We’ve already had several fires in the wood burning furnace this September and it’s not even officially Autumn. We live in Michigan and last year our area of the state received record snow falls and temperatures 30 below zero. According to the Farmers Almanac, we’re in for another doozy.
The garden is dwindling. I think we may have had a frost one evening because over night it seemed that many plants withered and died. Everything has deepened in color and the cabbages are waxy and shiny.
The early change of season is effecting the animals on the farm as well. The dairy goat’s coats are getting thicker as they prepare for cooler temperatures. Especially Esther, our Alpine. The Angora’s are displaying their curly locks, but with the low temperatures that are predicted, I haven’t decided if I’m going to shear them this September.
I’m also starting to observe that our goat bucks are displaying rut behavior. Sulley, our Angora buck has begun the tongue flapping and he’s rubbing his horns on everything he can get to to spread his hormones from the gland at the base of his skull. Goat dating is something I may never understand.
It will soon be time to introduce our new Nubian buck Timber to the dairy girls, and then begin the long winter wait for baby goats and fresh milk this spring.
Our chickens and turkeys are also well aware of the changes. Both are displaying signs of moult, but the turkeys seem to be getting hit a little harder. There are big, black feathers lining the turkey coop corners, and our big Tom’s tail fan is lacking it’s usual roundness.
My egg basket is also changing, almost on a daily basis. Some of our older girls like our Black Copper Marans and our Blue Laced Red Wyandottes are closing up shop for the winter and letting their bodies adjust to the moult. I collect less dark chocolate eggs each day. On the other hand, some of our spring chicks are just coming into their prime. Our 6 month old Leghorns for example, have been laying perfect white eggs on a daily basis and it’s the first time in years that I’ve had true white eggs in my egg basket.
I’m interested to see how our Leghorns perform this winter as far as laying. We don’t provide additional lighting through out the winter so I’m interested to see how many eggs we’ll be collecting. Last winter was hard on all the animals (and people for that matter) and there were many weeks where the nest boxes stayed empty. Not that I could blame them. But Leghorns are known for being consistent layers so we will see how that goes.
The young cockerels have just about perfected their crow and each chilly morning I’m serenaded with a duet from our Baritone Welsummer and his soprano counterpart the Sebright bantam. They’ve also perfected their mating skills and most of the chickens now accept the Welsummer Rooster as their new leader.
Zach and I took advantage of the cooler weather and gave both coops a thorough cleaning. It was nice to not be hot and sticky while shoveling out the coops and replacing the pine bedding.
We took down the water heaters from the rafters and got the extension cords set up and ready to use. They’re not plugged in yet, but things are prepared and in place.
I’ve also opened the garden gate and let the chickens free range in that area of the yard. At this point there’s not much left for us to pick with the exception of some late cabbages, a few beans and lots of dropped, split tomatoes which the chickens are welcome to eat. Next week I plan on scattering compost on the garden beds, which the chickens will help scratch and distribute.
In addition to the free range of the garden, we’ve increased the protein levels of their supplemental feed to help the chickens get through the moult and to bulk up for winter, and I throw in some sun oiler seeds ever few days or so for an added boost of healthy oils and more protein.
The sunflowers in our flower bed have long lost their yellow brightness and the wild birds are taking advantage of the compact seed heads. The chickens enjoy scratching and cleaning up what the sparrows and goldfinches drop below.
Honestly, I’m looking forward to fall. It’s my favorite time of year and no matter how fun the summer has been I get excited for Autumn’s glory.
The pumpkins are picked and displayed on the porch, there’s about 12 loaves of spicy zucchini bread in our freezer which I enjoy each morning with a cup of coffee and I’ve traded my floral scented candles for pumpkin spice, maple and clove. As the days get shorter I spend the longer evenings spinning at my spinning wheel, drawing, writing or basket weaving. But this winter has me feeling a bit apprehensive. I feel like the squirrel, frantically gathering nuts and hunkering down for what Old Man Winter may bring.
We have a barn full of hay, a freezer full of fresh vegetables and a not-too-shabby pile of fire wood for the furnace. I guess there’s not much left to do but enjoy each season for what it brings. The farm is as secure as it can be and nature is in charge of the rest.
What changes are you seeing in your coop this Autumn? Is your area predicting another heavy winter? Are you doing any thing different to prepare? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below, or by visiting the Community Chickens Facebook Page.