Devotionals

Extreme Weather Chickens

Recently we have taken an adventure in raising chickens. When a health professional told us to make sure the eggs we eat are of good quality we decided it would be easier to raise the chickens ourselves to make sure the quality is good.
The weather has been in the teens here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with the wind chill making is sure cold.  The fun thing is that our chickens have still been wanting to go out in the snow and venture around.  They haven’t been afraid of the snow or extreme temps – unless it is super windy and blustery.
Our chickens are currently 9 months old and giving us 3 eggs a day. As I went out to the coop to get the eggs I noticed how nicely 3-shaded each egg was.  It made me think of the trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – how they are all different yet the same. I then started to think of how God spoke to me through the chickens last summer, described below:

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?

Raising chickens has been a rewarding and fun adventure.  I have heard many stories of people who raise chickens in the same neighborhood as us and their chickens won’t step foot out into the snow.  I feel that it is all how the chickens adapt to the climate.  Every day we open our coop doors whether it is below freezing temps or not.  The chickens love playing in the snow! Here are a few of our tips we have learned so far in chicken raising:
1)  NORTHERN COOPS
When raising chickens in the snow, a solidly build coop is ideal.  At first we thought we could make sure with a small coop such as this purchased through walmart:
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This purchase would have been smart if we dwelled in the southern states. However, purchasing this coop for the harsh winters in the Upper Peninsula was a waste of over $200.  When it rained the wood would swell up, causing the main door to not open very well.  Also the chicken poop would freeze onto the slider shelf instantly, prohibiting any removal of the slider to clean the coop.  If covered with a tarp one could but the chicken feed and water into the main area – but with the door so close to the group the snow caused a problem in opening and shutting the main door.
We then at the last minute had to think quickly and turned a shed into a coop. This worked much better because we then had room for the chickens to roost easier and had room be to able to add in their food and water with more accessibility.
2) ROOSTING PERCH
When turning the shed into a coop, we added just a simple 1 x 3 board across from side to side. We just set it there and didn’t need to nail anything down.  It easily held 5 chickens. However, if there were more chickens I would see it bending a bit.
3) PINE SHAVINGS
We added some pine shavings to the floor to catch all of the chicken droppings. This also helps to protect the floor of the shed .  We learned from family to make sure to not use cedar shavings – as these are poisonous to the chickens. We purchased several large bags of pine shavings from Tractor Supply but we also use these Fresh Flakes from Amazon when we cannot get to Tractor Supply:

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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6) WATER

 

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.

 

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7) VENTILATION

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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.

 

8) SUNLIGHT

 

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.

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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!

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