Fall is coming; are you ready?
It is officially that time of year again when we must begin to prepare for the colder months. The colder the climate you live in, the more preparation that will be needed. Where do we even start? There are so many loose ends to tie up before the snow starts flying, and the air begins to tear right through us. Last week here in Ohio, we were in the 80s now we are seeing highs in 50s. Hello, fall! From shorts to sweatshirts in less than 12 hours is just inhumane.
Close up the Drafts!
When preparing, I always like to start with drafts, whether filled or covered get the drafts plugged up. One of the killers this time of year for chickens is respiratory infections, commonly caused by cool drafty air. While you want to ensure adequate ventilation, it needs to be properly placed as not to cause undue drafts on the chickens.
What about Freezing Water?
Picking out a heated water source is also a good idea about this time. If you have the luxury of electricity in your coop, take advantage of it. Heated drinkers or bases come in all kinds of styles and price ranges. You no longer need to be rich to enjoy the benefits of heat. The cost of heated drinkers and bases have come down expediently, over the past few years, thank god. If you cannot afford or do not have electricity, pick out a rubberized dish for their water. It makes it easier to break out the ice for refilling purposes.
Free Range or Not?
The leaves are down, now what? Well, now it is time to start rethinking free-range. With no tree cover chickens become easy prey for many animals, especially those who fly. A safety run with some sort of roofing will cut down on the risk to the chickens. As fall moves closer to winter, the animals become hungrier and the food supplies become limited. Your gorgeous girls are Grade A prime meat for all the predators. Make sure to close them in earlier and give them plenty of cover/hiding options during the day.
Fall is also the perfect time to do one last super clean of the coop, before the winter weather begins to make it harder and harder. Fall cleaning is every bit as important as spring cleaning in my book. All new bedding and bleached-out, super-scrubbed dishes are just the start. I like to Shop-Vac the cobwebs and dust right on out of there, leaving a fresh, sterilized coop behind. I believe the chickens truly appreciate it.
What About Heat and Light?
The days are shorter and the temps are falling, therefore, the girls are headed to bed earlier. Egg production decreases drastically with a shorter day. So, should you light the coop? It is a personal choice in my opinion. Because our coop is in the barn, it is lit until we shut it down after milking, around 9 pm. When we had regular coops, we did not light the coop after the first year, when we almost burnt down the coop. The heat debate is a whole other blog topic by itself. My theory is if you must heat, use a Sweeter Heater, it is truly the only safe choice I have seen. Heat lamps are a tragic accident waiting to happen.
While most of us dread this time of year, I think the girls look forward to getting a much-deserved break in laying. Make sure to check all your chickens over, molting can be rough on the girls. A chicken saddle or two may be needed, as they heal up in the cool damp fall weather. Make sure to watch closely for coughs and sneezing as, well, fall time is a hard time! Adding some probiotics and electrolytes to their water may give them the boost they need during the weather changes. Good luck preparing for your next season!