Tonight I moved my chickens’ coop to a different part of my yard. Needless to say this slight change really threw them off. They had no idea what to do or where to go. I ended up spending more than 3 hours trying to gather them up.
As their caregiver all I was trying to do was get them to safety and guide them into the right direction. However, every time I got close to them they panicked and sprinted in the opposite direction. Chickens are fast!
As dusk neared I had captured 3 out of our 5 chickens and safely placed them in their home. The other 2 just ran around like, chickens, and acted completely lost. I watched as they would try to fly to the top of my vehicle to roost and then fall back down over and over.
Finally, as the darkness approached I went outside for one last try to get the chickens to safety. 1 of the 2 (who the last 3 hours had nothing to do with me) came right up to me and stood there. It looked at me like, “Well, here I am. I surrender. Please take me to safety.” So after many hours of trying to get the bird I was able to easily just reach down and carry it to its home.
The last bird, however, still just ran around like a panicked idiot. I tried to lure it with food, tried to dress in camouflage, everything I could think of. All it would do is sprint away from me until it finally ran itself deep into the woods in the pitch blackness – deep where the predators are, far from safety.
People a lot of times are like my chickens. Life is full of changes. When changes happen people get thrown off; they sometimes feel lost. When change happens and we feel lost it seems we have two choices. We can be like the last chicken and just run around like an idiot trying to figure things out on our own- only to bury ourselves in darkness, far from home among the predators without realizing it. Or, we could be like the chicken that finally realized it’s caretaker was indeed trying to take care of it. We can pause, take a deep breath, and surrender to the one who knows best how to care for us.
Are you facing changes? Has your norm been altered? What are you going to do? Are you going to pause and look to the One True God who is trying to take care of you? Or are you going to run around crazy like an idiot and bury yourself into your situation deeper? Why live in the pitch black dark woods among predators when your protection is right there chasing after you to bring you home to safety?
4) NESTING BOXES
I have been told that chickens love to lay eggs in nesting boxes. However, I kind of laugh at that statement. The first time that our chickens laid eggs (well, what I found) was in my garden. I went to pick my zucchini and pulled back a large zucchini leaf only to be surprised to discover 5 perfect chicken eggs underneath! After that I would discover the chickens to be laying their eggs in random places in the coop – usually in the corner. It has only been a few weeks now that they have started laying eggs in the nesting boxes. It took them several months to discover the boxes were there and get acclimated to them, but finally they got the idea. Our nesting boxes are simple and made out of old bookshelves. We then painted them and added pine shavings for the chickens’ comfort.
5) CHICKEN FEED
In the summer our chickens will just roam our land and feed off of grubs and bugs. However, since the ground is now covered in ice and snow it is impossible for them to do that. We feed them a lot of our food scraps such as oatmeal, fruit, and vegetable scraps. We do supplement though with chicken feed. The brand we have been using is DuMor Poultry Layer Feed from Tractor Supply. We will only put this outside of the chicken coop as an incentive to get them out into the sunlight. Once they are out and eating this food they will roam and play in the snow and with our dog the rest of the day.
Once I read an article about egg production and it wrote that one of the keys to good egg production was making sure the chickens have enough water. Now, things freeze quickly in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I can fill up my watering can and put it out in the coop only to have it freeze 15-30 minutes later. Chickens also love warm water. Therefore it is a must to several times a day bring warm water to them. Many people have a coop that is close to their home and can use a heated watering can such as this:
However, our coop is too far away from any outlets so we just use a basic watering can and keep up on making sure it has warm water a few times a day. This is what our watering can looks like:
When we put the water out we either set it out in the snow near where the chickens are playing or we put it into their coop. When putting it into the coop it is important to note that we place it on top of a level cinder block so that the pine shavings don’t get knocked into the water.
Your coop will need ventilation. Therefore installing a window with a screen is a good idea. It will serve to both allow light into the coop as well as ventilation. We have kept our window in our coop open all winter long regardless of the temperature. The chickens seem hardy enough to withstand the cold air.
The last super important key to raising chickens, especially in cold weather – is that if you want good egg production you need them to get sunlight. Now, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the sun does not shine much; we have many cloudy days. However, by adding a window to your coop, it allows some light to come in so they are not sitting in the dark. Also, by painting the inside of your coop with a light color, the sunlight will reflect a bit also helping the egg production. Since our chickens go outside every day they are getting plenty of light, even if it is coming through many clouds.
9) EGG TIMING
When living in such cold weather and extreme temperatures it is important to gather your eggs as soon as the chickens lay them – otherwise they will freeze and crack! Just a simple tip.
Those are all of the tips and tricks that we have so far! We will update as we learn more and feel free to comment below if you have any wisdom to share as well. 🙂 Until then, Happy Chicken Raising and Happy Egg Gathering!