Now that the weather is not so hot (most days) we’ve built the chickens a stationary run. Up to this point they have enjoyed a modified-trampoline-chicken-tractor that required moving every 7 – 10 days. I am so grateful that we don’t have to move them in a week!
Moving the chickens, their coop, electric fence, waterers, feeders, and other accoutrement had become such an unloved chore. Sam and I are so very glad we’re through with that – at least until spring. Setting up the ladies’ winter residence required the purchase of two rolls of four-foot chicken wire and a dozen t-posts. My brother came over and helped drive the posts and wire the fence (Thanks K!). Sam and I plugged holes and gaps in the fence with additional wiring and the occasional 2×2, 2×4, or h-wire. The, we ran a brand new electric wire around three sides of the coop. The fourth (and North) side is part of an existing fence with horse wire that we backed up with chicken wire. It is predator resistant, and since the coop is also covered – we’ve elected to take the risk. Additionally, the kids worked together to zip-tie 24 feet of plastic shielding along the north side as a wind shield – should we be blessed with a cold snap, or two, or more (please!).
The ladies seem pleased with the final result. Their coop needs insulation asap and a heat lamp (probably before January). Unfortunately, our best laid plan forgot about the North facing coop door. So in addition to the wind shield we are planning some kind of flap that the chickens can push through, but wind might not push through so readily. Maybe a doggy door for chickens, for
dog-chickens? We don’t know yet. In order to keep the girls laying they need warm nights – 70 degrees Fahrenheit or better. At this point shredded paper and nice dry grass clippings do the trick, but (hopefully) not for long.
On a side note – I was recently informed (thank you Chicken-Mama-Sam) that straw is bad for chickens, but hay and grass are good as chicken bedding because they are soft greens. The rigidity of the straw causes blockage (poor chicken) and no one wants to deal with sticky butt. (Truth!) Maybe we can find some old hay bales (mold free) that we can use as winter bedding to bolster the R-factor in the coop.
In the meantime we intend to use fluted plastic sign board inside the coop, stapled to the walls and floor. The interior roof space, once filled with old couch cushion foam stapled in place, and covered with more of the fluted plastic sign board to prevent pecking as much as for added warmth, should be nice and cozy. With a small heat lamp we should be able to maintain 60+ degrees even on the coldest of nights. 60 degrees won’t guarantee eggs all year, but that’s okay. Chickens Ladies need a little time off too.