I’ve had a couple of chicken questions so I decided I’d answer them in a post. 🙂  I haven’t been down to the chicken coop in a few weeks and went down there with Justin today to take some pictures while watching him take care of the chickens.

I’m looking forward to it warming up a bit more and being able to give the coop a good scrub down.  (More accurately, watching the kids and Les give it a good scrub down.)

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Justin is putting new pine shavings in the nesting boxes.

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The eggs he collected before changing out the pine shavings.

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So, mommy is a little rusty at taking care of the chickens.  Notice on the left where there’s a big gap between the fence and the coop.  Yeah….that bit me later when there was a successful chicken escape. Four chickens got through that gap before I realized what had happened.  Five of the others paced the fence eager to get out after I closed up the gap.

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These are our nesting buckets.  I think technically we’re supposed to have a separator between them but Les just hasn’t had the time to finish it.  We read you needed 1 nesting box per 4 chickens.  We have MORE than plenty!  They typically lay most of their eggs in only two of the buckets.  The favorite seems to be the box next to the door.  We trained them to lay in the buckets from a tip a friend told us – leave a golf ball in each nesting box.  We sometimes get the rogue egg on the ground somewhere but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

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Our winter feed mix:  store feed + sunflower seeds + oats + flax seeds + garlic powder + meal worms = happy chickens

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Three of the four rogue chickens taking off for the woods!!!!  Train your chickens to come to a sound. Ours, for the most part, line up at the fence or follow us when we close our back door.  They think they’re getting scraps.  The problems was I had just given them scraps and now they wanted to forage in the woods.  Two of them went pretty deep into the thicket and we had to flush them out.  Then they decided they didn’t want to go back into the fence.  I gave up trying to herd them after 5 minutes of trying and told the boys to just catch them when I was finished outside.

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Justin is putting down pine shavings all over the floor of the coop.  We use the deep litter method.   As the shavings and poo compost, it helps keep the coop warmer in the winter.  We have a thermometer in there and on average the coop was 10 degrees warmer than outside.  We initially used straw on the floor of the coop.  Oh. my. goodness.  It stunk in there!  As soon as we switched to the deep litter method (where you keep putting a layer of pine shavings on the top every so often), the smell vanished.  If you wait too long to put another layer on though, it will stink again.

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We have their food bin suspended from the rafters.  In the winter, they will typically go through that entire bin in one to two days.  (Two days is when we’re lucky.)  In the summer, we’d fill up the bin about 2 – 3 times a week.  I’m definitely looking forward to stuff blooming and our feed bill going down!!!

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The rafters and ceiling of the coop.  We have regular lights and heat lamps hooked up in there.  We get electricity from our barn next door which was wired with electricity when we bought the house.  We put the chickens out in the coop when they were about 10 weeks old and had outgrown their huge bucket.  They still needed heat lamps at night.  Our initial intention was to use the heat lamps in the winter when it dropped below freezing but the more I read the more I realized that our chickens could handle the cold.  We purposely bought cold hardy chickens.  If, for whatever reason, we lost power (i.e. snow storm or something) and the chickens were used to the heat lamps and then didn’t have them then they would probably die.  Hence, once they were old enough, we stopped using them.

The other thing we ran into was the chickens roosting in the rafters as soon as they figured out they could fly that high.  We would come out in the morning and wires would be dangling from chickens getting caught on them.  Les put netting up in the rafters to deter them from flying up there.  They wanted to be closer to the heat lamps and they like being up high.

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As soon as the water froze in their watering container the first time, Les and I realized that we didn’t want to melt ice every morning so they could have water.  So we found this YouTube video and Les modified our old cooler to make it into a chicken waterer.

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Inside the cooler is a bird bath warmer (to keep the bird bath water from freezing) inside of a clay pot to prevent the plastic in the cooler from getting too warm and potentially melting.  There is also a pump designed for small, outdoor fish ponds in there.  The chickens get water from the “chicken nipples” from the pvc pipe running on the outside of the cooler. (That’s what they are actually called.)  We fill the cooler up with water once a week instead of 1-2 times a day like before.  It’s wonderful!

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The chicken roost that Les made.  Honestly, they want to be higher off the ground than this.  We initially had a shelf on this same wall and all of them would fight and push each other off the shelf so we took it down.  Some of them sleep on here and the rest sleep up on the nesting boxes.  Their natural instinct is to get up into the trees at night to be safe from predators – hence, they want to be as high off the ground as you’ll allow them.

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I was done taking pictures and more than done trying to chase chickens.  I called the boys out to catch them.

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Zach and Chris finally cornered the last one and were able to catch it.