Chickens in the rain

Being new to chickens, I have read alot about how to care for them.  Everyone has their own experiences and what works best for them.  Bottom line is that animals are versatile for the most part and will function just fine usually with what type shelter they are provided.  However, there are some ways to improve what you provide and make it a little more livable for them, especially in wet, cold,  or even hot weather. 

My chickens like to hang out in the alpacas barn (30×50 feet) if the weather is not nice for pasture foraging.  In the heat, they also like to hang out under the elevated coops (base size is 4×8 set up on  a cement block at each corner) where the cool earth and breezes  cool them.  In the winter the barn, bright sun, and hay on the floor helps warm them.  Their coops keep them warm enough at night when I shut them in and they can burrow into the deep litter and they mound together.  The decomposing litter also generates some heat, so I read, from the decomposition, which would create some heat for them.  So, keeping a deep litter in the coop is an easy way to improve their warmth.  I use a kitty litter scoop to remove any clumpy wet litter and to swish around the top layer into the bottom layer and get it started drying out.  I put a hook on one of the coop studs out of the way so I can reach the scoop and it’s so easy to keep the nest boxes, roosts and litter floor cleaned up.

Dealing with frozen water in winter is difficult.  Fortunately, they don’t need as much water as they do in summer, so they drink out of the alpacas buckets which take longer to freeze,   and I make sure  they start off the morning with fresh unfrozen water in their little waterers.  There are some heated waterers and heated bases to sit them on, but I have not tried those.  Last winter was the first winter and they all did just fine.  Since there isn’t really much of anything to forage from the pastures, I make sure their feed containers are kept full as the digesting of food will generate some body heat.  They also like to burrow into the alpacas hay troughs.  The alpacas eat “around” them. 

We don’t have too many “freeze” days in this part of the US, but still need to be ready for them because they almost always take us by surprise.

I have recommended them before, but I will again, and that is two books I have referred to constantly: Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow, and the other is The Encyclopedia of Country Living, by Carla Emery.  Find them at Amazon.com and you can create a book list and they will e-mail you whenever the prices change, higher or lower.  A great place to shop online.

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The wetter the better–not!

One summer we took our daughter and son to Colorado on vacation when they were in middle school and high school.  We went river rafting and bought shirts to mark the event that said “the wetter the better”, which for river rafting is true.  However, in October in Texas  it is not. The rain has just been never ending it seems and we are all tired of the muck, especially we who must slog through it in the barnyard.  But, things are looking up and we hear that tomorrow will be the last of the rain. Hooray!

The dampness has settled into the barn and the  packed earth floor has become rather damp.  I have turned on the two large ceiling fans to move the still air around and try to dry it out some.  And of course the alpacas do not want to use their outdoor poop piles, so where are they going? Of course, they are.  Inside the barn, causing a little odor.  However, as far as clean up goes, I would rather clean up in there than have a mucky mess outside to clean up, so I cannot complain too much. 

I use Stall Dry on the inside poo areas after cleaning up and have I mentioned how much I loooooove Stall Dry. It deodorizes and sops up moisture (10x it’s weight, I read)  I will be sprinkling around the inside of the chicken coops this weekend,after cleaning out about 1/3 of the litter and replacing with new.  It is important to keep some old litter in the coop because, as I understand,  it has the established microbes already in place that are cleaning up and breaking down  the litter and will migrate into the new litter to keep it all breaking down correctly.  The old litter I clean out will go into the compost pile.  I have not had any moisture or odor problems in the coop with the deep litter.

The chickens do not seem to mind the wet and they do live in the barn during the day and hang out, dust and fluff, and clean up errant crickets.

I will keep my eyes open, but have not seen my hummingbirds.  I hung out freshly filled feeders just in case.  I did see one lone Monarch butterfly today on its journey south.

I plan to enjoy the new dry weather and get things decorated  for Halloween.

Owls in Autumn

Owls.  You know they are there somewhere, around you, in the trees.  They vocalize the most in Spring and Fall.   And we see their silhouettes in moonlit  trees and hear their powerful voices calling in the dark with many responses from various locations so far away we are surprised to know there are so many, and many more we don’t see or hear.  One night there were three calling so close outside my window I had to stumble out of bed in the dark to look out the window.  They must have been perched on our very highpitched standing seam roof because I could not see them anywhere but they were thisclose.  Last night, there was one at the very tip top of one of our May planted oak trees.

I found some cool links to owls in various forms. Enjoy.

 http://worldofgood.ebay.com/Pair-of-Gourd-Owls-Hand-Carved-10-Peru-Fair-Trade-New/280300538457/item

http://www.lucuma.com/content/artists/gourdmaking.asp

http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/owl-gourd-box

http://www.oneworldprojects.com/products/gourds_cochas.shtml

http://www.lucuma.com/craft_gallery/p_CDAH027.asp

http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Megascops&species=asio

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17746419/