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ccWhat to do for your chickens in January and February...

Yay, happy new year! Itís January and/or February! Those are... months!  : P  Weíre in the middle of winter. The winter solstice is always right around Dec. 22nd, which means the days are slowly getting longer already! Full of so much promise for gardeners like me. Not full of much else. Itís cold at night in January and February; thatís true for most parts of the good olí USA. What do you do for your chickens when it gets cold? Well, basically, you should have a ďhouse partĒ of your coop where your chickens can go to escape the weather. Wind and rain, versus just the cold, are what you need to shelter your chickens from the most. A lot of chicken articles that you read on the Ďnet will say just that; cold temps donít really harm chickens as long as they are dry and out of the wind. However, I want my chickens to be comfy, not just survive. So I have a hook right above their perch. When it gets much below freezing outside, I hang my chicken heat lamp (a very inexpensive fixture with a 250 watt bulb) right over their perch where they sleep.

Well, not too close; we donít want to singe any feathers. Be careful about keeping the lamp fixture away from anything flammable. Some people say heat lamps are too much of a fire hazard to use, but they have been used for generations.  I run an extension cord from the deck to the coop. During the day, I unplug the cord. On really cold nights, I plug it in. (You can also use an inexpensive Christmas lights timer.) I also like throwing a tarp over the whole chicken tractor when the rain blows sideways. The other nice side-effect of having a light on in the coop at night is that it sort of tricks a henís simple brain in to thinking that the days are longer, and this often keeps them laying longer in to the winter. (Some think this is ďforcingĒ a hen to lay when it should not, but from what Iíve read and experienced, itís not harmful. Extra light isn't going to "create" an egg if one really can't be created.)    

ccOne year when my hens started laying fewer and fewer eggs as the days got shorter, I hung a 6 watt fluorescent bulb in their coop. Not for heat, but for light. This was all it took; within 48 hours I got an egg. Another wintertime chicken topic is frostbite of the comb and wattles of a chicken. Some say to rub Vaseline or zinc diaper ointment on combs to shield from frostbite. Others say this is useless against cold but harmless either way.  And some say frostbite isnít even a consideration until the temps start to go below zero. 

Another important cold-weather consideration is frozen water.  You can set your metal gravity waterer on this metal heated base if you want.  Or buy an even fancier water heater for chickens.    Here's a link to a common water-container heater.
My routine is more low-tech; I just bring a jug of hot water out in the morning after a hard freeze and pour it into their water bucket. Donít let your chickens run out of clean water!

One more thing I like to do is to keep a bale of ďcompressed wood shavingsĒ
in the garage. When I see any standing water or mud in the coop, I put down a layer of the wood shavings. This absorbs water which reduces pathogens that thrive in wet conditions. Do your best to keep standing water out of your coop, because standing water is a favorite nursery for a variety of chicken-harming bacteria.
 
cc What to do for your chickens in March and April
...

March and April 20th is the date of the Spring equinox in 2017. An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the sun. This is the date that spring officially starts, and like the definition suggests, it is neither very warm nor very cold. (We're talkin' the Western world... you people down under and in further latitudes are on your own! Just kidding; domesticated chickens are the same the world around. Much can be gleaned from this site for any locale.  However, they call chickens 'chooks' down under.)

So with regards to your chickens, you have to consider that it still might get very cold at night, but that during the day, it might get warm. This mainly means you should make sure your chickens have access to shade. Chickens seem to tolerate cold much better than heat.

If you keep your chickens in a chicken tractor, make sure they have a place to go out of the March and April rains. Sometimes I throw a tarp over the whole coop for the rainy weeks. Don't ask how many weeks that is in Portland, Oregon. It's a bummer!

Your full-grown hens might start naturally picking up the frequency of their egg-laying again in the spring, since the days are getting longer. Hens lay fewer eggs in the darker months and more in the months with more daylight. Since it still might freeze at night, check that your chickens have fresh, unfrozen water at all times.

One more thing I like to do in March and April and other rainy months is to keep a bale of ďcompressed wood shavingsĒ in the garage. When I see any standing water or mud in the coop, I put down a layer of the wood shavings. Less standing water equals less opportunities for germs to grow.

ccIf youíre just getting started with your flock, this is the time of year that baby chicks come in to many feed stores. Go check them out, if you dare gaze upon their cuteness. Many a chick has been bought on impulse, which can be good or bad, depending on how you spin it. As the famous quote goes, ďIn the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.Ē --Alfred Lord Tennyson. Well, for a long time Iíve always joked that in the spring, my thoughts turn to baby chicks and building new coops.

The days have been getting longer since November and December 22nd, which is exciting for the gardeners out there. Be careful in letting your chickens out of their coop to roam the yard in March and April and March. Lots of new flower, plant and vegetable shoots are emerging and the chickens love (and I mean love) to scratch in the dirt and this can uproot a lot of flower bulbs. Iíve had to replant a lot of tulip bulbs that suddenly appeared on the surface after Iíve let the chickens roam the yard.  They don't eat them; they just scratch way more than you think they'd be capable of.

If this is your first spring getting chicks and building a coop, I might suggest not over-building your coop; keep it light enough to roll around (I call it Ďrearranging the outside furnitureí) if it is a movable chicken tractor.

Then again, there have been reports of determined dogs getting into a coop that has been built too lightly. Looking at the chicken tractors as seen on my chicken tractors page will give you a good idea of a middle ground.  

Last year during March and April , I got yet another Spring batch of baby chicks from our local feed store, and built a new chicken tractor for them. See my page on brooding chicks.
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Some videos I took:  
*  Chickens scratching around my raised garden beds.
*  Young pullets that look fully-grown but still peep!  
*  Chickens scratching through garden trimmings.

What to do for your chickens in May and June...

Iím in the Pacific Northwest. But I know I canít be the only one with a muddy coop this time of year. I'm looking at you, New England and the deep south! What do you do when you go out to your coop to find that the May and June showers have created standing water in your coop? Or thereís a puddle accumulating around your watering container? Well, you kind of have to do something, because long-term puddles in your chicken run are a nice breeding ground for the oocysts of coccidiosis (pronounced, Ďcock-sid-ee-OH-sisí), a fairly common chicken disease.

My chicken tractor is currently parked on a slight slope, so that helps water run off. A handy thing to do when you see a puddle in your coop is to fill in the puddle with pine shavings. A ďcompressed bale of pine shavingsĒ  costs about $8 bucks at the feed store, and it can fluff up to about 10 cubic feet, so one bale will last a long time. If youíre just getting started with your flock, this is the time of year that baby chicks come in to many feed stores. Go check Ďem out! If you dare! Many a chick has been bought on impulse, which can be good or bad, depending on how you spin it. In some feed stores, baby chicks are out of the feed stores by June, so don't miss the window of their availability.  

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Be careful in letting your chickens out of their coop to roam in your garden plot in May and June; lots of new flower, plant and vegetable shoots are emerging and the chickens love (and I mean love) to scratch in the dirt and this can uproot a lot of emerging perennials. Iíve had to replant a lot of tulip bulbs that suddenly appeared on the surface after Iíve let the chickens roam the yard. If you want to keep your garden safe from rampant hen-feet but still want to give the birds some greens, throw your garden clippings and weeds into their run.

A good way to keep the grass trimmed and fertilized is to have a chicken tractor that is on wheels so that you can move it easily around the yard on a daily basis. In May and June you start mowing the lawn again, and I usually throw some grass clippings into my chicken coop, too; they eat them up.

If this is your first spring getting chicks and building a coop, I might suggest not over-building your coop; keep it light enough to roll around (I call it Ďrearranging the outside furnitureí) if it is a movable chicken tractor. Then again, there have been reports of determined dogs getting into a coop that has been built too lightly. Looking at the chicken tractors as seen on my tractors page will give you a good idea of a middle ground.


In fact, my hens give my garden so much trouble that they pretty much stay in their coop all spring. Once plants get really established I let the chickens roam around in the yard more. They still get into the raised beds and kick out a bucket of dirt each day. Now, thatís one five gallon bucket of dirt per chicken per raised bed. So, a lot of dirt. Sometimes I just say, ďThatís it!!Ē and back into their coop they go.

cc11You might be lucky and live in an area where by May and June, most of your plants are big. If you let your chickens out to roam the yard a little, they probably won't be able to scratch up seedlings because the plants are well established. Now they can hopefully eat the bugs that bother your plants.

When winter comes, I let my hens out of their coop even more, ironically, since everything in the garden is dying anyway. If you want to keep your garden safe from your hens but still want to give the birds some greens, throw all your garden clippings and weeds into their chicken pen. As you mow the lawn this month, be sure to throw some grass clippings in to your coop; chickens love grass. Also, as you harvest the first produce from your garden, give the trimmings to your chickens. 

An interesting way to keep your lawn itself trimmed and fertilized is to have a chicken tractor that is on wheels so that you can move it easily around the yard on a daily basis. This is a little too time consuming for busy people, but fun to try sometime. . . . . . . Don't forget to check your chicken's watering container daily. They need plenty of water on hot days. Dehydration can kill a chicken fast. One more thing: Make sure your coop has at least some shade that lasts 100% of the day. Chickens need shade not just on sunny days but should have access to shade at any time, which your typical chicken tractor should provide. . . . . . . Enjoy May and June !


http://youtu.be/JeRdqhim2Uo (Chickens taking a dustbath.)
http://youtu.be/kGF15V4kVk8 (A short vid of my garden.)


What to do for your chickens in July and August...

ccBy this time, if you have a garden, it's probably growing pretty big and so if you let your chickens out to roam in the yard a little, they probably won't be able to scratch up seedlings because plants are well established by this time of year. For instance, my entire garden is in raised beds. The beds are so crowded by July and August with flowers and veggies that the chickens can hardly get into them. Instead, they scratch all around the outside perimeter of the beds. I donít really know why they do this; perhaps there are bugs there. It does have the effect of scratching out the weeds and grass that are encroaching on the raised beds, so thatís nice.

Okay, enough about my garden! The soil also gets drier in July and August. This will create more dry patches of dirt which chickens gravitate towards and will love to take dust baths in. If youíve never seen a chicken take a dustbath, it can be disconcerting at first because they flop around a lot. But then you can see that they are really enjoying themselves.

Be sure to check your chicken's water daily in hotter weather. Do not let fresh, clean water run out. Make sure that your chickens have access to shade at all times of the day in the summer. Usually a chicken coop will provide some shade, but if you live in a very hot part of the country, park your chicken tractor in the shade somewhere as well.

ccAs you mow the lawn this summer, be sure to throw some grass clippings in to your coop. The chickens will eat the grass, and it also makes good litter at the floor of your chicken tractor to absorb poop and standing water. Later on in the summer as you harvest your produce, throw the trimmings and spent plants into your chicken pen, too.

If you got your baby chicks in March and April , your chickens are probably young pullets now, and are likely at ďthe point of lay,Ē which means your cute baby chicks are all grown up and if they havenít already, will soon lay their first egg. Which is always exciting even for people who have kept chickens for years.

The soil gets dry in July and August . This will create more dry patches of dirt which chickens gravitate towards and will love to take dust baths in. If youíve never seen a chicken take a dustbath, it can be disconcerting at first because they flop around a lot. But then you can see that they are really enjoying themselves.

Be sure to check your chicken's water daily in hot weather. Do not let fresh, clean water run out. Make sure that your chickens have access to shade at all times of the day in the summer. Usually a chicken coop will provide some shade, but if you live in a very hot part of the country, park your chicken tractor in the shade somewhere as well.

My composting style is fun to me: I pull out long grass that has gone to seed, and long weeds, and throw them right on the lawn. Then when Iím done I run the lawn mower over the weeds, which chops them up nicely. I then throw the result into the run part of my chicken tractor. It gives the chickens some greens, something to scratch through, and serves as litter to absorb manure. And it's a weird and fun little endeavor.   :)

ccWhat to do for your chickens in September and October...

Fall is around the corner, crazy chicken people. If you have a garden, itís probably past its prime. This is the time of year that I start letting my chickens have at it.

During the spring I keep my hens in their coop so they donít dig up seedlings. In September and October, the chickens digging can actually help me get started on clearing out spent flowers and empty vegetable bushes.


Interestingly, I let my chickens out in the yard during the day more in the winter than in the spring, in consideration of my garden.

ccLet chickens roam free in your yard at your own risk! Dogs can appear out of nowhere. At a couple of places I lived, we had a fully fenced yard, but in the middle of the night at once place in the suburbs, a dog hopped the fence, broke open a chicken tractor door, and distributed one of my hens all over the neighborhood. It wasn't a feral dog; it was just a dog that some owner thought it was okay to let roam free.

See TheCityChicken.com's Laws page to see if you can find the current laws in your town. If you know the laws in your city, send them in to me and I'll put them up on the above page!

Some videos I took:  
*  Chickens scratching around my raised garden beds.
*  Young pullets that look fully-grown but still peep!  
*  Chickens scratching through garden trimmings.


ccWhat to do for your chickens in November and December...

Winter is around the corner, crazy chicken people. If you have a garden, itís probably past its prime. This is the time of year that I start letting my chickens have at it.  During the spring I keep my hens in their coop so they donít dig up seedlings. In November and December, the chickens digging can actually help me get started on clearing out spent flowers and empty vegetable bushes.

Interestingly, I let my chickens out in the yard during the day more in the winter than in the summer, in consideration of my garden.

Let chickens roam free in your yard at your own risk! Dogs can appear out of nowhere. At a couple of places I lived, we had a fully fenced yard, but in the middle of the night at one place in the suburbs, a dog hopped the fence, broke open a chicken tractor door, and distributed one of my hens all over the neighborhood. It wasn't a feral dog; it was just a dog that some owner thought it was okay to let roam free.

See TheCityChicken.com's laws page to see if you can find the current laws in your town. If you know the laws in your city, send 'em in to me and I'll put them up on the laws page!

ccItís gettiní chilly! Well, in the USA and Canada, anyway! It's almost summer in Australia, those lucky dogs.

What do you do that first morning you go out and notice the chicken's water is frozen solid? One morning I didn't have an extra moment to break the ice out of the water bucket, grab the frozen hose, break the ice out of itÖyou know the routine. So for a quick fix, I soaked some layer pellets in hot water, and brought them a warm watery slurry. They got their liquids and food right away, to tide them over until I could properly clean out their bucket and bring in water later. Plus it was fun to see them enjoying a warm breakfast. None of this was necessary; I am just easily entertained!

Now, the slightly more high-tech way you can keep you chicken's water unfrozen is to set the watering container on top of a chicken water heater

So in November and December, itís getting cold at night. What do you do for your chickens when it gets cold? Well, basically, you should have a ďhouse partĒ of your coop where your chickens can go to escape the weather. Your coop probably already has this; itís the place where your chickens usually lay their eggs.

Now, my last small flock of hens were silly; they didn't want to sleep on the perch that was provided for them in the enclosed house part! They insisted on perching on another perch in the ďrunĒ part, where they were exposed more to wind and rain.

ccSo I met them half-way; I attached some thin wood paneling on the outside of the coop, next to where they perched at night, essentially making a wind-break for them. I found the pieces of paneling for cheap in the ďcull cartĒ at Home Depot.

But Iíll tell ya; it got down to 4 degrees here one winter. Yet my chickens seemed fine. Conversely, they look much more miserable in hot weather.  See for yourself:

*  Chickens in the heat

*  Chickens in the cold


A lot of things that you read on the Ďnet will confirm just that: Typical cold temps donít really harm chickens. They are wearing down jackets, after all. However, I want any animals that I keep to be comfy, not just survive. So I have a hook above their perch. When it gets much below freezing outside, I hang my chicken heat lamp right over their perch where they sleep. I run an extension cord from the deck to the coop. During the day, I unplug the cord. On really cold nights, I plug it in.

I also like throwing a tarp over the whole chicken tractor when the rain here in the Pacific Northwest gets kind of ridiculous. The other side-effect of having a light on in the coop at night is that it sort of tricks the simple chicken brain in to thinking that the days are longer, and this often keeps them laying longer in to the winter. (Some say this is ďforcingĒ a hen to lay when it should not, but from what Iíve read and experienced, itís not harmful.)

ccOne year when my hens started laying fewer and fewer eggs as the days got shorter, I hung a 6 watt fluorescent bulb (for light; not heat) in their coop. That was all it took; within 48 hours I got an egg.


Another wintertime chicken topic is frostbite of the comb and wattles. Some say to rub Vaseline or zinc diaper ointment on combs to shield from frostbite. Others say this is useless against cold but harmless, and the hens might kind of like it. :)

One more thing I like to do is to keep a bale of compressed wood shavings in the garage or near the coop with a tarp over it. When I see any standing water or mud in the coop, I put down a layer of the wood shavings. This absorbs water which reduces pathogens that thrive in wet conditions. Do your best to keep standing water out of your coop.



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