Sunday, December 03, 2006

Chilly Chickens

It does finally feel like “nice” winter around here (ie not just cold and gray, but fun snow and some sun), and the chickens are not exactly sure what to think. Sun = good. Snow = bad. Straw on top of snow, put down by the kind WF = okay, good enough reason to go out. At least there's not yet quite as much snow as last year's similar view.

Some of these chickens are experiencing their second winter, but for seven of them, this is a first. Newer readers may not have followed our “second chicken generation” saga, documented starting here. Or actually, here. Those chicks are now 5 months old, and fairly hard to distinguish from their mothers. We still have one rooster from that batch, along with 6 (well-documented) hens:



The young hens are reaching the time when they should start laying some eggs. The “elder” hens have been taking it pretty easy, with a total of 10 eggs in November (!). We think it’s still a product of the molt, but sheesh, it will be nice to get some eggs again. I had no idea molts took so long.

We’re not sure how productive these young ones will be this year, though, as we have a very “natural” chicken raising philosophy: no extra light or heat, just a well-insulated passive solar coop (mostly because we don’t have the power to run that stuff off the grid). It worked well last winter, and the hens continued to lay all winter. But they were young and fertile, and had gotten into their egg-laying groove by the end of September. These new hens (due to our reluctance to let the broodiness go ahead the first time the elder hens tried) were born quite a bit later, so are behind that curve.



But the passive solar coop does work fairly well (when we get sun!). We spent quite a bit of time calculating how high to set the big (recycled) south-facing window and how big the eaves should be to get max sun in the winter and the minimum in summer. Sometimes I feel bad that it gets rather chilly in the coop, but these Buff Orps are a cold hardy breed and did fine last winter. I have to think that people DID have chickens in MN before they had electricity to keep them warm, right? We all need to think of the past as we think of an energy-uncertain future…


Blog note: I did switch to beta in order to use categories. I’m still not sure how to get them to show up on sidebar, but click on the tag below the posts to get more chicken pics, etc!

3 comments:

Sue said...

If you go to your main blog menu page and click the Template tab (or to your Blogger Dashboard page and click Layout) it will take you to a screen where you can modify how your blog looks. There's a neat new user-friendly format to add things, with boxes showing items' positions on the blog page. Click on the "Add a Page Element" link in the sidebar position to open a popup with lots of choices, one of which is "Labels." These are your categories. You can change the title if you don't want it to say "Labels" on your blog page- I changed mine to "Categories." You can add as many sidebar items as you want. Hope that helps!

Cyndy said...

We use the "natural old timer" method too. Artifical light/heat in a power failure will throw all of your hens into a false molt, so why risk it? The deep litter method helps to warm the floor over the winter too. We use the roosting boards, and the combination seems to keep our old gals happily laying (certainly after the winter solstice things will improve!)

GTR said...

Thanks for the comments! I'll try that with the blog when I get a chance....