The leaves are at their colorful peak right now, and the bright, bright blue skies with the fluffy clouds make it pleasurable to be outside doing chores. Our cellar way is filled with buckets of potatoes, baskets of apples and squashes; braids of onions and garlic dangle from the rafters next to bunches of drying herbs. I’ve washed windows, stored screens, and drained garden hoses. My husband planted garlic and harvested his pumpkins while I’ve been working on cleaning out the gardens and planting cover crops. We’ve spent the past few days going over our “Winterizing Your Home” checklist.
Block leaks. In the house, we make sure the weather-stripping is intact or replaced, that electrical outlets are covered and no air can blow in under the doors. In the chicken coop, I check to be certain that windows and doors close tightly. Fresh air can come in from under the eaves, but it’s drafts that I am concerned about. Somewhere, I saw a suggestion for adding a few inches of light rubber or heavy fabric to the bottom of a door for a “door sweep” to keep wintry breezes from whistling underneath. I can easily add that with a heavy-duty stapler. The windows shut and latch tightly, but there are a few places along the bottom of the coop—where the walls meet the foundation—that have separated a bit. I will fill these with weather resistant caulk—and soon, since I don’t want to take the chance of some little creature deciding to take a winter nap under the coop. Caulking shouldn’t be used inside the coop, but strips of cardboard stapled along a drafty wall can work just as well.
In my storage shed, along with bales of straw, I store bags of dry leaves that I’ve raked from the yard. Every once in a while, I’ll add a bag of leaves to the litter on the floor. It’s fun for the girls to scratch through them, and it adds another layer of insulation.
It’s always interesting to see how the chickens become insulated, too. As they finish up their molt, they add what appears to me to be lovely down “underwear”. On the nights that the temperatures dive below zero, I cover their combs with petroleum jelly to help keep them from freezing, but as I put the hen back onto her roost, I can feel that next to her skin she’s toasty warm. They cuddle next to each other for warmth on the roosts, flip their feathers over their toes and settle down for the long winter nights.
· Parasite control. Close quarters seem to invite “critters” like mites and lice. I dust corners and nests with DE, but I also have an inside bathing facility for the girls. One of my fellow Community Chickens bloggers, Rebecca Nickols, wrote a very nice piece on this some time ago, and my husband put his own “spin” on the project and made a low wooden frame that holds a plastic tub partially filled with DE, sand and wood ashes. There’s a 4-inch edge on the frame to make it less likely to tip as the hens step into the tub for their dust baths. I cover the tub on very chilly or damp days, but on a sunny day—even if the temperature is low—the chickens make good use of the tub as they stretch, fluff, and roll any dead skin, loose feathers and itchy parasites off their bodies.
The ramp up to the doors of our storage shed proved to be very slippery last year, particularly when I was carrying a bale of straw or had my hands full in some other way. We covered it with textured roofing this year, so I’m hoping this will take care of the problem. Again, my days begin more brightly when I’ve not landed flat on my back!
When the coop and run seems tight and the storage shed is filled with straw, leaves and feed, I have the same feeling I receive when the eaves are cleared, the holes are plugged in the foundation of the house, and the pantry and freezer and woodshed are full….secure and prepared for winter….and ready to enjoy the rest of the autumn!