Thursday, February 27, 2014

raising chickens | flock thriving in cold winters

baby it's cold outside...I think the poor hens are more ready for Spring than we are. We're back in a two week stretch of frigid temperatures. This morning's thermometer reading at the bus stop was 1ºF. The ol' Farmer's Almanac was right once again with their prediction that this winter was going to be bitterly cold with a whole lot of snow. And our hens, well, they are no fans of the snow.

As we head into our fifth year of raising chickens, we take thanks in the fact that after all of these years, and these ever-so-cold Maine winters, we have been able to have a thriving, healthy flock. Mind you, we baby our hens throughout the winter with heat lamps, regulated daylight lamps, freshly-popped popcorn and snow blown paths to frolic in. But in return, they have keep us in a constant supply of enough eggs that we have some left over to share or sell. Without this bit of extra pampering and the shorten days of light, the hens' egg production will drop off dramatically.

Soon enough, said optimistically, the snow will melt and once again our hens can go about free range throughout our woods. Though, ever since the pit bull incident of two years ago (some stray pit bull vs. was Mutual of Omaha's Wildlife Kingdom coming to life right before my horrified eyes! Happy ending though, the hen escaped twice from the dog's jaws and hid under our car until we could get to it. That hen is now called Houdini!), we do have to keep a pretty close eye on them. 

Within the next two or so weeks, we'll have to decide if we want to add another flock into the mix. We're currently at 15 hens, so we don't need more, but knowing us, we'll probably get another flock. We also raised six turkeys last year, so we're also wrangling over whether to do more or less of those as well this year. And, we've been considering adding a few meat birds into the mix. E-I-E-I-O!

If you are considering raising hens, I definitely encourage you to give it a go. The chickens have been a fabulous addition to our lifestyle. And I can't even begin to tell you how cool it is to need an egg and simply walk outside to the coop and grab one. We were on the fence for years before we finally jumped in, but looking back, there was no reason to wait. So get cluckin'!


Granny Annie said...

I remember when you received your first chicks. You did not talk about them enough at first to suit me. Now look at you, sounding like an expert. Aren't chickens wonderful! My girls really cut back on egg production in the cold weather and this winter has been horrific for me and for them. I lost my husband the first of July and making it out to the chicken house with fresh water and feed several times a day this winter just about did me in. But they are my family along with my dog Slim,my cats and my guinea fowl. I love my country life and I know you love yours. If I have excess eggs I donate them to the senior center to raise donations for the center.

a tasteful garden said...

Oh no, I am so, so sorry to hear of your loss Annie. That's heartbreaking news. I admire you SO much for keeping up with all the animals over this winter. I often wonder if I could take all this on myself without an extra pair of hands. But you are my role model now!
We still have all of our original flock...they aren't the best layers any more, but we couldn't bear to part with them as we held special attachments to them in particular. My husband said come this Spring it'll be their time to go, but I think my boys and I will be able to convince him otherwise.
My deepest sympathies once again for your loss. I'm glad you have so many furry and feathered friends around, they definitely help.

Kim and Victoria said...

We LOVE our hens. We started with our first 3 in 2009. I would love to get a couple more but we're at six right now and that's the limit of our current coop, and our city's regulations. I'm so happy ours are doing so well and are so healthy. I agree, nothing is much nicer than eggs from your own hens.

a tasteful garden said...

Hi Victoria! Aren't they fun? I've gotten so used to seeing the chickens each day, that it would feel odd to not have them.

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