This morning I began anew the cold weather ritual of dressing for winter. Habit is a powerful memory and I found myself smiling this morning at the foreign and yet familiar pattern of tucking my long johns into my socks. My quilted overalls have been waiting patiently in the plastic bin with other winter friends and today is the only day they will be clean until they go back in the box. The left shoulder strap is left attached, step left foot into the leg and directly into my house crocs, then right leg, left shoulder strap goes up, then grab the right strap and fasten. Pull the pant legs up, step into boots, then fold boot slightly to fit the cuff of the pant over the top of boot. I love this routine, and it helps keep me warm and dry for a day of cold fingers and wrestling with frozen hoses.
This week we saw a shift in the weather! It is always a humbling and sometimes defeating change when night temperatures fall well below freezing and where once we had a neat and simple system for bringing water to animals that need it, we instead have a network of useless plastic hoses full of ice. The snow and cold does provide for other adventures. Above you can see headlamps and bike lights as we ride our mountain bikes out to check on the chickens and make sure they are warm and their “frost proof” water system is turned on.
This year we are pushing the season on growing our chickens on pasture. Most folks would have retreated to the barn at this point, but we are determined to give them some green grass to eat every day! Like the vegetable farmer who uses a greenhouse to extend his season we have chicken coops modeled after a greenhouse! This morning, however, we saw 16 degrees before sunrise and we took some extra precautions to ensure some level of warmth for the chickens.
3 Steps to Chicken Comfort: Food, Water, Temperature.
During the summer, keeping it cool is the challenge. Not these days:) Food remains a simple matter of keeping the feeders full. Water and warmth necessitate some creativity.
A few weeks ago, I began preparing for cold weather by installing some 18 gallon barrels, that hang above the water cups. You can see one hanging in the picture above. These barrels have a valve on them that let me fill the barrel with water in the afternoon, and then we’ll turn off the pressurized water at night, and let the barrels inside the coop gravity feed the water cups. The body heat from the chicken keeps the air inside the coop above freezing and water keeps flowing.
Anticipating a cold night last night, I also set up a generator behind the coops that gives each coop a few heat lamps to each batch of chicken. The smaller, more tender ones get more lamps. At dawn this morning only the smallest batch did not have running water inside the coop. A little hot water poured on helped solve that problem:)
I realized trouble was on its way as I watched the frost linger in the shadows. It was a sunny day, but the ground was still frozen in the shade by mid day. 18 gallons of water is enough to last all night when the chickens don’t drink much, but during the day when they are up and active, it is a few hours at most. I can usually count on the water line thawing by mid day, in time for me to use the pressurized water to fill up the barrels. Not today. I spent most of the day hauling water up to the field with the tractor and rigging up ways to keep the chickens hydrated.
Thank you to all the folks who helped us test our Cold Pak shipping system for 1 day customers. Without exception cold packs have worked well for folks we can get boxes to within 24 hours. Cold paks will work for the cold season, and we’ll need to change our box liners to a thicker material or switch back to all dry ice for the summer. More research for the winter:)
For folks who live a bit farther away we’re still shipping for 2 day transit times (and air and express shipping) with dry ice on the second Tuesday of the month, so get your orders in for delivery on 11/11!
Tangleroot Farm CSA Members! Place your orders before Sunday at midnight to get your order delivered with your CSA share this week! Select Tuesday or Friday depending on your location and delivery day.
Featherbed Lane Farm Pickup on 11/21! We will be making our monthly delivery to our friends at FLF and this time I’ll be making the trip myself just in time for thanksgiving! Having a small thanksgiving? Try our new smaller version of a Turkey, it’s called a Chicken! I’ve extended the order deadline for this pickup until Tuesday 11/17 because of our packing schedule, so get your orders in!