Chickens in Charge

Chickens in ChargeWell, it’s winter all right, and this year has definitely been all that we expected: there has been paralyzing cold, plenty of snow, some minor wind damage, and an abundance of overall misery. For sure both the people and the other animals on our little homestead have had plenty to be concerned about. The zipper in my favorite coat broke a few days ago, one of the bee hives became completely buried in snow, poor little Skye can barely make it up the icy steps, and the chickens will NOT walk in the snow.

In retrospect, we’ve seen that it probably would have been beneficial to wrap the entire chicken run in plastic sheeting. Of course, this would have created plenty of challenges too, especially with the nasty winds we’ve been having. So basically I’m not sure we can win either way…

Chickens in ChargeAnyway, so now we have snow in the run, and we have to figure out how to get the ladies to come outside for food and water. I know what you’re thinking: why don’t you just keep the food and water inside the coop? Isn’t it heated in there? Well…. Turns out heating your chicken coop is just a great way to start a fire. And the chickens, miraculously, are capable of keeping themselves warm without one. Their combs, waddles, and feet, however, are susceptible to frostbite, especially if moisture levels are allowed to build up inside the coop. Moisture from, say, a spilled watering bucket or something. So no. No heat, no food, and no water inside the coop.

Chickens in ChargeSpeaking of water, we did have to switch up our watering system for the winter too, since our other system didn’t keep the water from freezing. So we picked up this heated water fountain at the farm store, and it works great, even though we do have to keep it plugged in. It also allows the water to become dirty very quickly, which is a major pain, and also pretty gross. We will definitely be switching back to our bucket/nipple system as soon as possible.

Chickens in ChargeMeanwhile, the chickens will not come out of the coop AT ALL. I call them. I put food in the feeder. I’ve even held the waterer up in front of the doorway to entice them. And oh yeah, they want that water. But they would apparently rather die of thirst than walk on the snow. I put some straw down, but just that wasn’t good enough, and I eventually found myself consumed by chicken-dehydration anxiety.

Chickens in ChargeSo I’ve started bribing them. With chicken treats. I know it’s wrong. I know they are in charge now. Whatever. It works! It goes like this: I go out to the run, and rattle the bag.

Chickens in ChargeAnd then suddenly…

Chickens in ChargeBig Red even ventured out onto the snowy part of the ladder for treats.

Chickens in ChargeA few more rattles of the bag, and then the stampede begins.

Chickens in ChargeEventually they all come out and do what I was hoping: they eat their regular food and drink plenty of water.

Chickens in ChargeWhile they are doing that, I usually check for eggs. Laying has slowed down some, and there have been quite a few days with no eggs. Of course, yesterday there were two! We’ve had quite a few frozen eggs this winter too. Turns out they are completely fine, tasty as ever! A few did crack when they froze though, so I just threw those away.  Bummer!

Chickens in ChargeOops, forgot to hide the bag.

Chickens in ChargeOnce I leave the run, they head right back into the coop.  I really wish they could be outside a bit more right now. I’m sure they could use the exercise and the fresh air. It’s supposed to get into the high thirties today, so I’m really hoping for a thaw. They don’t seem to mind walking in the mud at all, so I’m looking forward to being able to relax and not worry about them for a few days!

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