Friday, October 12, 2012

More on Ready-ing the Coop for Winter

As a lot of you know not only do I have 28 chickens but I also have 8 ducks and 4 Sebastapol geese. I love those guys! The geese are not only beautiful but a lot like a dog in that they follow me everywhere. In the garden they will stand outside the fence for hours while I am working and then follow me back up to the house demanding a green bean or leaf of lettuce along the way. After all they have been very patient. I always know when someone pulls into the drive way and predatory birds think twice before crossing their paths giving a small measure of safety to the chickens. Not only are they beautiful but hand raised Sebastapol geese are very gentle. Except during breeding season. Even then they will tolerate me. They are also very family oriented. I always know when one has managed to become separated from the rest of the group by the forlorn call requiring me to go outside and lead the poor sad thing back to its group which is probably just on the other side of the house eating wind fall apples or what ever tomatoes are within reach through the fence on the patio. Unlike chickens geese are also all vegetarian. Now I don't know about you but when it comes to poop I much prefer the vegetarian variety. There is a lot of it mind you but if you can control where they get to wander not only do you keep the "mess" in a given area but you also have some of the richest garden soil EVER! They are like composters on fast forward.
Chicken pen on the left geese on the right
Which brings me to the fact that their pen does get a little slippery when wet. Preparing the pen for winter isn't much different from prepping the chicken run. In fact it is a mirror image of my chicken run minus the ramp the chickens use to get inside at night. Geese prefer to stay outside. Unlike ducks though Sebastapol geese do not have feathers that lay flat along their body giving them the same insulation factor that ducks have. In other words water does not run off their backs. Their feathers are curly and fluffy allowing wind to lift the feathers and chill the bird on the windiest days so because of this they need a wind break in the run. Other than that both bird runs get the same treatment with 2 to four inches of sand. This can also work like a litter box if you are so incline. As seen here at the chicken chick you can make a big scoop from a pitch fork and a little hardware wire. Although Kathy prefers sand over chips in the coop itself I still prefer the idea of wood shavings mostly for the warmth factor and deep litter method. However I am thinking of stealing her idea of making a giant litter scoop for chips with larger holes for the wire. The idea of deep litter is to warm up the coop but sometimes I just want to get some of that mess out of there. I will let you know how that works.
In my last blog I mentioned a system for growing grass in the chicken run that keeps them from digging up the grass roots.This enables them to have a continuous source of greens inside the run for those days when I am unable to let them free range. The man cheerfully built these for me using two 10 ft treated 2x4's. Because they are smaller they are also much easier to move if need be. I left this corner of the run sand free so I could install the grass growing frames and toss in the grass seed to get it started.

 Also in my last post someone mention that they liked having the birds be able to dust bathe. Well so
do I so when we originally built the coop we added a small lean to roof on the back to give the birds a dry place to go in inclement weather. The soil under here is dry as a bone and they love to dust bathe in it. I add a little poultry dust to assist in keeping the bugs off and a little straw just to make it interesting for them. This summer I got over my paranoia about predators being able to get under the coop and at my ladies. As a result I opened up the underside of the coop so the chickens now have an 8 x 12 foot dry area to play in that is out of the rain. The whole bottom of the coop is enclosed with 2 x 4 inch welded wire that bends out at a 90 degree angle onto the grass outside about a foot and is held in place with garden staples. This allows the grass to grow through and the lawn mower to go right over the top but keeps digging predators out. Because I am paranoid, I also installed chicken wire over the top of that but in all honesty that was more to keep baby chickens from escaping through the 2 x 4 wire.  I also re-purposed an old dog carrier for a nest box for the ducks which is tucked just under the coop.

I should probably explain the elevated chicken ramp too. Although the ducks don't need as much protection from inclement weather they do need protection at night from predators. So once the chickens go in for the night I let the ducks into the run. However one of the ducks has learned that if she goes up the ramp into the coop she scores big time on chicken food. She is very good at teaching this to the rest of her friends and they have been seen leaving the scene of the crime with crops so full they can barely move or see their feet. Fortunately the man had the fore sight to install the ramp with a hinge. I now have a draw bridge.

For once I am ready for the foul weather animal wise. Good thing too since our first fall storm is suppose to be here this weekend with 4 inches of rain. This will be a good test. Will let you know how it goes. Have a great weekend.


Izzy said...

I so love reading your posts! They make my day! Now that you have a draw bridge, have you named someone Queen Guinevere, and Sir Poops a Lot!?

Mrs. Settles said...

Thanks so much for sharing your pics as well as your tips. We'll be getting our first chickens next spring, so I am trying to learn as much as possible now.


Lisa/Fresh Eggs Daily Farm Girl said...

Your coop lit up in the snow is beautiful. New fan here! I just found you through Homestead Revival. I love this post and hope you will come share at my Farm Girl Blog Fest:

Leigh said...

Your chickens and geese must be proud to live in such nice poultry houses! Very interesting about the geese. I never knew any of that. Geese are something we so far have not considered getting. Turkeys yes, guineas yes, ducks maybe.

L Murano said...

Your Sebbies are beautiful! I recently sold mine and miss them terribly! I'll be following you to keep up on their adventures!

Kathy Shea Mormino said...

Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!
I love your set-up and that you have out-witted the ducks! LOL

I hope you'll join us again next week!
Kathy Shea Mormino
The Chicken Chick