Tag Archive | "Bainbridge Island chicken coops"

How to Winterize Your Chicken Coop

by Allison Krug, science/medical writer and BI chicken farmer

With the shorter days and colder weather, you may wonder if your chickens are comfortable. Should you be supplementing the light in their coop to keep them laying through the winter? Do they need extra light for warmth? Should you buy a warmer for their water? What do chickens (and their keepers) in Pennsylvania or Minnesota do?

Gardeners here know that much of thishens state is temperate, and Bainbridge Island is actually in USDA hardiness zone 7b (as is a strip of the southeast from Texas to North Carolina). Our temperatures rarely dip below freezing, so compared to chickens living farther north in zones 3 and 4, ours are considerably more comfortable. And they’ve been preparing for winter.

By now they’ve gone through their molt and should have a nice cape of glossy feathers. During the molt, their laying slows, if not stops, a sign of the protein competition between egg production and feather production. If you avoid supplementing daylight with a low-voltage light source, you’ll ensure their protein supply goes to feathers for warmth. Yes, you’ll see a decline in egg production, but with younger birds (in their first year of laying) the decline will not be as noticeable. Last year we saw an approximate 30% decline. Instead of 18 eggs a week, we were getting about a dozen. Our younger hens kept laying while the older hens took a couple of extra days to lay another egg. The entire molt process can take a month or more depending on the hen and her nutritional status.

Home to Roost coop on Bainbridge Island

Home to Roost, Bainbridge Island.

In addition to age, breed of chicken can make a difference in terms of hardiness. We found that our large Jersey giant continued laying and weathered the winter very well. The Rhode Island Reds, which are good meat birds as well as solid layers, also fared very well. Minnesotans and Alaskans posting to a chicken forum say that Buff Orpingtons, Plymouth (or “Barred”) Rocks, and Red Stars and Black Stars (hybrid breeds) do well in cold weather.

Breeds with larger combs and wattles will tend to get frostbite, but you can help prevent that with a coating of Vaseline. Although these tough northern birds sometimes live in a three-sided shelter in the middle of a snowy field, you might want to be sure your coop isn’t too drafty but does have proper ventilation. Use gaps no bigger than half an inch, though, or you’ll find more than fresh air getting into your coop!

Ladies of Wisteria Place, Bainbridge Island.

Ladies of Wisteria Place, Bainbridge Island.

In a temperate climate like ours, winterizing is pretty easy. For example, Rolling Bay Farm’s Adrienne Wolfe uses a “deep litter system.” She keeps about six dozen laying hens to supply her farm stand with fresh eggs. “I just keep adding bedding material—straw mixed with about 20% pine shavings—to the floor of the hen house,” she explained. “The chickens mix the materials together to create compost, which heats the coop as the manure decomposes.” Adding fresh bedding keeps the methane levels down so the chickens don’t get sick. The manure will dry and turn into a fine dust at the bottom of the coop. In the spring you can shovel out the bedding and add it to your compost pile. I appreciate the sheet-metal floor in my coop because it makes cleaning with a hose quite easy!egg

One of my favorite chicken husbandry books is Choosing and Keeping Chickens by Chris Graham. Bay Hay & Feed carries an excellent selection of books on chicken breeds, and there are plenty of good web resources, such as Henderson’s Handy-Dandy Chicken Chart.

[This article from the archives was originally published November 25, 2012.]


Related Stories

Images courtesy of RickPilot_2000 and Julie Hall.

Posted in Animals, Coop Scoop, Don't Miss This 1Comments (2)

The 2013 Tour de Coop Scoop & Photo Gallery

This weekend marked the fifth annual Tour de Coop, showcasing Bainbridge Island chicken coops for the chicken curious and experienced, with proceeds going to support Helpline House.

Saturday started cloudy but opened into a sunny and warm day, perfect for preening hens and their preening keepers.

This year’s Tour featured more bikers, more beekeeping, no roosters, fewer cookies, the usual map snafu, and perhaps more seasoned coopsters than usual.

Tracy and Paul Dunn, for instance, have been chicken farmers for some 10 years. They inherited a used coop from a neighbor and have been tweaking it ever since. They utilize the poop from their seven chickens as fertilizer for their garden; hence their coop name Permaculture Hen House. Car-free, the Dunns use bicycles as their main means of transport. Good thing they are on the upside of Arrow Point Drive (Devil’s Dip).

The Sunny Side Up Ludwig coop, built by Kristy Ludwig’s father Bill Davison and Todd Ludwig, is a spacious place with clear, light-friendly roofing. Their kids play next to the coop on Todd’s home-built play structure. Located near a long-time animal path to the Grand Forest, the Ludwigs get regular visits from coyotes and raccoons and recently lost 10 of their 18 hens to predators during the day as the hens roamed in the yard.

Ed Hager (not Hagar) built his Chicken Palace in the spring of 2009, also using clear roofing, a walk-in-height design, and tight fencing to resist even the smallest of rodents. Hager also lost a significant number of hens—5 of 10—to predators while they were free-ranging in his impressive vegetable garden. Now on the alert, Hager is keeping his flock under close watch. For the Tour he displayed a series of photos showing his coop-building process.

Aptly named, the Saltbox Coop is located off of Pleasant Beach Road on Lytle Road with a stunning view overlooking Lytle Beach. Owners Bonny Zuckerman and Berg Danielson (the builder), with spectacular gardens on the property, sell their coops, including a portable “ark.”

The busy purple coops of Paulson Farms (behind the Manzanita Road Christmas tree farm), owned by Carol Rolph and Mike Paulson, are made of wood milled and constructed by Mike. The Farm includes a large hen coop and another separate chick coop. Charming art, mainly of birds, adorns the farm.

Jim Ewing and Ishya Silpikul are the proud owners of Mad Valley Micro Farm, off of Valley Road. Their unique coop is built on wheels so Jim can transport it every few weeks to different areas of their property for hen grazing. The couple has a solar-powered deer fence, as well as plans to raise bees, apples, and a small vineyard on their sunny property. When I was there, the hens were chillin’ in the shady lee of the coop.

Anne and Will Smart added chickens to their Manzanita Bay property last year. Surrounded by flowers, willow trees, and the bay, the Smart garden was featured on the Bainbridge in Bloom 2011 Garden Tour. I got to see it this year for the chickens and admire it all over again. Will built the coop with repurposed antique windows, copper gutters, and a red door. Anne also has added bees to her garden and is considering goats. My last stop on a long day of biking ended pleasantly on the Smart porch with a generous glass of wine and lively conversation.

Here are some hen highlights:

[portfolio_slideshow id=53979]

Related Stories

Photos by Julie Hall.  

Posted in Animals, Coop Scoop, Photo GalleriesComments (2)

InkshedInc Jen Pells
Lynn Smith
Yes on Prop 1
Barn Cat
Bay Hay and Feed
Facebook Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com