Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ready-ing up the Coop for Winter

Weather has been beautiful so far this fall. Apparently mother nature is trying to make it up to us for having no summer until late July. I was sure we wouldn't get tomato one and it's sort of true since we haven't had any normal size tomatoes get ripe. However the cherry tomatoes are taking over the kitchen and although it was time intensive I made salsa.
Since it is October and this is the Pacific N.W. I am going to go pull the rest of the green and red-ish tomatoes tomorrow. I am ready to plant garlic in that spot and need the tomato plants gone.

In the mean time I am getting the chicken coop ready for winter. First a very thorough cleaning is in order so today I took everything that wasn't fastened down (and a few things that were) out of the coop and cleaned every square foot. All bedding was removed, walls and wire dusted off, feathers removed, nest boxes cleaned out, and the whole inside white washed with a mix of hydrated lime and water an old fashion way to clean and beautify your coop. Ok maybe it isn't on the top of the list for interior decorating but it does disinfect and repel pesky bugs and I don't want another round of Northern Fowl Mites this winter. White washing
 is an old farming idea that use to be used a lot. It is cheap and helps seal and clean surfaces and brightens up the inside of your coop by reflecting light into all the darkest corners. Around here in the winter light is a good thing. Last winter I used lime in the bedding to help keep it dry. I just mixed a little in every other day or so and gave the bedding a good stir. I will be doing that again this year since it was very helpful and didn't seem to harm any of the ladies.

To make a whitewash use hydrated lime only. Wear goggles, gloves, and a long sleeved shirt as this mix is caustic and can cause burns. Safety goggles are especially important because this stuff can burn the cornea of your eye if you happen to splash some and that is very easy to do. In a bucket mix water and hydrated lime together until it is just slightly thinner than paint. Use a cheap brush to apply it to the walls of the coop. I did not apply it to the nest boxes or the perches just in case it caused irritation to perching feet. This stuff does rub off onto clothes and hands kind of like chalk so just the walls were good for me. I also cleaned and re-organized the storage/hospital side of the coop. This is the side the Silkies use at night. It is separated by a wall and door between the two sides. I only white washed the table. The nest boxes are made of used melamine shelving that we had laying around and is a snap to keep clean.

A couple days ago I tackled the chicken run. Last winter, spring, and most of the summer this was a mud pit. Every hole and depression in the soil held standing water, a no no if you want healthy birds and the soil was so slick when it rained that you would slip and slide around the run like an ice rink. Every feather (and there were plenty from all the molting going on) was raked up and disposed of just in case there were any lingering mite eggs. Then I rototilled with my little cultivator. Perfect for this job. After raking the area smooth and

even,  I shoveled and raked a yard of sand on to the top of the whole thing giving a 2 to 4 inch depth of sand on top. Not sure if this is something I want to leave or if  I am going to lightly mix it into the top of the existing soil. The chickens don't really like to dig around in the sand since there are no bugs but it does seem to keep them from digging holes for dust bathing. I just wanted a little drainage and some grit to keep from falling on my butt in the mud.

In addition I have asked the man to build me a frame from treated 2x4's so I have a box that is 3 or 4 foot wide by 8 ft long. I will fasten 1/4 inch hardware cloth to the top, place it in a corner of the run and plant grass seed. As the grass grows up through the wire the chickens can eat it without digging up the roots. I will post pics when I get that done. If anyone out there has a suggestion I am all ears. Leave a comment. I really do appreciate any input.



Izzy said...

Where do you find the time? I don't have to winterize here in FL, but I am concerned about the amount of water that still finds its way in the coop. It now has a metal roof, but with over 30" of rain, and most of that comes in sideways it's been so bad lately, I can not keep their coop dry. Not sure what my next move will be. Can't wait to see the grass growing box.

Heather said...

I definitely need to figure out something fast for making my chicken coop nice and toasty for the ladies this winter. This will be our first winter having chickens...and since we are in Maine I am a tad concerned about the cold and snow. We might have to put a heat lamp out there in January/February because it does get so cold...

Anne Kimball said...

Hi Sista, I'm Anne from Life on the Funny Farm ( visiting from Homestead Revival’s Barn Hop.

These are some great tips! I've pinned it so I can refer to it again later. I had thought of mixing lime in with the coop bedding to keep it dry, but wasn't sure if that would be too caustic for their feet.

Anyway, it’s nice to "meet" you. I've added myself as a follower. I hope you can pop over to my blog and say hi sometime if you get the chance.

sista said...

Anne-Thanks for joining. I actually think I have either visited your site or signed up to follow but will check it out definitely. Last year was my experiment with lime in the bedding so I say go for it.

Heather-Maine is cold! If you insulate make sure it is covered because chickens like to eat insulation. Not a good idea. You can use Styrofoam between the 2x4's as long as you make sure there is enough ventilation and the Styrofoam is covered. Think packing peanuts or stuff that packages come in. Thanks for visiting.

Mary Ann said...

Had not thought about raking up all those feathers from the molt... and they are everywhere right now... but your idea of rototilling is a good one. Our yards are like ice too, when wet... but no sand for us, I like to see my birds dustbathing, and it's so good for them.

Kai Shippee said...

What great ideas! I'm glad I stumbled across this post. I just wrote a post about whats happening in my coop, check it out at:

Mrs. Settles said...

Thank you so much for this information! We will be getting our first chickens next spring, so I am spending this time absorbing as much info as I can. I'm going to add you to my blog list on my new blog, Blue Acre Farm. I look forward to coming back and learning more.


Mrs. Settles said...

I'm back. :)
Just wanted to let you know, I linked to this post in my blog.


Kathy Shea Mormino said...

Hello, new follower here! I would love to have you link up with my Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!

I hope to see you there!
The Chicken Chick

Dirt Lover said...

Oh, my gosh! I LOVE your idea about the grass with hardware cloth over it. That might solve an issue I have here. I had to pen my hens up after all but 3 of them were eaten by raccoons (I'm guessing) and I made a moveable pen, but it's too heavy for me to move by myself. I didn't want to go back to a permanent location because of them not being able to eat the grass.
Great post, thanks for sharing!

Mike Tharp said...

A little bit of hide glue mixed into the white wash will stop any rub off.