Ready to Feather the Storm!

So much has been going on at Food It Yourself HQ since mid October! We harvested the second round of crops. Yes, there were enough green beans to serve at Thanksgiving dinner. We had a full electrical upgrade and rewiring done, after which, we insulated our attic. I bought a new (to me) vehicle. Most importantly, Mr. Food It Yourself and I devised a new strategy to winterize the chicken coop.

In previous years, we relocated the coop and run to be adjacent to the garage, as that is where we had access to electricity. Doing so allowed us to add lights to the run and to keep the water trough defrosted with a birdbath heater. It also left our hens with a tiny run, compared to what they are used to. This lead to bored, angry, tempestuous hens who plucked each other’s feathers. This year, we very cleverly asked our electrician to put an outdoor outlet on the back of the house. Now the hens will keep their large run!

Those lights are on a timer, so they turn on at 5:00am, turn off at 8:00am, turn back on at 4:00pm and turn off at 7:45 pm. This gives the hens a long “day” to be active. When they are up and active, they eat. Eating is important for chickens in cold weather, since they stay warm by fluffing up their feathers and burning extra calories. Note the new water jug, too. It has a built-in heat element to keep the water liquid. If chickens do not have liquid water available then they will not eat.

I can not stress this enough. All chords, lights, and electric devices used in this set-up are rated for outdoor use. Seriously, do not do stupid things. Get the right stuff. Do not endanger yourself or your flock.

One carry-over from our previous winterizing methods- covering the coop and small part of the run with plastic. This makes a little green house to keep the ladies toasty and out of the wind on the coldest days. Note my very clever method of attachment, using duct tape and zip ties.
Never underestimate the value of a few rocks to keep things in place! No chance the wind will take this plastic sheeting off my coop.
Mr. Food It Yourself found an automatic door kit for our coop. It is programmed to close after the hens are in for the night and open after the lights come on in the morning. The chickens can stay extra cozy during the night with the door shut. Even better, since we took the electric fence down down for the season, the door helps keep winter-hungry nocturnal predators out of the coop.

Yes, we had to make some financial investments on the electric door, lights, new waterer, and plastic tarp. We also replaced the large tarp over the top of the run with one that will better withstand snow. We are giving our flock extra food and treats, also. Those expenses add up. It is worth it to know we are taking the best care possible of our chickens. The proof that we are doing it right? The hens have given us more eggs this week than they did in the previous month.

Looking for ways to winterize your coop?

Winter in central Massachusetts is not always pleasant. We owe it to the animals we care for to keep them safe, secure, and as comfortable as possible. What are you doing to get your animals, or plants, through the winter? Share in the comments!