We’ve not had a frost yet, but we will, this evening, and a hard one too: 28 F. I have my thermometer out in the coop so we’ll know cold it will really get. I’ve harvested all there is to harvest, brought in all my potted plants, drained my rain barrels. But, being a brand new chicken keeper, I am most concerned with the chickens, since their coop doesn’t have double walls or insulation (there is just particle board with siding).
In between drizzles I cleaned out the coop for the last time before Spring. I put down a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth to kill creepy crawlies like mites and fleas that may bother the birds. Then I shoveled in a thick layer of pine shavings, and on top of that I put straw, all adding up to about 5 inches. This is the beginning of the deep litter method. I will simply add more shavings and straw as needed over the course of the Winter. The lower layers will decompose and give off heat, warming the coop. I also made sure that, apart from the ventilation which comes from the eaves, the little coop is draft free. I put extra bedding in the nest boxes – though I’m sure they’ll clean that out. Our breeds – Rhode Island Red and Black Sex Link – are cold hardy, so they should be fine now.
We’ve been getting three eggs a day, and three days out of the week, four. So they’re good, consistent layers. The little pullet eggs have also been growing bigger, and yesterday we had a huge one.
Today I found a weird egg: the shell is all soft and crumpled and not entirely fused in places. The shape is squished. I hope this is a one-time problem!
To help with egg shell/calcium problems we’ve been giving them crushed oyster shell (in a separate feeder). In the meantime I was saving up the egg shells and yesterday I had enough to crush. I washed them, then made them brittle and cooked whatever egg was left in the microwave, then ran them through a coffee grinder we don’t use anymore. What a great way to close the loop!