Friday, January 3, 2014

Brrrrrrrrrrr Helping the Hens and Bees Survive FRIGID Temps

Snow and cold are a welcome rest from summer's busy chores.  But with the cold come a few different chores that Must be done.  Chickens and bees need to be watched over.  Here is what I have done today to help the outside crew survive this latest cold.  This photo is standing is my road looking south. (Love the Google+ that adds the fake snow!)

Bedtime snacking on scratch.   This also gets the girls to turn over the wood chips.  In the winter,  I let the bedding material and poop build up.  It creates heat and helps warm things up.  There is a roofing material applied on the wooden floor of the coop, and then I just throw in more clean wood shavings as needed.  I will not remove this until a nice warm day in the late winter.  And, of course, the screened windows are all covered with plastic, so there are no drafts.

The hive was wrapped with blue insulation just after Thanksgiving.  There is an upper door-see, the little round, orange plug?  But the cluster is hovering quite near that, I think.  The plug will stay in for now.  So I am trying to keep the snow away from the lower entrance.  I took this photo yesterday.  Today the snow was up over that door, so I have cleared it away.   Ventilation is critical.  Moisture building up inside could become a problem.  The construction of the slate roof gives a nice sealed airspace to help keep it insulated also.  That is a closed "attic" where the bees cannot go. This location   is better than where I had them last winter as it receives sun for a good part of the day for warmth.  
I have given the hens a heat lamp.  It is staying on 24/7 right now.  It is that cold!!!    Tonight the actual temps will be about -20 with a good windchill factor!  These are all Welsummer and Americaunas who winter quite well.  They would make it without the lamp, but I see no need to make them struggle any more than necessary.  Choosing chicken breeds that do well in the cold is important.  The Americaunas have very small pea combs which do not get frost bite.  The Welsummers smallish combs do pretty well also.

Daisy likes to keep her toes warm, a little closer to the lamp.  She spent a great part of December broody and is missing some feathers from her chest.   But she is laying again and back with her friends on the top roosts.  The lamp is very securely placed .  If you use this heat method, make sure that your birds cannot drop the lamp down into their bedding and burn down the coop.

Spaz, the very dark Americauna on the left, is seeing her ninth winter.  She still lays a nice pink egg and is by far the friendliest bird of the bunch.  Emily is striking a model pose.  And for all those who post the cute coop photos, be sure to notice the nice poop running down the walls.

Every evening I throw some scratch grains down into the wood shavings.  The most important thing they need to stay warm is a full crop and lots of fresh water when they roost for the night.

A water heater is imperative.  Worth its price, for the ease of keeping fresh, not frozen water in the coop.  I still have to carry buckets of water from the house, as the outside hoses are turned off.  

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