Spring Cleaning and The Birds!

Let’s see……scrub brush?…check, rags?…check, rubber gloves?…check, air filtering mask?…check, and natural home made cleaner?……CHECK!  I’m ready to spring clean the coop!

We do what they call the deep litter method. You keep a deep 5-6 inches of bedding on the coop floor and turn it routinely which helps the chicken poop to break down and create it’s own compost so it doesn’t smell. It really works! Every 3-6 months you pull out the bedding and clean the nesting boxes, roost, floor, walls and windows. We waited 6 months over the winter for this day and it’s finally here!

I started by getting all my cleaning supplies together. There are great recipes online for natural cleaning solutions. Mine includes diluted white vinegar, lemon oil and cinnamon. It cleans great, smell fantastic and it has no harsh chemicals.

The girls never miss an opportunity to go free ranging so it was easy to get them out of my way. Open the gate, make sure they are all out and then shut all the coop doors.  Open the windows to allow air flow and I’m ready to start!

I had a dump trailer hooked up to the UTV and moved 5 trailer loads of partially composted bedding to the composting area! It didn’t look like much laying in the coop. I swept the linoleum floor and  then pulled out the farm specific shop vacuum to remove all the dust possible. Then came the brush and rags to start wiping down EVERYTHING with that great smelling cleaning solution. What a difference in the the smell!

That’s about the time the girls started to lose patience. I’d been in there for over an hour already and they wanted back in! As I was putting new nesting pads and dried herbs in their nesting boxes they started to peck at the doors and jump at the windows trying to get in! It was like being in the movie THE BIRDS! Crazy chickens frantically throwing themselves at the coop dying to get back inside!

I started working really fast getting the coop back together tossing 5 bales of pine shavings on the floor, barely spreading them out before I opened up the coop door. They came running back in right into the nesting boxes. They really wanted to lay their eggs inside the coop. I’m lucky in that they never laid eggs outside.

In the end we have a super clean coop and happy hens who, by the way, are now laying more eggs than ever!

See the before and after videos on the What the Flock YouTube channel:

Breaking a Broody Hen

After a couple weeks of fewer than 20 eggs a day, I started to wonder what was wrong. The girls seemed very happy with the spring weather and they spent a lot of time in the coop. You can hear egg songs galore! Then it dawned on me. Three of my hens were sitting in the same nesting boxes day after day. They even stopped running outside in the morning for treats! Some of my girls are Broody!!

Being broody is when a hens wants to hatch her eggs. She will sit on them and only leave for short periods of time to eat and drink until they hatch. Eggs take 3 weeks to hatch and during that time their bodies act differently. Their hormones change, their bodies warm up and they stop laying. All their energy goes into hatching. Partially from not eating as much, they lose weight and feathers. Some say losing feathers is a hens way of giving the new baby chicks a softer nest. The poor hens sometimes have no feathers left on their belly! In general a broody hen looks like a sloppy slug melted into her nesting box and sometimes a little sickly.

We had a broody hen once last year and we put her in own pen away from the nesting boxes. It distracted her and broke the cycle. After 4 days she got back into the groove of hanging with the flock, gained weight and started laying eggs again!

This time it’s going to be more difficult because we have 3 girls being broody and 1 of them is the same one that was broody last year. The time out pens gets a little hotter and causes stress on a hot day. We are going to have to use multiple pens since we have so many chickens acting up. We’ll give it a try and let you know how it goes.

You can see what a broody hen acts like when you try to take her out of her nesting box by visiting the chickens YouTube channel:

Cabbage Tetherball

We have a new way to keep the girls from getting bored! Lots of buzz on the web, and you know what? It’s a healthy snack to boot! It’s a new sport! Cabbage Tetherball! Drill a hole in a cabbage, string through the center and tie it up. It’s that easy.

This is new to to the girls so it’s taking a little for them to figure it out. The buffs were the first ones to pick it up. They are now monopolizing it. What a cheap, easy way to get them focused on other things besides pecking.

You can watch them try it out for the first time on What the Flock Chickens YouTube Channel:

Madder than a Wet Hen

I hate the snow. I’d be fine living somewhere where it never snows. The girls agree with me. In the morning when there is snow outside. I clear a space in the run and put straw down for them to walk on. I open the chicken door and they peak out. The minute they see the white stuff they go right back into the coop for the day. The problem is, when they stay in the coop they get on each others nerves and start pecking at each other. I go through a lot of antibacterial spray and invested in a lot of hen aprons to cover their wounds so they can’t peck at them.

It’s different when it rains. Since it’s not freezing cold out so the girls will stay outside longer get soaking wet. That’s fine, but it makes them a little moody and sometimes that rain turn into snow. Chickens aren’t smart enough to know when they are getting frost bite. Wet skin can get frost bite in 10 minute of freezing temperatures and that is not something you want to mess with! I’ve seen pictures of chickens who lost their feet to frostbite!

A few days ago they were free ranging when it really started to rain. I couldn’t get them wrangled back into their run let alone their coop. The sun started to go down and I started to panic. Shaking the snack bucket I finally got most of them inside. They were dripping wet and being pretty fussy. Towels weren’t drying their small downy feathers. They looked miserable! It was down to 37 degrees and dropping. Time to turn on the ceramic heaters!

So here I am tonight with wet chickens only getting wetter as the sun starts to go down. They finally decided to go into the coop before the temperature dropped any further. They were so much more cooperative this time. As I finished shutting them down for the night I leaned in one last time and said……”Learned something from last time did we?”

See how the chickens will just hang in the rain on their YouTube channel: