Saturday, January 19, 2008

Scraping the Coop

It seems like it has been forever since I've updated this. I guess I'm not living up to the daily part of our name here. For the most part, things have been going well. The hens came through their molt and are back to laying really well. Most days we get an egg from each of them which is as good, if not better than they were doing in the warmer months. I spoke with a friend who also has chickens and she said hers have not been laying really. I think part of this may be due to the fact that we have a heat lamp on inside the coop. It's been pretty cold so we didn't want them to chill. It's been so cold that their water had frozen most nights, even if it was inside the coop.

We had our coldest day last week. And, of course, a power sub-station blew so around 9,000 people, including us, were without power for over 12 hours. In a 110 house like ours, that means it gets cold very fast. We weren't sure when it was coming back so we went and bought a generator and we plugged in some small heaters, the refrigerator and the chicken's heat lamp.

We've also had a lot of rain so the chicken yard has been a sloppy mess. I know instinctively they want to come outside but I wish they would stay in their coop and stay warm and dry. On top of that, the local Tractor Supply has not had the bedding we like to use to line the coop floor. We've had to buy what they brand as the same thing but it is not nearly as fluffy or soft or containing as much. I've held off on cleaning out the coop for this reason.

We were going to go out of town this weekend since we both have Monday off, but Thursday was a pretty good snow/ice storm and more was predicted for this weekend. Since we were worried about what more severe weather could bring and not wanting to force our girl next door to have to deal with the chickens, we decided to stay home. This morning was pretty mild so, after breakfast, I decided to let the kids out to run around and to clean up inside the coop. I also ended up moving an bunch of tree limb and cutting down a whole bunch of brush which is on one end of the pen fence. I finally got sick of the branches and vines hitting me in the face every time I tried to walk to the other side of the building.

The chickens got to run around the yard, kick up the compost pile and eat some greens and birdseed. Then, right when I was finishing everything up, it started to get some small flakes coming down. I was able to shoo all three of them into the pen right before the flakes started to really fall.

One thing we found out during the storm earlier this week was that our new pen roof screening really holds onto the snow and ice. This is not really a good thing because they are just really large frames with screening staple-gunned to the perimeter. There is no center support on each panel and they could rip or break under the weight. When the snow begins to build up we have to go out there and try and rake off as much as we can. Here's a view of the coop and pen from our upstairs window. You can see where the snow is already sitting on those panels (you can click to enlarge).

And here's the hubby trudging out and trying to rake off the panels so they don't collapse.

The building on the right here is our garage and behind that, between it and the coop, is the big 'ole compost pile the chickens love. Off to the left you can just see a bit of one of our juniper trees. This part of the yard is where the chickens run around the most. The love the bushes to the left of the coop and the bird feeder is in the tree, so they have lots of places to play.

It's cold and snowy here but the coop is filled with lots of new warm bedding. I'm sure the kids are all snuggled in sleeping the night away.

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