Episode 28 Show Notes
It all started with the time change last weekend, which means that by the time I get home from work, it is already dark. Add in election day this week, which wasn’t strenuous but definitely throws a small wrinkle in our normal weekly work flow.
And then, after we finished recording the podcast for the week, I discovered that Suzy’s audio did not sound good. There was a very weird noise happening every time she finished talking. So, we spent quite a bit of time troubleshooting our studio setup and then ended up having to record a second time.
In addition to that, we have been preparing for one of our hands-on chicken keeping classes this weekend. We stopped holding the classes in summer because it gets really hot in the barn, and this is the first class we have had since then.
The good news is, we love doing the classes, so once we can get past the preparation and people start showing up, that should be the end of our crazy out-of-control week (let’s hope).
Chicken First Aid Kit, Part 2 [04:49]
Way back in Episode 23, we talked about things you can do to keep your chickens healthy. One idea we proposed was to keep a chicken first aid kit to deal with those chicken emergencies. At the time, we gave you a few items to get you started because we didn’t want to overwhelm you with a giant list.
Today we are adding some items for you to add to your first aid kit.
First, you will want to have some sort of pain reliever for your chickens. Aspirin works well for this and you can deliver it by crushing up 325 milligrams of aspirin into a gallon of water and providing it to your isolated chicken.
Make sure you do not use aspirin on a chicken who is bleeding. Aspirin is a blood thinner which will make it difficult to stop bleeding.
Next, set aside some vitamin and electrolyte powder. For almost any situation, you will start with electrolytes and vitamins to boost their immune systems.
Similarly, have Apple Cider Vinegar on hand. ACV is a great health booster for your chickens. Make sure you do not use ACV with a galvanized waterer.
Finally, add some diphenhydromine liquid (like Benedryl) to your kit. This is handy to reduce swelling if your chickens have a reaction to something or if they get stung by a bee or other insect. the dosage is 1 milliliter for an adult chicken.
Getting Your Flock Ready for Winter [12:28]
As the winter months sneak up on us, you need to prepare your chickens to deal with the cold weather.
Deep Clean Your Coop [13:30]
The colder it gets, the more time your chickens will be spending inside their coop. Now is one of the two times a year you should deep-clean your coop to that they get off to a good start.
Here is the process for a good deep clean:
- Get the chickens out of the coop. They will be out for most of the day, so make sure you give them everything they will need for the day such as a feeder, waterer and nesting box.
- Open up the coop as much as possible. Open every door, window and hatch to let in as much air as possible.
- Put on a mask, gloves and safety glasses. If you don’t do all three of those, at least do the mask. You do not want to breathe in the stuff that you will be kicking up into the air. If you don’t do the safety glasses, don’t call us to complain that a piece of chicken poo hit you in the eyeball. Seriously, we will laugh.
- Remove all the old bedding and nesting material.
- Get a plastic scraper and start chiseling off every piece of poo and debris that is stuck to the coop. Look everywhere. You will be amazed at the places that chicken poo ends up.
- Use a moist rag to clean out spiderwebs, cobwebs, dust and any other loose material in there.
- Now mix up something to disinfect the coop surfaces. Depending on how you feel about using chemicals around your chickens, you have some options for disinfecting. If you don’t mind chemicals, mix up a bleach solution. If you want something more natural, mix up equal parts of white vinegar and water.
- Use your solution of choice to scrub and clean every surface of the coop. When finished, rinse all the surfaces really well.
- Let the coop air out and dry for the rest of the day.
- Sprinkle food-grade Diatomaceous Earth on flat surfaces, in the nesting boxes, and on the roosting poles. Make sure you wear a mask when sprinkling the DE.
- Add fresh shaving or bedding material and sprinkle some more Diatomaceous Earth on top.
- Finally, let you chickens back in their home!
Winterizing Your Coop [23:52]
It is easy to think your chickens want their winter home to be like yours: locked up tight so cold air can’t get into the coop. This is a mistake. Chickens can handle extremely cold temperatures, but they have difficulty with humid air when it is cold. Inside the coop, their exhalations and excretions make the air very humid. This can make your chickens very sick.
Ventilation is very important to eliminate the humid air and bring in fresh air. That being said, you also want to prevent drafty winds from hitting them directly. The best ventilation is near the top of the coop, and higher than the roost poles so that the wind is not blowing directly on them at night when they are sleeping.
Your chickens will likely not spend the coldest days out in the run. You can help them spend some more time outside by adding draft barriers or wind breaks to the run area. This will help them have more days they can tolerate being outside.
Freezing Water [27:55]
During the winter, it is easy for water to freeze inside waterers, depriving your chickens of the hydration they need. Consider getting a heated waterer to prevent freezing.
Heating the Coop [29:00]
In some parts of the country, it may be desirable to provide some heat inside the coop. A ceramic light bulb or a radiant heating plate will help your chickens deal with the cold.
When heating your coop, the goal is to raise the temperatures a few degrees to make your chickens a little more comfortable. If you think the coop feels ‘nice and warm,’ it is too hot for the chickens.
Whenever you use a heating device, make sure they are attached very securely so that it can’t be knocked into the shavings and create a fire hazard.
Dust Bathing [27:55]
Once the ground freezes, your chickens will no longer be able to create their own dust bath. Even in the winter, it is important that they can continue to dust bathe to stay clean and healthy.
Add a bin to their run and create a mixture of equal parts builders sand, wood ash, soil and food-grade diatomaceous earth.
Like kids on a road trip, boredom will quickly turn into trouble in your flock. When the ground is frozen, your chickens can’t scratch around and hunt like they used to, and chickens with nothing to do will start to get on each others nerves.
Keep them entertained by throwing a handful of scratch or cracked corn into the coop. They will occupy a lot of time trying to hunt down and eat all the tasty morsels lost in the shavings.
Keep an Eye on the Weather [36:46]
Make sure you keep an eye on the weather forecast everyday so that you know how cold it will get each night.
Extremely cold temperatures can cause frostbite on your chickens’ combs, wattles, feet and legs; all the places they are not covered in feathers.
Chickens will keep their legs and feet warm by sitting on them to cover them with their feathers. If you have round roost poles, it may be difficult for them to cover the ends of their toes. You might consider adding wide and flat roosting spaces. With the toes spread out flat on a board, it is easy for them to cover their feet with feathers.
As for their combs and wattles, you could try to cover those with Vaseline on the coldest nights. There is some debate on how well this works, but if there is a chance it will help, you will be glad you did.