Hold on! You can keep your pants on for this one. I'm talking about ROOSTERS! Can you blame me though? LOL! I believe that might be called click-bait? #hadto ;)
Much like humans are advised to cover all exposed skin in below zero temperatures, our feathered friends need protection too. Chicken combs, which are the fleshy mohawk on top of all chickens heads, some are just larger than others, are susceptible to frostbite much like human skin. Here are a few tips to keep all of your chickens happy and their fleshy mohawks looking tight this winter....
Have enough heat lamps
Our hens took a beating this winter! The overnight temperature was -20 degrees below zero for two weeks straight! The easter eggers stopped laying eggs completely and the rooster now has a frostbitten comb!
We have 3 coops right now. Remember when we incubated a dozen eggs and my BF had to help the only survivors, 1 rooster and 3 hens, out of their shells? The 4 of them have their own coop with the thinking that we might incubate their easter eggs in the future. The other coop houses our other 24 hens; 12 old hybrid hens and our 12 from Craigslist. We also have a separate coop for the ducks. All those coops mean separate heat lamps. During the 2 week deep freeze, we only had 2 heat lamps! They went to the 24 hens and the ducks. Our easter egger rooster and hens had no heat for 2 weeks! Naturally, the rooster's comb is now frostbitten :(
Chicken coops are moist, dirty, dusty, usually hay filled, nasty places that could easily catch fire. Heat lamps should only be used in extreme circumstances, like our weeks of below zero temperatures. Chickens are able to adapt to cold temperatures naturally, however, long bouts of cold weather may require a heat lamp to get everyone through safely....
Protect their combs
I later learned we could have protected his comb with a thin layer of petroleum jelly. This trick can be used for all chickens with a comb susceptible to winter weather.
Apply during roosting hours; it's easier to hold birds in the later hours. Just an FYI so you don't look ridiculous chasing chickens around during the day. Been there. Done that ;)
The nesting boxes need to be checked for eggs more often this time of year. All winter, we've gone out to the coops 3-4 times a day. We hand carry a 5 gallon bucket of water each time because the water freezes so quickly. Which means eggs will freeze as well. It gets to be quite frustrating when the few eggs you do get end up frozen and cracked. Give those eggs back to the chickens; let them thaw, cook them and give as a treat. Don't eat cracked eggs due to bacterial risk ;)
We assumed when the weather warmed up, that egg production would resume as normal; 20 a day. Wrong! We still weren't getting eggs weeks after the weather warmed up. With suggestion of a co-worker, we added wooden eggs in their nesting boxes to entice them to lay again. Success! Well, if you count 4 a success. Which I obviously do ;)
Although pastel eggs are fun, they just aren't reliable through the winter....
Least Reliable Breed: Easter eggers (Americana), Leghorns
Most Reliable Breed: Our old ISA Brown girls that are a year older than the others!
PLENTY OF FEED
I'm surprised we didn't go broke feeding these shit machines! This winter was definitely not worth having chickens. We spent WAY more money feeding them than we would have spent buying eggs from elsewhere. That's just the reality of raising chickens I guess.
They get bored and want more and more grain. There aren't bugs or worms to feed and occupy them like summertime, so it feels you end up giving them more grain just to shut them up. Has anyone ever compared chickens to children? hmm...
The heavy snowfall affects the size of the birds run! We had a blizzard snowstorm with 30 inches of snowfall recently. It barricaded the chickens into a very small area. They were going stir crazy! We had the dogs pack down some of their run, sort-of. They packed down any area that had chicken poop. So.... not helpful. We ended up shoveling paths for the chickens ourselves. They will literally get stuck in the deep snow! They will fly themselves to a spot that's too deep and be SOL for a minute until they figure out how to fly back out. So, shovel your chickens a bigger area. Don't bother trying to put your dog to work.
I hope this helps your chickens through the cold winter weather! Oh, and slather some jelly on your cocks ;) OMG that's hilarious. Too much?
Until next time,
you'll love these too...
Pinable image for Pinterest!
"But everybody else is doing it!"
Whoa! Before you go churning your own butter and knitting your dogs hair sheddings, here are a few things to consider....
We all had a stinky kid in school, right? Here in Vermont, the stinky kid is usually the kid that lives on a farm. I went to school with such a kid. Yes, he stunk. Karma seems to have a way of coming around. I am now the stinky kid from my childhood. Karma, that b!tch.
Everybody poops. Chicken poop. A lot. Meat chicken poop more than egg layers. I just said to Tylan the other day, "Those chicken $h!t bigger poops than the cat!" Meat chicken are kinda like babies. They eat, poop, and sleep. They don't venture far from food and water. So, the concentration of $h!t is heavy. As you can imagine, if the poops are as big as a cats, it's friggin' stinky!
Egg layers are stinky too! Our hens have a roosting problem. So, they roost in their laying boxes. Which means they poop in them. The morning egg round-up is shitty to say the least.
Raising and processing your own meat is a stinky job. I'll try not to get too graphically descriptive here, but blood and guts have distinctive smells. As disturbing as this sounds, we have a 5 gallon bucket where we dispose the unused portions of the chicken after processing. This bucket also contains dead bodies. Not human bodies. Bodies from around the yard; rodents, birds that have died. There are holes drilled around the top of the bucket. Flies will lay their eggs in the rotting material. The eggs become maggots. Maggots eat the rotting material and eventually overflow the bucket. The chicken will eat the maggots that are exiting the bucket holes. PUTRID AND DISGUSTING, but free food for the.... um.... live chicken.
HARD WORK AND LITTLE PAY
Homesteading is physical labor. It can also be emotional and stressful.
Do you enjoy spending time outdoors? In the rain? In the snow? You better answer yes because you will be outside A LOT. EVERYDAY feeding and watering animals, tending to their ailments, collecting eggs, fixing/ haying coops. As they say, the work is never done.
It's hard on your wallet too! We definitely don't do this for the money! I don't even dare to do the math, but I'm positive we spend more money than we make. Because my BF works in the city, he has pretty good luck selling eggs to coworkers. I however, work in small town, farmville, Vermont. I couldn't give eggs away if I tried!
Sometimes birds die for what seems like no reason. Sometimes you have to put one down due to sickness/ ailment. Sometimes you kill an animal by accident; we ordered a batch of chicks through the mail. They come super tiny. I went to water them and accidentally put the water dish right on top of a chick (I don't even know how I didn't realize). Later that day, my BF did a chick count. We seemed to be missing one. He lifted the water jug and there it was. A flat chicken chip :(
NO REST FOR THE WICKED
Get used to the idea of never vacationing again.
I got my taxes back this year and thought, "I want to take our families on a vacation!" So, I booked, what was always my families dream vacation, an ocean front property in Maine that sleeps 14! The home owners were even going to allow us to bring our 2 rambunctious pitbulls! I was so excited. Until I remembered.... we have 50+ birds on our homestead. Who the heck is going to house-sit while we're gone if I invited everyone we know?! (because we literally have no friends. Who has a family AND a life these days??)
It's one thing to need a dog or cat-sitter, but a farm-sitter? What if you were 100's of miles away and your pig got out and ended up in your grouchy neighbors yard? Even if you did have a farm-sitter, do they know how to get a 200lb pig back into its pen? (do I even know how to get a 200lb pig back into its pen?? Eeek!) What if an animal dies while you're gone? Can your sitter handle the gut bucket?
I think about the future and dream about vacations I'd like to go on.... Bora Bora looks heavenly. I loved California. I'd love to visit San Francisco again. Take me to Maine any day. I guess that's all I can think of. Actually, it's not bad that I'm a homesteader, because I rarely want to leave my house in the first place ;)
I actually don't regret starting a homestead at all. Well.... I DO wish I had taken that vacation to Bora Bora before jumping on the ol' bandwagon! LOL! As if I could ever afford Bora Bora.... I'm too poora poora ;)
Until next time,
YOU'LL LOVE THESE TOO!
What the shell happened?! My chicken laid a wavy egg! WTF?!
Every so often chickens lay odd shaped eggs. This was the first wavy eggshell I had seen our chickens lay....
So, I did some research into egg shell deformities....
Sometimes hens lay misshaped or soft eggs, which may result from stress, disease, or a defective shell gland.... apparently ;)
Stress can be caused by weather (such as a storm), predators, loud noises, or coop issues (not enough roosts/ boxes):
The most common disease related to eggshell issues is infectious bronchitis:
A defective shell gland can be an inherited gene or a result of disease and will produce odd eggs; shell-less, misshaped, speckled, calcium pimples. Hens with permanently damaged shell glands can have their oviduct removed. Most commonly, the hen is put down :(
We had to put down a hen recently for an unrelated reason. With the weather being so nice, we opened up the chicken and duck coops to a bigger grass area. The hen was attempting to pass by the ducks when the male duck attacked. It was either that or when I dropped a pallet on 4 of them by accident (I am not as strong as I was before pregnancy). Either way, it was an emotionally difficult process. It is never easy. I still find it hard to put into words, or to photograph or video, any part of processing. It's kind-of similar to making the decision to put your dog down. It's hard convincing yourself you made the right decision. Always second guessing. Like, what if? What if the chicken or dog was to get better? :(
Until next time....
You'll love these too!
Did you know chickens actually lay green eggs like in the famous Dr. Seuss book? Would you eat green eggs and ham? Or blue eggs? Or a PINK egg for that matter?! With these chickens laying your daily egg, you'll be seeing a rainbow of egg colors....
After a year with our generic, run of the mill, ISA Brown chickens, we decided to expand our flock to include a variety of egg layers. We grabbed up a dozen chicks from a local farmer we found on craigslist....
$55 for a dozen 3 week old chicks;