Ghostwood Farm

Baby, it’s COLD outside.
February 12, 2012, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Chickens, Farming, Veggies

I am working on a post regarding the diversity of chicken breeds that we have on the farm, which I will hopefully have posted in the next day or two. I just wanted to post an update on the weather:

It is COLD.

I was starting to get nervous. It has been raining all winter, and warm. The snow we have now, barely a dusting, is the first of the year that has stuck around for more than a few hours. I ordered and received my seeds for the coming season about two weeks ago. With the weather warm and the ground muddy, I was starting to feel pinched for time, like I should be considering planting the spinach, lettuce, and peas. Now, with the ground frozen hard and the temperature not forecast to warm up to freezing for a few days, I feel a bit relieved.

I DO have time, I DO.

I remain concerned about this spring, though. Last spring was so wet that I couldn’t plant or till properly until well into April. Our clayey soil does not drain well, so water stays and stays. It’s a blessing in the heat of the summer, but a curse in the spring. And so far, this spring is shaping up to be as wet as last.

As for the chickens, they deal with the cold very well. Their coop is warm at night, or at least warmer than outside. It’s ventilated but very well walled off from wind, and 50 birds keep it warmer than one might think. I get a bit worried about some of the single-combed roosters, because frostbite is a concern for them. In general, though, they eat more feed and forage less for themselves when it’s cold and snowy…so I prefer it to be a bit warmer!

Water is another issue. Yesterday the temperature reached only the mid-20s. Their water was frozen solid when I let them out in the morning. They managed to keep it open during the day, but my rain barrel’s spigot is also frozen, so I must bring them a five gallon bucket of water in the morning. I have a heated waterer, but it leaks faster than they drink it, and anyway it’s only three gallons–they drink about 4 gallons a day.

This morning, I took them a five gallon bucket of hot water and put it on the fount base, which was crusted with yesterday’s ice. They immediately run to the water when they get out in the mornings. The birds that are lower on the pecking order (yes, pecking orders really do exist) run outside and eat snow. Apparently, making eggs is thirsty work.

Finally, as I fed the birds this morning, I heard a hen in the barn, behind the hay. I look back there daily for eggs–with the loose hay it seems an obvious nesting place–and have never seen any. Today, apparently I looked closer than usual, and under some styrofoam, in what can only be described as more of a tunnel than a nest, I found 34 egg-cicles. I don’t know how old they are, but they were frozen solid, many of them cracked. That’s $8.50 worth! This is the wonder of free-range chickens: They lay wherever they want, and it’s up to me to find them.

Tonight, I will boil those 34 eggs and feed them back to the chickens. They love eggs. I try not to think about it.

4 Comments so far
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I was contemplating planting some greens last week too, but the fact that I can’t even turn my (frozen) compost pile today has put that notion on the back burner for a while. I am starting to plan my garden for this year, which totally relies on my husband getting some raised beds built for me soon.

Your little farm looks great!

Comment by earthbecomesme

I wish I had some raised beds! All my stuff is in 4′ or 8′ x 100′ beds, but they’re not raised. I’m going to need to build a raised bed for carrots, because our soil is too heavy for them otherwise.

Thanks for reading!

Comment by ghostwoodfarm

I have added an aquarium heater to my aqua-ponics system. So far it has prevented (along with a growing greenhouse however) the water from freezing over, and we have had a few decent freezes. Perhaps putting a heater under the water dish, or rigging something inside it would keep the freeze off.

That being said, on my friend’s ranch (not my backyard) their flock (now a bantam/Barred rock cross) is entirely wild. They get a few human handouts to keep them catchable and fuller bellied, but they only have a few available water catching pans on the property, and chickens seem to be lost to almost nothing, except coyotes. A crossbreed may make it so you do not have to worry at all.

Comment by Atlas Mason

I have thought about putting a birdbath heater I have under the fount, but it’s plastic and I’m not sure it wouldn’t cause problems. It had not occurred to me, however, to add a heater to the rain barrel. I may have to investigate.

I think that we are colder than you in the winter? The hens do a great job of foraging on their own, ranging far and wide, but I think they still need supplemental feeding. I know they drink out of puddles, etc. as well. I’m actually thinking of fencing them in for a few weeks till they get the idea of the nest boxes, so I stop losing so many eggs!

Comment by ghostwoodfarm

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