Source: Jessica Lane, 104Homestead.com
We’re grateful that Texas winters are historically quite mild. Our chickens – who refuse to coop up at night, even in winter – are not in any serious danger of frostbite or exposure, but we do take a few measures to keep them comfortable in the winter months.
Tips for Chicken Keeping in Winter:
Clean your coop before the cold sets in.
Let’s be honest, you’re unlikely to do much coop cleaning during the coldest months and by spring… Pee-yoo! The smell will be rough. Take this opportunity to give your coop a deep clean before you close things up for the winter. (Tip: We like to use apple cider vinegar when cleaning our coop and run).
Ensure that your waterers don’t freeze.
There are many great instructions online to do this, but please remember that just about all of these heated waterers pose a risk for fire. I’ve seen pictures of the aftermath of a fire in a chicken coop and I just… I don’t think the benefit outweighs the risk in our specific situation and our location here in Texas. Instead, on the colder days, we will make sure to keep a fresh waterer inside the house and one out in the coop. Throughout the day (I work from home) I will simply go out to the coop and swap the inside one for the outside one.
Image: Erica Nygaard, LivingLifeinRuralIowa.com
Insulate the run.
I’ve already mentioned that our girls are not big fans of the coop. The only times they go in there are when it’s really pouring with rain (sometimes), or when they lay. They always lay in the coop. They are very active, and enjoy the outside run area immensely. Again, in Texas it doesn’t really get super cold and we rarely have much of a freeze in our area, but we do experience some pretty chilly winds. We’ve found two great inexpensive ways to protect the girls from the wind, while still allowing for maximum sunlight and fresh air. Last year we purchased a few of those cheap, clear vinyl shower curtains from the Dollar Store. We loved that they were clear enough for us to always have eyes on the girls, even while the wind was being blocked and the price was pretty good too. BUT, being cheap, the curtains tear pretty quickly in the wind and by the time winter was over our coop looked a total mess of shredded plastic. This year we’re using plastic painters drop cloth from Walmart – not as see-through as the shower curtain, but much much thicker quality – price is only slightly higher, I think we paid about $5 for a GIANT roll.
IMPORTANT! Always make sure that there is plenty of airflow into the run area. Yes, it’s important that they’re warm, but it’s even more important that they have fresh air. Be sure to leave at least one section uncovered and air free-flowing.
Source: Jessica Lane, 104Homestead.com
To heat or not to heat?
Again, there are two camps when it comes to heating the coop. We don’t need to, but some of you may need to improve the warmth in there. Some people use a heating device – again, a big risk of fire and we’re just not willing to take that chance. I’ve seen great projects where chicken keepers lined the coop walls with hay bales, while others swear by deep litter method (i.e. not cleaning the litter floor during winter. The poop naturally warms up and heats the coop). Please consider giving these natural options a try before going straight to the heater. Chickens are hardier than you think!
Some like it hot!
On cold mornings my girls love a big bowl of warm oatmeal with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper on top. As an extra treat, if they’re looking a little “low” I may also drizzle a tiny bit of molasses as a pick-me-up. Cayenne?? Yes. Chickens don’t have taste buds for the “spicy” flavors. They don’t taste anything different, but the capsaicin in the cayenne pepper elevates their body temps slightly and keeps them more comfortable.
Rough around the edges.
Before winter hits, go out and buy yourself a giant tub of Vaseline. Smear a little on your chickens comb and wattles. This prevents frost bite.
Artificial light sources.
This is a controversial topic in the chicken keeping world. Egg production drops significantly in the dark, short days of winter – in some cases it stops all together. There are some people who advocate adding an artificial light source to the coop to trick them into thinking the day is longer, and thereby increasing egg production. Others feel that this is an artificial manipulation of the chicken’s natural rest cycle and potentially damaging to the chicken. We don’t add light sources. We have tried it in the past with little success and this year we are prepared for the shortage by preserving and stock piling eggs for this “dry season”.
You may also enjoy these posts about fun ways to keep your chickens entertained during the winter months:
There you have it!
7 9 quick tips for chicken keeping in winter. A special thank you to my northern friends for the use of your beautiful pictures of your chickens in the snow.
Image: Lesa Wilke, BetterHensandGardens.com
Did I miss something? What do you do to ensure your girls are happy and comfortable in the colder months? Share with us in the comments below.
Every fall I look forward to whipping up a batch (or seven) of this delicious butternut soup recipe. It’s been a favorite of mine for many years and I can’t recall where I picked up the original recipe. I believe it came from a South African magazine because I had to adjust the metric measurements to the US measurements you see here, I also changed it up a little because I like bold flavors.
Please note: For the pictures in this post I actually made a double batch (y’all know how I love to cook double and freeze the extra) so please don’t be concerned if your yield doesn’t look as much as mine.
Without further ado, here’s my recipe for Butternut Soup, (or in Afrikaans Pampoen en Appel Sop).
1 large chopped onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup cream <– I use 1 full cup of milk instead. Cream is too rich for me.
1 tsp curry powder
2 splashes of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and black pepper
1. Add chopped onion and garlic to your pan and sauté until onions are translucent.
2. Add butternut and apple – mixing thoroughly.
3. Add curry powder, salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add chicken stock and Worcestershire sauce and bring to the boil.
5. Run out to your chickens with the veggie scraps while you’re waiting for the soup to boil. Whats that? You don’t have chickens? Oh, okay…
5. Once the butternut is soft (it should start falling apart) grab your hand liquidizer if you have one – if not, you can use a potato-masher, or even pour the whole pot into a blender, but the liquidizer staff is much less clean up.
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
- 2 large apples
- 1 large chopped onion
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 2 splashes of Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and black pepper
- Add chopped onion and garlic to your pan and sauté until onions are translucent.
- Add butternut and apple – mixing thoroughly.
- Add curry powder, salt and pepper to taste.
- Add chicken stock and Worcestershire sauce and bring to the boil.
- Run out to your chickens with the veggie scraps while you’re waiting for the soup to boil.
- Once the butternut is soft (it should start falling apart) grab your hand liquidizer if you have one – if not, you can use a potato-masher, or even pour the whole pot into a blender, but the liquidizer staff is much less clean up.
- Et voila! You’re done.
- I use 1 full cup of milk instead of cream. Cream is too rich for me. I like to garnish mine with a couple of chopped chilis and some green onion, but it’s absolutely delicious straight from the pot.
The holidays are just ahead of us and many homesteaders find themselves in a position where they need to travel to spend time with family around the country, but it can be almost impossible planning to leave the homestead for anything longer than a night – especially if you have animals to care for. Luckily this is the PERFECT time of year for most homesteaders to get away. (This year we’ll be staying home and saving money for a BIG European vacation in 2016).
It’s Fall, and while there are still many delicious things we could be growing right now, we’re taking a break after the stupendous failure of our summer crop and regrouping and planning for Spring planting. I’ve heard from other homesteaders who tell me that drip irrigation systems are a life saver for vacation – these drip moisture slowly into the ground all day every day and ensure that your plants never have to go without water. (Actually, these may not be a bad idea for us to install this Spring too!) Another great option is to enlist the help of a neighbor to check by and make sure that everything is looking green and healthy, in exchange for the offer for them to help themselves to any produce ready for picking while you’re gone.
Our girls are VERY low maintenance. We check by once a day, remove the new eggs, refill waterers, throw them any kitchen scraps we’ve collected through the day and throw out some chicken crumble. That’s it. The trouble is, this has to happen every day. We can invest in a larger waterer which would buy us an extra day or two. We could buy a bigger grain feeder, again an extra day or two. But our biggest issue with them is the eggs… our girls – if left unattended for long periods of time – will eat their eggs. Yes, we’ve tried the wooden/ceramic eggs, but they are wise to those now and step over them to get to the real ones. On the plus side, a neighbor or family member could easily take over these tasks for us – in exchange for keeping the eggs they collect in our absence.
but now comes the biggest issue… the goats….
Most of the time our goats are also pretty low-key and require little more than feeding and watering every day. But they’re milk goats, and while we’re not milking right now, chances are that we will be when the time comes for the “Adcock European Vacation, August/September 2016”. But we’re working on a plan for this. This holiday season would have been the perfect time to get away because right now our girls are all dried off and “dating”. Any kids born out of these dates would be born March/April 2016 which gives us 5 months of milk before a plan has to be made. So what are our options for next Summer?
i) Drying off. The kids will be old enough to wean in August and we can dry the girls off before we leave. This is an okay option, but not really our first choice. It would be another long hard wait to get started again, and I have SO many plans for our goat milk next year.
ii) Family/Friend/Neighbor. This is a solid option because, living out in the country, many of our neighbors know more about goats and goatkeeping than we do, but for those of you who are still quite “suburban” this may not work.
Just a word of advice: If you have a family member / friend / neighbor who sounds super keen to take on this task while you’re gone – be sure that you are very clear about what is expected. Make sure you do a few trial runs with them. And always, always have a back up plan in place. Sometimes even the most well meaning neighbor with “homesteady stars in their eyes” can become overwhelmed and let you down. Be sure to share the WHOLE story of how it milking goes down every morning/evening/both – don’t just give them the glittering version. It’s important that they know exactly what they’re getting into before you leave town – rather than you getting a call while you’re away with the bad news that they just can’t do it. (Also, a back up plan is important because you don’t know what might come up for said neighbor/friend/family member while you’re gone and they may not be able to complete the assignment).
iii) Goat “Boarding”. We have some goaty friends who live fairly close by – close enough that it wouldn’t be a big deal to drive the goats over there and let them hang out for a week or two. Really, this would have been an okay option for us when we had just the 3 girls, but at this point with 5 goats in total I think it may be a bit much to ask of anyone. I am only including it here because not everyone
has a hard time selling kids has as many goats as we do.
iv) Let the Kids Eat. I’ve heard that it would be just as easy to leave the kids in with the mama’s 24/7 and drink as much as they like, and then separate them when you get back and return to your regular milking schedule. I am not convinced that this will work – our Cheesecake was very temperamental when we were milking her and the slightest change of routine messed with her yield and her willingness to cooperate with us. Of course, she was a first freshener and we were total novices, so that may be the biggest part of the problem.
How We’ll Take a Vacation from the Homestead
We live on my in-law’s property and while they themselves are not really in a position to be able to help with ALL of these tasks in our absence, we do have a 15 year old niece who is always glad to have a little pocket money in exchange for chores. We’ve made use of her services in the past when we’ve run late home from a trip to town, etc. One thing we have learned is that we need to stress the steps involved, and the importance of each step… teens can have a tendency to “half-ass” a task on occasion and – for example – skip over the part about refilling the water buckets, in summer, in Texas… :/
How do you plan to take a vacation from the homestead for short trips away? Do you have ready-to-go plan, or do you just wing it? Tell us in the comments below.
I first saw the 5lb Survival Kit Challenge on SouthernCrossSurvival’s YouTube channel, and then after watching several videos submitted on the subject, I decided to make up my own 5lb bag using stuff I had already bought – or had lying around. These are leftover things I had laying around – all of my best things are already in other packs.
5lb Survival Kit Contents
- Altoids Tin containing:
- 1 Birthday Candle
- 1 Small Roll Duct Tape
- 1 Vial of Lighter Fluid
- 1 3-Bladed Arrowhead
- 6 Safety Pins
- 1 Curved Needle
- 2 Exacto Blades & Container, wrapped in dental floss
- 3 x 3 Square of Tin Foil (folded)
- Bear Grylls Multi-Tool (fire steel & flash light)
- PVC Homemade Fishing Kit:
- 20 Yards of Fishing Line (braided spider wire)
- 6 Assorted Hooks
- 8 Assorted Lead Weights
- M48 Fire Steel & Whistle
The Lansky sharperner is my absolute favorite. I have several that I keep with me around the house or in my tackle box. On this particular one the handle broke, but I did not want to lose it, so I put a lanyard on it and I added it to this pack. I only use the Lansky sharpening rod to sharpen all of my knives.
- 100% Cotton, Red Bandana
- Chipaway Cutlery, Full Tang Bowie Knife
- Stanley Stainless Steel Cook-Pot & Cup
- 1 Compass and Mirror
- 1 Small Bic Lighter
- 1 Small Bottle of Iodine
- 1 Roll of Electrical Tape
- 1 Cup of Brown Rice
- 1 Blue Dry Bag, Containing:
- Assorted Medical Supplies
- 4 x Packs of MRE Toilet Paper
- 1 Small Bottle of Ibuprofen
- 6 Yards of Blaze Orange Trail Marker Tape
- Assorted Bandages
- 1 Triangular Bandage
- 20ft Length Jute Twine
- 20ft Length Bank Line
- 1 Small Packet of Cayenne Pepper
I chose this dry bag for my medical kit because it will keep some of the important things dry, and the dry bag can be used to carry water. The medical kit I included here is not very extensive, but it has some of the basics that you need including cayenne pepper which can be used to help blood clotting. Jute twine is my main fire starting tinder and because of this I am storing it in the dry bag.
- 7 x 9 Poly Tarp
- Orange, Yellow & Green para-cord (15ft each, braided into a single rope for carrying the pack)
In all the videos I have seen everyone used a pack or a bag that they used which also ate up some of the 5lbs. I decided to use my shelter (blue tarp) as my carrying case which cut down some weight and allowed me to include more things I wanted to add. The para-cord carrying strap is, of course, also multi-purpose.