . judith

Emily said...

Judith, we live in Fairbanks Alaska. Temperatures on our property usually don't drop below thirty below zero. We usually have several weeks that get into the twenty below range. Low lying areas around see much colder temperatures, usally a couple days a year get down to fifty below.

My chickens don't peck at eachother much. Not overcrowding your coop will help prevent that. If you do not have much predator problems, chicken wire and a covering will work. You might want to step it up to the next level and go with woven wire fencing for walls. My chickens go outside until it is below zero. they don't like walking on snow, so we throw down old hay. I'll bet you can find some nice ideas for outdoor pens online. Good luck, Emily

Monika Borua said...

Awesome and informative blog! Thanks for your very nice articles. I like this very much and look forward to visiting your blog in the future. A good poultry housing keeps the bird safe and disease free.
broiler poultry housing
layer poultry housing

John Mark said...

I want a chicken coop!! I need to do a lot more research...Like, how do you know which eggs are un-fertilized , cattle panels edible eggs and baby chicken eggs. Maybe that's a really ridiculous thing not to know?