Winter and Cannibals

I’ve been busy prepping the chicken coop for winter. I’ve done a bunch of research and decided to go with the Deep Litter Method. Basically, you add a ton of shavings to the bedding, this helps keep the floor warm, and then when you muck out, you don’t remove the bedding, you toss it (mix it up with a rake so the poops get mixed into the dry shavings) and add more. Add more and more and more. Apparently by the spring, you should need to step up substantially to get into the coop. You start out with 8″ deep, so I can imagine how deep and packed down it will be by the spring.

Here’s some pictures of my coop prepped for winter:

If you’re wondering about the litter pans under the roost, that’s exactly what they are. The chickens sleep on the roosts so the majority of their poop falls right under there. Some people use a board and just scrap the poop off, we decided on the pans and litter, and I literally use a large metal cat litter scoop to clean the pans out. It’s too easy. Just a little dusty…

So, while all this prep has been going on, we’ve also been learning about molting season. In the late fall, the chickens molt their old feathers. This means they lose them and grow in new ones. It’s all fine and good, though they may stop or decrease laying during this time, but we had one small problem… CANNIBALISM. When the chickens molt, their bodies use more protein stores to grow new feathers. This can cause them to have a protein deficiency if there isn’t adequate supply in their diets. One source of protein that they find most delicious, is feathers. And since they’re all dropping feathers everywhere, it’s easy to access and they get a taste for it. Now, unfortunately, they’re hooked on the delicious feathery goodness, and they’ve resorted to just ripping the feathers out of the butts of their comrades. Uuuuuuuuugh. So gross.

Spring on the Farm (63)

So I spoke with the expert chicken lady at my local feed store and she said that pecking is a big problem. A bad habit. And here’s the thing with chickens- if they draw blood, ever, for whatever reason, if one chicken bleeds, they will all peck that chicken to death. TO DEATH! Someone told me that chickens are the closest living relative to the T-Rex. I looked it up, totally true! They are CRAZY! I take back all the nice things I said about them. So, in addition to feeding them some extra protein (sunflower seeds, scrambled eggs, etc) I had to buy this red, gooey, stinky stuff and smear it all over the chickens. It looked like there was a massacre out there, and my hands stunk ALL DAY.

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Yes, it’s been well used thus far.

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In case you don’t believe me that chickens are cannibals, it says it right there on the bottle- “to prevent the outbreak of cannibalism”! This has been quite the experience. Luckily, it seems to be working and I *think* the pecking has mostly stopped. Time will tell whether the ones with the majority of their feathers pecked off make it through the winter without that warmth.

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