And in our last chicken-y episode, the hens had started to do their egg-thing and life seemed to be going along beautifully. We get more eggs now on a daily basis and they are bigger eggs too, though every once in a while, we get a ‘peewee’ one.
But, we always knew, the DH and I, that at some point this fall, we were going to have to bring the chickens inside..someplace. The climate at Chez Siberia (Zone 4 on a good day) gets into the ‘oh, crap it cold out there’ state pretty quickly.
Too quickly. It snowed – twice this week. A freak October storm for sure and we lucked out in only getting 2 inches of snow. It was not that cold – in the 30s – but it was a rather sharp reminder that winter is coming. The DH and The Boy had started the work on the barn last week to make a winter space for the chickens but we were certainly not in a position to move them yet. The barn is actually the original brooder house (which was heated by a series of coal stoves actually) for the chicken farm that Chez Siberia was in the 1930s and 1940s. It is long and low, with windows (or actually the remains of windows – the former owner used to keep his horses in there and they ‘removed’ the windows in short order) all along the south side. A couple of years ago, we came up with hinged shutters to close off the openings, but we did not get out to the end of the barn because we did not use that end of the building.
Well, now we need to use that end of the building, so we needed to clean it out (which we did). We also put in a wall to make the space that we will be using for the chickens smaller (so that they are not trying to heat up the entire back of the barn with their body heat – they will stay warmer this way). These chickens are Light Brahmas Light Brahmas and are extremely large and fluffy birds with teeny ‘pea combs’ so as long as we keep them out of the wind and give them a space that is not too big, with the South-facing windows, they should be able to keep themselves warm through this winter.
Ordinarily, we’d just put on the shutters, but we saw some interesting pictures of chickens in the snow and it gave us the idea that perhaps the birds would, on nice sunny days (and we get those starting in January), like to ‘take the air’ as they used to say. We plan to use some scrap lumber and old windows to make a 3-sided ‘sunporch’. We’ll open the shutter (it’s hinged at the top), snuggle the ‘sunporch’ up against the outside wall of the barn, put the shutter down across the top and hook it down to the outside of the ‘sunporch’. But, let’s say that we just want to give them some fresh air? The DH came up with some screens that just fit into the window openings. If all we want is fresh air, then we can open up the shutters. If we want to use the ‘sunporch’ then, we’ll take out the screens from the inside of the windows and shoo the chickens out into the sun.
We’ll be able to do a bit of cleaning in their living space (always a job done much better and more ‘pleasantly’ in the winter rather than in the spring when the weather – and the manure – warms up) and get them some fresh air and sun at the same time. Win-win.
In the meantime, the chickens do not seem to have been fazed at all by the snow. And when I’ve gone out in the morning, I’ve had to knock the ice out of the waterers, so we’ve started taking hot water up for them and we are feeding scraps along with everything else to make sure they get plenty of calories. But soon..very soon, they will be coming into the barn for the winter.
(for more chicken and gardening adventures Aunt Toby’s Blog)