As the calendar turns another page and September rolls around, the smell of fall begins to fill the air here in New England. I love fall but soon enough winter will be upon us. It is often difficult to predict how harsh Old Man Winter will be each year but it is never too early to begin preparations.
1. Inspect and Repair– Take a peek around your coop and make repairs that are necessary. Fix that draft. Improve ventilation. Be sure that windows are operational. It is much easier to do these things now than when temperatures and the weather are less forgiving.
2. Re-evaluate Your Predator Proofing– Predators have the most difficult time finding food in the winter, especially right before spring arrives. Inspect all of your locks. Look over your coop’s hardware cloth. Consider taking extra measures this fall if you have not already. Bury an 18″ apron of hardware cloth around your coop and run to deter digging predators. Try covering the run with bird proof netting/wiring.
3. Cover It Up– Ensure that the run is partially or entirely covered, allowing the flock a place to go outside when weather takes a turn for the worse. Temporary covers can be created from thick sheets of plastic or tarps. These can be opened or removed in better weather. Keeping the run dry from mud and puddles is very important to prevent your chickens from becoming sick.
|A make shift plastic tarp covers up the run in stormy weather.|
4. Share the Leaves– Chickens love scratching in the leaves. Try tossing some piles of leaves in the run to help with boredom. They will spend hours looking in all the leaves’ nooks and crannies. Sometimes, I toss a handful of dried meal worms on top of the leaf pile to get them started.
5. Chickens and Snow– Now is the time to also get those tools ready that you might need in case of an early snow storm. Chickens are snow blind and will not journey out into a run covered with inches of snow. They prefer to be sure of their footing and pathways. Take time now to devise a plan. Make a plan for the first snow storm. How will you get to the chickens?
|Oyster Cracker, our Buff Orpington, on leaf inspection.|
6. Cold Weather Dining– If you keep your feed and water outside will this still work for your climate in the fall and winter? Should you consider relocating their food and water inside the coop? Will the water freeze and how will you manage that? Explore all of your options.
7. To Heat or Not To Heat the Coop– This is one of the most controversial issues in chicken keeping. This post might help with your decision.
8. Artificial Lighting– Will you add artificial light to stimulate egg production through the winter? This is another hot topic. We do not light our coop. Instead, we have a few windows in the coop. We have found that despite a dip in the girls’ egg production we have yet to purchase eggs from the store since keeping chickens. If you do decide to add lighting, please put it on a timer. Have the light turn on earlier in the wee dark hours of the morning instead of having it turn off later in the evening. In the evening, if it is already dark outside and the coop is lit, the chickens will still be milling about inside the coop not knowing it is bed time. When the light suddenly turns out, your flock can become injured from trying to find their way to the roosts in the dark.
9. A Chicken First Aid Kit– Now is the time to put together or replenish your chicken first aid kit. Take a peek at the things in mine to give you an idea of what you can and should think about including.