Winter is for the Birds….
Sunday I had a rare weekend-day-off-at-home and since the weather in Nashville has started to turn a tad bit chilly, Keith and I decided to tackle a project that we’ve known was coming: “winterize” the chicken coop. While our chickens are all breeds that are fairly heat and cold hardy alike, we still want to make sure that our girls stay warm, healthy and cozy during the cold months ahead. I’ve read a few articles on “winterizing” in various chicken magazines and books, and Keith found this excellent four-part series on The Garden Coop blog to peruse.
We knew that there were a few things we would need to do to get our girls the type of winter retreat they would need. First of all, we needed to re-install the plexiglass windows in the henhouse wall. We’d removed the “panes” of these windows during the summer when the temperatures were rising and we were afraid we’d end up with fried chicken if we didn’t provide some ventilation options. That was a pretty simple process as all I had to do was get out our cordless drill and screw the plexiglass back into place.
I also did a “deep clean” and scooped out all the chicken poop on the ground (I typically do this about every 4 days anyway) and thoroughly scrubbed out both the water-er and the feeder. The tomato plant that had been in the little garden space on the right hand side of the coop had about run it’s course, so I took the time to pull that out as well. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with that garden area now….the girls seems to like to dig up anything I plant so I’m thinking some sort of more permanent solution is in store….although the tomato plant sure thrived, so who knows.
The big ticket item that we wanted to take care of was adding some sort of outer wrapping to the coop to help provide insulation and also keep things nice and dry. We’ve had some minor issues with rainwater splashing into the back half of the run and we didn’t want our feathered friends getting wet and cold…or worse…moldy and cold. There are many ways to do this…I’ve seen everything from landscaping fabric and canvas to plexiglass suggested. One guy even ordered custom-made tarps that he’ll be able to use every year. We strongly considered the wrap-the-coop-in-plastic approach suggested here, but then after a trip to the Home Depot, decided to go for clear plastic sheets like we’d used on the roof. It seemed like a durable way to effectively keep the water out and block chilly breezes, and all the while the girls can still enjoy the view. Speaking of the view…we also added a mirror in the henhouse. We’ve heard that chickens love checking themselves out so we’ll see if our girls enjoy it.
We also put a thick layer of pine shavings down as bedding to provide insulation from the cold ground and a cozy place to curl up and will be adding a quilt over part of the hen house (there is a vented ceiling) for additional warmth. They key is to keep it warm while still providing adequate ventilation.
We may have to make other tweaks along the way as the weather continues to get colder, for example, the waterer that we have is metal and we don’t want the girls to find a giant ice cube one morning in their water bucket. But we’ll take those in stride and learn along the way.
The other big change we made was turning what used to be my herb/jalapeno planter box into an official dirt bath for the girls. For a few weeks now they’ve been climbing in and making themselves at home. First they killed one jalapeno plant. Then the other one. Then my Rosemary bit the dust. So today I yanked out the remaining Thyme and moved the whole kit-and-caboodle into the coop so they can frolic about in it all they want. I’ll leave you with some photos of the girls and their new digs to enjoy. Aren’t they so large and lovely now? It’s crazy to think that they were just little chicks not too long ago.