Monday, March 10, 2014

Chicken Keeping During a Polar Vortex

Who knew that the year we decided to become urban chicken farmers we would experience a Polar Vortex Winter. 

A Polar Vortex Winter that brought 3 miserable stretches of cold as well as a significant amount of snow accumulation. Both of which caused a total of 6 days of school cancellations! -What What??- 

It's been a 10 layers of clothing wearing, ton of snow shoveling, I'd rather be hibernating, crazy long winter!

Never in all my days!

I do enjoy saying Polar Vortex Winter though. I say it like a badge of honor, "That's right, I survived the Polar Vortex Winter! Oh yeah, I'm bad! Mm Hmmm!" 

And much to our great relief, the chickens survived too! Whoop Whoop!! Oh did we had our concerns.

We did a lot of research and the consensus seemed to be that heating the chicken coop was not a good idea. Most of what we found indicated that it's best to purchase winter hardy birds and allow them to acclimate to the cold weather. 

The idea that the chickens would be able to acclimate to winter temps made us nervous, but the Husband and I decided it was best to listen to the experts. 

We were nervous about normal winter temps, the Polar Vortex temps had us completely stressed out!

We expected to find chicken popcycles on more than one occasion throughout this winter, but the girls came through it like troopers. They spent most of the winter with feathers fluffed up, snuggled together on a perch. Much to my surprise, they continued, though sporadically, to lay eggs all through the winter. 

The easiest part of chicken keeping through the winter was coop cleaning! Everything freezes solid in winter, including chicken poop. Makes for very easy clean up! It only takes about 15 minutes a day to clean out the coop. While this wasn't a chore anyone relished doing when it was 40 below it was definitely a chore we were glad to be able to complete quickly!

The most difficult part of chicken keeping in the winter, egg collecting! Because there is less sunlight throughout the winter days, and we did not choose to supplement light in the coop, the chickens laid less frequently, and less consistently, meaning several trips to check for eggs throughout the day. -BRRR- And if eggs are not collected in a timely manner in winter they freeze. A frozen egg is a cracked egg. A cracked egg is one less egg to enjoy or give to a friend. -bummer-

The most difficult part of winter for the chickens, being cooped up. Ha ha, but really. They are getting desperate to run and play in the garden! It's been difficult to find ways to  keep them entertained in the confined space of the coop run. Chickens who get bored have a tendency to pick on their coop mates, and pluck at their feathers.

This is our offender. We know she is our offender because she is the only one who has all of her feathers intact! 

In an effort to keep the girls entertained I've strung up veggies for them to eat and I've added some logs to the coop run for them to perch on or scratch at. I've even filled an empty Planters nut container with scratch grains, punching holes in the sides so the girls can work the grains out of the container to keep busy.

Mostly all of these efforts just made them scared. They hid in the coop house. So much for that!

What they really need is for the snow in the garden to melt away so they can get outside to play. Not to mention the snow on the coop roof.

It has been slowly sliding its way off the roof toward the garden.


There is no way we will be letting the chickens into the garden to play until this snow wave has crashed!

These girls did not make it through the Polar Vortex Winter just to get crushed under all of this snow!!


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