Friday, December 04, 2009

December chickens

The hens are settling into the colder weather. We've set up their winter heat lamp, which has served them well the past two winters. It's on a timer, so comes on from early evening until sunrise, generally the coldest part of the day. We also stacked strawbales around the coop and boarded up the mesh windows.

Although, sadly, all egg laying seems to have completely ended for this season, the hens still love to wander around the yard during the daytime, looking for any leftover greens in the garden (we still have kale, chard, brussel sprouts, mizuna), nibbling stray bugs, and keeping themselves occupied with their antics. They often head over to the sheltered side of the house to be out of the wind, or scratch around near our basement windows where warmer air must be escaping. They tend to stick together now that the yard is more barren and there are fewer hiding places from predators, and like to mingle as a group on our back porch (waiting for treats like sunflower seeds). They hover by the back door, often sitting for hours preening and fluffing their feathers, peeking in the big glass window to see if we are coming out. Like faithful pets they also wait for us outside our bedroom door first thing in the morning (our door opens onto the back yard, and is located in a sheltered nook of the new addition).

Important with winter chicken care is to make sure fresh water is always available to them, and to thaw any frozen drinking water which tends to freeze during the night. As well, the combs and waddles of chickens are susceptible to frostbite, so they need to stay indoors on the very cold days - we've heard of using vaseline on their combs to protect from the cold, and even seen some photos of innovative cozy chicken sweaters, hats and boots for the adventurous knitters out there! Maybe I'll ask our neighbourhood knitting group about that. It's nice to see that all the winter feathers have now completely come in, as during the molting season (all of October) we were a little worried on the cooler nights about whether they were able to stay warm enough.

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