Thursday, December 04, 2008

Winter chicken update

Can hardly believe it's December already! But we received my mom's annual "Nickolaus Tag"* package in the mail today (* a traditional German/Dutch celebration held on Dec 6th where children leave their shoe infront of their bedroom door the night before, and appropriately receive either treats or coal/sticks - depending on how good they have been that year - from Nickolaus who comes in the night).

We also have a sturdy layer of snow on the ground with more falling as I write, so it looks like winter is definitely here to stay. We've put the heat lamp back on in the chicken coop, and this keeps the temperature hovering at around zero to - 5 in there. We've read that chickens can tolerate upto -10C, but after that they are not happy and their wattles or combs can freeze. They are also laying significantly less now that the days are shorter and colder, and eat substantially more grain as they can't forage in the garden anymore. We've put straw in their yard which they can scratch at, new bran in their nest boxes and coop (which they like to nibble), and also frozen kale and broccoli plants pulled up from left-overs in the garden. We just don't seem to produce enough kitchen scraps for them, as at this time of the year (eating seasonally) we only have potatoes, carrots and other roots, squashes, onions and garlic, and I even use up the peelings and tops to make soup stock. There's not much left for the hens. It's a bit of a sacrifice to give them the kale, which we would also like to eat, so I approached the produce department at a nearby grocery store today to inquire about "waste" greens. They told me I can have as much as I like, as they go through the produce every morning. I plan to pick up as much kale, broccoli, romaine and other tasty treats for the girls several times a week. Our bike trailer should hold a fair sized box and make it through the snowdrifts. It's nice to turn "waste" into a useful resource!

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