Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Getting ready for winter off the grid

Yesterday morning we had our first frost: 31F. Around October 10 has been average for this event, although we were surprised two years ago when it came three weeks early (to the extreme detriment of my later bush bean crop). It was a beautiful sunny morning, though, and yesterday's high temperature was 65F. Gorgeous.

As you know, we live off the grid. This does make some difference when it comes to caring for the animals over the winter, but not as much difference as we had anticipated. The main thing is to keep the water in the drinkers from freezing. Lots of people use heated (electric) waterers. Frankly, even if we had that option, it would be problematic just because of the area that the birds range on; the drinkers are quite spread out. We simply add warm water to them first thing in the morning, check them frequently through the day, and try to position them in the sun whenever possible. Yes, it's a little extra work, but we're out there checking on the birds regularly anyway, which is always a good thing to do.

The other thing poultry owners worry about in the cold weather is keeping the birds warm at night. Should you heat the coop? How cold is too cold for chickens? Generally, we've dealt with this simply by choosing breeds known to be cold-hardy. Most chicken breeds actually do not require artificial heat until the temperatures get well below 0F. The one thing to be watchful of, though, is your roosters, especially with breeds that have large single combs: they can be vulnerable to frostbite, as roosters don't tuck their heads under their wings at night like the hens do. Over the past two winters, we've had plenty of days of single-digit lows, but have had no problem with frostbite (our roosters are single-comb New Hampshires).

It has occurred to me that living off the grid has probably motivated us to be a bit more creative in some ways; for example, not using heated drinkers just because we can. Of course there's nothing wrong with using them, we've simply found that there are easy and cheap alternatives to a lot of things that we might take for granted if we had full-time electricity. And hey, I actually enjoy cutting firewood to heat the house! Ours, I mean...


No comments:

Post a Comment