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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Winterization for chickens...

Indian Summer  has entered and is brushing her skirt of golden leaves over the valley. Fall is officially here and winter is coming soon.

If this is your first fall with chickens, there are a few things we might want to think about doing for our feathered friends.

Coop Maintenance:  The winterization of your coop depends on what type of coop you have.

It's time to make sure that your coop is going to keep your little chicken nuggets from freezing over the winter. Many have insulated walls in their coops making this process pretty easy.

Most breeds of chickens are very winter hardy, but in case you might have treated yourself to a rare bantam breed or two you might want to read up on how to properly care for them in the winter.

Here is a guide that will give you info on how cold hardy your chick-a-dees are.

So now we know about our chickens and how cold hardy they are. Of course I'm not at all opposed to letting  the most delicate roam free in the house with a fashionable chicken diaper on.

 I have a cedar slatted coop with an open tool cloth wire floor.(ahem-- that I made myself, ah-- thank you very much, oh your too kind, stop applauding...

  My little 6x4 coop has been oh-so handy dandy  in the summer to clean quickly and keep and allow for ventilation.
Now with the winter coming I plan on using the deep litter method on the floor. This will allow the coop to be insulated by hay and keep the hay changing to a minimum so as to not freeze my toasties off.

On especially cold nights I also have a handy dandy heat lamp that setup in the coop. 

So what is the Deep litter method, you ask? Well grab a lap chicken and a cup of tea and I'll tell ya!

The Deep Litter Method for the coop is just what it implies. Allowing the litter (wood shavings) to build up over a weeks, months helps heat the coop (because that's what chicken manure as compost does). It in turn helps keep the chickens warmer in the colder months.
This means minimal cleanings and only occasional upkeep.

 You will need
  • Pine Shavings, and Hay if desired.
  • 1/2 lb of  Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) --a natural substance which has long been used to as a natural pest control and absorber and dehydrator. (It helps dry chicken poopie). It also has a side use as a nutritional supplement.
1. If you have a open wire floor like mine, you will first prepare the coop by laying down a cover on the wire floor so the shavings won't fall through. Light weight board, or thick cardboard would work great.

2.On the floor of the coop add 6 inches of pine shavings. You can add only a few handfuls of hay if you like as well. I like to add it to keep the litter from clumping too much.

3. Sprinkle a fine layer of food grade Diatomaceous Earth on the pine shavings. (I use my flour sifter)

4. Lightly rake the shavings and the DE together and every other day or so as needed.

5. Every month or so afterward add another 1-2 inches of pine shavings and another sprinkling of DE. Then lightly rake. (your chickens might even do this for you!)

In the spring time you can clean out the coop and add the litter to your compost pile. It makes a wonderful addition flowerbeds and plants.

Nice clean comfy coop in the winter will help our flocks stay happy and in turn be better for egg production, which is already tough in the winter.

For more information on Diatomaceous Earth - click below to find a study on litter quality and chicken broiler performance. The study is done on broilers but I think can be expanded to apply to all chicken breeds.

University of Georgia study on Litter Quality and Broiler Performance -

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