6 Fall Chicken Coop Preparations to Make Now

Fall chicken coop preparationsThe end of summer is the perfect time to think about fall chicken coop preparations. This isn’t a huge job for most of us. The chickens most likely spent a lot of time outside the coop during the summer. Feathers are everywhere at this time, due to the fall molt, so it’s a good time to clean up. Making sure that you are ready for the changeable fall weather, makes life much easier. Some years we have gone from beautiful fall weather to an over zealous cold front over night. Scrambling to get warm water to the flock, close up gaps and make sure we had plenty of straw and feed ready was a rush! Spending an afternoon running through my list of fall chicken coop preparations will save you many headaches later on.

Fall and winter, in many areas of the country, are wet and cold. There are areas of the country that don’t see bare earth after the snow begins to fall in late October,or sometimes earlier!  Here are a few key items to focus on while preparing your chickens for fall and winter weather.  

6 Fall Chicken Coop Preparations to Make Now.

1. Start the Season with a Clean Coop

Start by emptying all the nest boxes, bedding, and what ever you use to cover the coop floor.   When your coop is completely swept out,check for rodent damage.  Walk around the outside and look for areas where rodents might be entering the coop.  If you can enter the coop, do the same thing on the inside.  If you can’t fit into the coop to inspect, use a flashlight to look for structure damage and holes.  Look for any holes or openings and repair them.  When the holes are in the floor or lower portion of the wall, I recommend using some cement to plug the holes.  Roost bars should be cleaned and dusted with DE powder to remove any mites.  Placing the roost bar in the sun for a few hours will help with insect control and disinfecting.  Remember clean and dry surfaces are healthy.

 While you are in  the cleaning mode, pick up debris that may have accumulated around the coop.  Weeds, sticks and  trash give rodents a place to hide.  If the area is cleaned up, the rodents are more exposed and may not try to mooch dinner from the chickens.

fall chicken coop preparation

2. Check the Coop’s Ventilation 

Grab the broom again, but this time look up. Dust off the ceiling of the coop and make sure the roof ventilation is not blocked by debris, dust or leaves. Ventilation is just as important to the coop atmosphere in the winter.  Without adequate ventilation, moisture will collect in the coop. Moisture during cold temperatures can lead to frost bite on combs, wattles and feet.  It will also contribute to unhealthy accumulation of ammonia in the air, making your chickens more susceptible to respiratory illness.

3. Inspect the Roof

 Next, check the roof. Check that the shingles are in good condition, and still firmly attached to the roof.  Make the repairs now while the weather is fine.  It is no fun at all to be repairing the coop roof during a heavy rainstorm. This will be a fall chicken coop preparation that you will wish you paid attention to!

4. Check the Lights (for you, not the chickens!)

 Check the cords for any light you may depend on to brighten the coop once day light savings time is over.  Sometimes extension cords stop working. They may have shorted out, or been damaged somehow.  While I don’t recommend extending daylight in the coop for the chickens to lay more eggs, I do appreciate being able to turn on a light when feeding in the fall.  When daylight savings time ends, darkness comes so early!  

fall chicken coop preparations

5.  Check on the Water 

One of our fall chicken coop preparations is to check the water system.  If you use a hose to get water to the coop area, check that it is in good shape. Does it have holes in it? Right now, our hoses are a mess. The connections are bent, leaving puddles along the way to the water bins. I need to bite the bullet and buy some replacement hoses or connections. Where do you hang the hose when not in use so that water doesn’t freeze inside of it? If you don’t drain the hose after use, the water in the hose freezes. You won’t get any water through this hose unless you find a way to thaw it out first. 

fall chicken coop preparation

6.  Grab a Little More Feed

Now is the time to stock a little bit more feed than you normally stock during the warm summer months.  Using this method you will not run out of feed during a winter storm.  Summer storms seem to be shorter in duration than winter storms.  Afterward, the chickens can go back to foraging for weed, greens and insects.  During the winter, the storms may dump large amounts of snow.  When the storm ends, your chickens will need to be fed grain and may need to be kept inside for an extended time.  Be ready for this possibility by having chicken feed on hand beyond what you normally use.  

What do I do?  We normally use 100 lbs of feed per week, give or take.  During the winter I like to have 2 or 3 bags of feed in the feed room at all times.  This way, if I can’t get to the store, or the store does not get it’s delivery of feed, I can easily wait.  Of course your amount will be whatever works for your flock.  I just don’t recommend playing it too close to empty during the winter. This is one of the simple fall chicken coop preparations to make.

Chickens are rather cold hardy beings and have built in insulation with the thick feathers that come in after molt each year.  Keep the coop draft free, well ventilated, and dry, and have plenty of grain to keep them fed along with fresh water.  Your chickens won’t mind winter one bit.  

 

fall chicken coop preparations -The end of summer is the perfect time to think about fall chicken coop preparations. This isn't a huge job for most of us. The chickens most likely spent a lot of time outside the coop during the summer.

 




Free Range Ducks Pros and Cons

Free Range DucksMy ducks are very happy. Free range ducks are happy ducks! When we first started raising ducks, we didn’t let the ducks roam the farm. We didn’t feel that the property was set up for free range ducks.  The poultry area backs up to woods. Woods, where raccoon, fox and an occasional coyote make their homes. Eventually we gradually began letting the ducks and chickens out of their pens for free ranging. Other property modifications were made to add safety to the free range. 

 Free Range Ducks

I started raising ducks a few years back, for eggs and to hopefully hatch some ducklings! We have been fairly successful on both goals. The hens are very reliable layers and although our broody hen failed to set long enough to hatch out the ducklings, we did hatch four in the incubator. Ducks get along pretty well together even though I do notice some inner cliques among the ducks we had first.

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

Our ducks live in a rather large duck complex with a large building with two attached covered runs, two pools and all you can eat buffet of duck food and bugs. I would bring in grass, weeds, vegetables and meal worms regularly to supplement. All was well, but after visiting a friend’s home and seeing her ducks free ranging during the day, I had a strong urge to let the ducks taste some freedom.

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

 

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

Three of the four ducklings hatched in the incubator

 

Free Range Ducks

Psst. that’s not the way out!

Being surrounded by woods and woodland creatures, I was still hesitant to let them roam too freely. I set up a large perimeter using a mesh poultry fence. It’s a pretty classy set up, but they were just having too much fun in the fall leaves to notice the boundaries. At first, our dog was concerned that I may have lost my mind. He tried to tell me that the ducks were out roaming around!

Our Free Range Ducks Today

So, yes, the ducks have had the opportunity to free range the poultry area.The area is large and the ducks respected the mesh fencing. The mesh fencing won’t keep out predators but it will slow the predator down, giving us more time to react.  In addition, when I leave the farm, the ducks must return to their duck house and duck runs.  I don’t think I will ever become comfortable with them free ranging the property while I am not watching out for predators.

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

Why Let Them Be Free Range Ducks?

There’s no arguing with the evidence that free range ducks are happy ducks. What other benefits are there in free ranging ducks? 

Ducks need protein

Bugs and grasses are the ideal food for ducks. Duck pellets are a nutritiously balanced diet. However, ducks allowed to free range, choose the balance of protein, minerals,and vitamins. Free range ducks have low incidence of abnormal wing and bone development such as Angel Wing. 

Ducks need exercise  

Letting the ducks out to roam lets them move around more than they will in the pen. Doing so will decrease duck obesity. Did you even know that was an issue? Domestic breeds of ducks were intended to be used for meat. They gain weight quickly which is optimal if you are raising meat for your family or market. However, many of us also keep domestic ducks for pets and for egg production. Obesity will lead to other health problems in your duck. Foraging and free ranging for food is a healthy option. Calories are burned as the duck enjoys the found morsels. Always supplement with a high quality duck ration when the ducks are in their coop and pen. Ducks that are laying will need the extra nutrition and calcium. 

Insect Control

Ducks are great at clearing out pesky larvae, grubs and beetles. Insects are a protein packed snack and apparently very tasty. Letting the ducks free range around the garden will  help with the pesky insect damage.  of course they will also help themselves to your tasty vegetables if you don’t take precautions or supervise the free ranging in the garden.

Damage to lawn and grass is much less

There is less lawn damage when the ducks are free ranging.  When we put up the pens around the duck house, the area was grassy. Not long after, the area was a mud pit when it rained. Having no where to roam, the ducks just continued to dig for insects in the same spot and eat every bit of green vegetation. Since we started letting them free range for a good portion of the day, they rarely make a mess except close to the swimming pools. 

 

Free Range Ducks timbercreekfarmer.com

 

Free Range Ducks

Not a bad life!

When I leave the farm, the ducks must go back into the enclosed runs. We just have too many hawks, racoons and foxes around to leave them out in the open. For now they will have to be content with this step. It may be all I can bring myself to do in our setting. I realize a lot of people have totally free range ducks but I think its important to remember that everyone has a different comfort level on the topic of free ranging poultry. Each farm or homestead has a different set up, too. For now, I am happy that the ducks can have some free ranging time.

 

free range ducks

 

free range ducks




Homegrown and Handmade Review and Giveaway Offer

homegrown and handmadeHomegrown and Handmade is a new book by Deborah Neiman. It’s actually the revised, 2nd edition. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should see it available soon. Over the weekend I had an opportunity to review this book! 

Homegrown and Handmade, A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living,  is a guide to all the good things that await you in the homesteading/handmade lifestyle. Making small daily or weekly changes can bring you far into the journey. Cooking from scratch? Check out all the awesome recipes for homemade yumminess. Want to start gardening? I will admit I skimmed through this. Not because I don’t need the advice! I totally do. I knew I would be back to read it in depth, so I kept going the first time through. I had a few sections I was really looking forward to reading. Can you guess what they were? 

Chickens, and raising wool producing animals were the sections I was interested in reading first. These are my passions and subjects I write about frequently. I am always interested in what other writers have to offer on these subjects. The discussion on chickens is comprehensive. From chicks to egg laying, from backyard flocks to small scale egg production, coop management, and injury care. I like that Ms. Nieman included a glossary of poultry terminology. That’s valuable when you are first steering through the uncharted waters of chicken keeping. In addition, the book contains information for people interested in raising poultry for meat.

Chickens, turkeys and ducks are reviewed along with ways to prepare the harvested meat. Anyone who raises homestead meat chickens knows that the best way to get a return for your hard work and investment is to not leave any thing to waste. So I was glad to see the instructions included for making bone broth. Many chicken egg dishes are included too. Brioche anyone? 

Fiber animals may look like they are easy to care for. After all, we see them roaming serenely in grassy fields, looking as peaceful as can be. However a lot of background work goes into those peaceful animals! Some of it is backbreaking, and some – heartbreaking. I was glad to see Deborah Nieman’s guidance on fiber animals had no sugar coating. The care must be good in order to have a quality fleece for sale or your own use. Proper feeding, supplements, veterinary care, and shearing are covered in the book. After shearing, the care and processing of the fleece and fiber is discussed. There are a few projects offered to the reader too. 

One of the most noteworthy tidbits I gathered as I read through the home dairy section was about donkeys. Specifically donkeys being used as a source of milk. Apparently some people who can’t tolerate cow, goat or sheep milk, can and do milk donkeys for consumption. Don’t you love knowing things like that?

Follow all this knowledge with some guidelines on making your homegrown and handmade products into a business venture. This is broken down into sub sections regarding the various types of products, food, non-food, etc. Very interesting!

In the words of Joel Salatin, who wrote the forward for this edition, “buy this book, read it and then go do something. You are not alone. Mentors to help you along the way are out here.” 

Here’s one way you can get your hands on this book. Homestead Blogger Network has selected a limited number of bloggers to offer the following giveaway! Enter now through August 22. Details follow. Keep reading, enter now or go pick up a copy of this helpful guide to more independent living.

Keep Reading to Enter! You Could Win a New Copy of Homegrown and Handmade  by Deborah Niemann

Over $100 prize package to celebrate Homegrown and Handmade Goodness by Deborah Niemann.

This comprehensive guide to food and fiber from scratch proves that attitude and knowledge is more important than acreage. Written from the perspective of a successful, self-taught modern homesteader, this well-illustrated, practical, and accessible manual will appeal to anyone who dreams of a more empowered life.

Chapters include gardening, keeping backyard livestock, and making your own handmade items. And this exclusive giveaway package through Homestead Bloggers Network will have items you need to bring the book to life in your own home.

One winner will receive:

  • 1 copy of Homegrown and Handmade, Revised Edition by Deborah Niemann https://www.newsociety.com/Books/H/Homegrown-Handmade-2nd-Edition
  • 1 hand-dyed skein of yarn, 450 yards, by Blue Savannah in an exclusive Colorway “My Chicken Are the First Tomato of the Season”. https://www.etsy.com/shop/BlueSavannah
  • 1 pair of wooden knitting needles from Timber Creek Farm https://www.etsy.com/shop/timberCreekFarm
  • 1 $30 gift certificate for heirloom seeds from Seeds for Generations http://seedsforgenerations.com/

Enter to win in the rafflecopter widget below. Log in with your name and email or Facebook account, complete the mandatory entry method to unlock optional entry forms as well.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway will close August 22nd, 11:59pm and the winner will be emailed the following day. Winners should respond within 48 hours or a new winner will be contacted. Open to US residents 18 years of age and older.

Share this pin on pinterest to help others find this book.

homegrown and handmade




When Can Chicks Go Outside?

when can chicks go outsideOne of the top questions I am asked is when can chicks go outside. The need for warmth is key to a growing chick. The growing period is important and making adjustments at the right time is crucial to their future health and well being. The answer really depends on you providing the need for warmth, safety, food and water, where ever you house the brooder.

The first weeks of life you are dealing with rather fragile beings. They require a very warm environment. Even if you have a shed, garage or coop with electric, the heat source will be needed 24/7.  As the chicks grow, you will see them venture away from the heat source more and more. The chick’s downy covering will give way to new feathers. You can start to reduce the heat level gradually. Starting with the brooder near 100 degrees F, gradually reduce the heat by 5 degrees each week.

when can chicks go outside

If the chicks are mostly feathered and the weather is warm enough at night, you can gradually begin to wean them from the heat. This won’t happen for the first few weeks of life, however. Chilling is one of the leading causes of chick death. Once a chick gets chilled, it is hard to bring them back. The first few days are critical in giving your new chicks the best start. 

when can chicks go outside

 

When Can Chicks Go Outside?

As the chicks begin to grow, the mess becomes messier. You may begin to wonder if they will do just as well, outside of the brooder, in the coop. I want to encourage you to wait as long as possible before doing this. Not only can the chicks become chilled and suffer illness from being moved too early, but you set them up to become ill from bacteria and parasites.

Chicks are growing rapidly and need free access to food and water. Moving them to a coop situation where they will come in contact with staph, e-coli, coccidia, and Mareks disease is risky. Chicks need good nutrition, and time to build a strong immune system before being moved outside.

when can chicks go outside

I hedge a little on my answer, because each breed feathers out at a slightly different rate. And each area of the world has different weather patterns.  Sometime between 6 and 10 weeks of age, depending on the weather, the chicks may be able to begin living in the coop. 

Some people are successful with leaving the chicks in the coop and run during the warmer daytime, and bringing them into the garage or home at night. The answer to when can chicks go outside is a variable situation!

This does not mean that the chicks are ready to be integrated with the big chickens. You will want to take that slow and easy, when they are a little bigger.  

when can chicks go outside

When Can Chicks Join the Flock

If you watch a mother hen take care of her babies you will see that she protects them from other flock members. It takes a bold chicken to mess with a mama hen. In the case of chicks raised by humans, we have removed this protective barrier. We must use safe practices to integrate the new young pullets to the flock. Gradual and slow are the terms to keep in mind. 

My usual time line for introducing the new chicks to the flock is around 10 weeks. The chicks must be fully feathered, and on their way to similar size of the chickens they are joining. Adding small bantams to large breed, more aggressive hens is not always going to end well. A sharp hard peck on the head can damage a tiny bantam pullet. In addition, a full size rooster trying to mate with a small bantam pullet can damage or hurt the little one. I have had some bad outcomes from integrating small breeds into large breeds so I don’t recommend it. On the other hand if they are raised together, I  have had no such issues.

when can chicks go outside

When chicks are losing the baby appearance, feather growth has come in, get some sort of enclosure to put them in as they begin to experience the big kids area. I do not recommend just tossing the chicks into the big chicken’s area. Let them both get used to each other through a fence, dog crate, or some other wire enclosure. The chicks will still have their own food and water so they are sure to get plenty to eat and drink. You may need to keep the food and water in the middle of the pen so they big chickens can’t reach in for a snack. 

when can chicks go outside

Fully Integrated Flock

Once the chicks don’t seem to be getting much attention through the fence, from the flock, you can try some short intervals of letting them out.  I try to keep an eye on this and I do rescue anyone who seems to be picked on. Placing some hiding spots around the run.  One year four of our pullets liked to hide out behind the coop door. I have also leaned a piece of plywood against the fence for a lean-to. A fallen tree limb with leaves can provide cover, too.

when can chicks go outside

Is There a Right Answer?

When can chicks go outside and when can chicks join the flock are important points to consider when raising chickens. I think that the answer depends on a lot of factors. Weather, coop set up, and breeds of chickens, are some of the variables involved. What tips would you add about when can chicks go outside? How did you introduce your chicks to your flock? I’d love to keep the discussion going in the comments.




Tomato Processing – Canning Freezing Dehydrating

Tomato processing is arguably one of the more common tasks that we do to prepare for storage. You can't beat the taste and texture of a fresh tomato.Tomato processing is arguably one of the more common tasks that we do to prepare for storage. You can’t beat the taste and texture of a fresh tomato. Preserving summer tomatoes is the best way to enjoy the flavor all year long. It’s also nice that tomatoes, by themselves, are very simple to preserve by canning, dehydrating or freezing.  Canning just tomatoes or an acidic salsa recipe is done simply by using the hot water bath method. Note that when other less acidic vegetables and meat are added, the safe canning method uses a pressure canner. 

Obtaining the Tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes can  be as close as your back patio or yard. Grown in containers, raised beds and larger vegetable gardens, folks have been growing tomatoes for generations. If gardening doesn’t suit your interests, you can still participate in tomato processing. Visit the local farm or farmer’s market in your area and buy what ever suits your needs. While we haven’t found a good way to preserve the delicious slice of heirloom tomatoes for winter sandwiches, you can still preserve the flavor for other dishes. Half bushel quantities are good for starters if you haven’t done tomato processing before. Most people will opt for a bushel or two, to preserve for sauce, salsa, pasta sauce or canned whole.

tomato processing

Any type of tomato can be processed to save for later. In my opinion, the best tomatoes for sauce are the Roma varieties. But I have canned a good bit of other varieties over the years. 

Preparing the Tomatoes

Step 1 is to wash, remove stems from the tomatoes. Boil a large pan of water. Have a large colander ready, in the sink. 

Using this easy boiling water peeling method, remove the skins from the tomatoes. When water is boiling, drop a few tomatoes at a time, into the water. Wait three to five minutes. Remove the tomatoes with tongs or slotted spoon to the colander. 

Plunge the hot tomatoes into a basin of cold water. Add ice cubes to chill the water. The skins of the tomatoes will crack and will easily peel off once cooled. 

At this point I remove the cores and place them and the skins in another bowl.  Save these scraps for later tomato processing.

Tomato processing is arguably one of the more common tasks that we do to prepare for storage. You can't beat the taste and texture of a fresh tomato.

Easiest Tomato Processing Methods

The two easiest tomato processing methods are freezing and dehydrating. (for dehydrating you don’t even need to remove the skin and core)

Dehydrating tomatoes is simple. Wash the tomatoes. Slice each one and lay in a single layer on the dehydrator tray. Follow the instructions for your dehydrator concerning tomato processing. Make sure the tomatoes are crisply dry before storing in air tight containers.

Tomato processing is arguably one of the more common tasks that we do to prepare for storage. You can't beat the taste and texture of a fresh tomato.

Freezing tomatoes is another quick method to storing tomatoes for later. Chop, slice, dice, or crush tomatoes. I prefer to store in 2 cup portions in freezer containers or freezer storage bags. Mark the date on each bag to make it easy to rotate your stockpile.

 

Tomato Processing with Hot Water Bath Canning Method

Canning is a method for tomato processing that can used for sauce, diced, chopped, salsa, pasta sauce, ketchup, and juice. Since tomatoes are a fruit and acidic in nature a hot water bath canning method can be used for tomato processing. Here are the steps to follow. The steps are similar to other acidic fruit canning procedures.

  1. Sterilize the jars. Pint and quart size canning jars are appropriate for most tomato processing. You can simply run the empty jars through a cycle in your dishwasher or hand wash in soapy water, then place in boiling water for a few minutes. Use tongs to remove the jars from the water and set upside down on a clean towel until ready to fill.
  2. Prepare the tomatoes for processing. Using the steps outlined above in preparing the tomatoes section, get the tomatoes ready for processing. 
  3. Once the tomatoes are peeled and cored, choose which way you want to can them. Slices, crushed, diced are all possible, including whole if you prefer. In addition you can cook the tomatoes down to a sauce consistency, and use an immersion blender to smooth out the sauce. 
  4. Turn the jars over, add a teaspoon of salt, to each jar for pints, and a tablespoon of salt for quarts. Also, add a teaspoon or tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar to increase acidity. Begin ladling the tomatoes or sauce into the jars leaving a half inch of space called head space, at the top. Having a set of canning tools is helpful at this point.
  5. Using a flat knife or a canning air bubble remover, insert down the inside of the jar to remove bubbles. Wipe the jar rims with a wet paper towel or cloth. Apply the flat lids and the band rings. Finger tighten the bands.

Tomato processing is arguably one of the more common tasks that we do to prepare for storage. You can't beat the taste and texture of a fresh tomato.

The Canning Procedure

While you are getting the tomatoes ready, begin to heat the water in the hot water bath canner.  It can take a while for that much water to come to a boil. 

Once the water is boiling, place each jar down into the rack inside the canner so that the water covers each jar.  Return the water to a boil before beginning the timing on processing. 

Process pints for 40 minutes.

Process quarts for 45 minutes.

Other recipes such as salsa, pasta sauce, ketchup and other recipes should be canned according to the recipe suggestions. 

Remove the jars using tongs and set on a tray or towel to cool. It’s best to leave the jars without further handling for the next 12 hours or so, to make sure they seal completely. The top of the flat lid should be flat and have no bubble that can be pushed on, if the seal is good. Often you will hear a ping sound as the jars seal after leaving the canner. Sweet music to a canner’s ears!

Before storing the jars in the pantry, mark the lids with the date and contents. Remove the band rings and store the jars in a single level- do not stack jars. 

For complete and accurate up to date instructions on safe cannig, consult the USDA guidelines.

Tomato processing is arguably one of the more common tasks that we do to prepare for storage. You can't beat the taste and texture of a fresh tomato.

Oh Wait! What About those Skins and Cores?

These scraps can still be processed into usable food! Two methods I like to use are Making Sauce from the Scrap Bowl, and Making Tomato Powder. Check out both of these posts and find out just how much of each tomato can be used for food.

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Tomato processing is arguably one of the more common tasks that we do to prepare for storage. You can't beat the taste and texture of a fresh tomato.