Friday, January 28, 2011

Big decisions using chicken brains

That's Delaware, the bossiest hen in the coop, mulling over whether she ought to get her feet cold and snowy for the opportunity to snack on one of her favorite treats - cantaloupe from the compost pile.

Eventually, she declined and stayed in the coop. The next day, she was tired of being all cooped up and ventured out to the bigger compost pile, finally. Everyone else followed her, of course, because she does the thinking for them.

When the hens stay inside because of the weather, they eat more feed and less compost, and get the hen house dirtier, which costs the farmer more because she has to buy more bedding to keep it cleaner in there.

Animal husbandry is harder and more expensive than it looks at first glance.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The coop now has water and electricity

The silver water dispenser and heater below it represent an investment of $99. I have to clean out the water dispenser once a week and have electricity for the heating element- which was 60 bucks.

Last winter I toughed it out by taking out water twice a day and breaking the ice. I didn't have electricity last year. It's so convenient to have the heated water. I don't have to worry so much. It keeps them inside more, which is a downside.

It took me an hour or two to run the extension cord from the garage out to the coop. I had to drill some holes and figure out how to loop it in. Then I installed a florescent light on a timer to increase winter production. The light works! It goes on every morning at 3 am and fools them into thinking it's summer. Egg production is back up.

It's convenient to have the electricity because I could install the water heater. Now they are thoroughly modern with electricity and water - not running water, yet.

It's not "chicken feed" to keep chickens. In the winter, they eat less compost because they hate the snow, so they eat more chicken feed. The heater and water dispenser cost the equivalent of at least 33 dozen eggs.

My son Ian, the organic farmer, is always encouraging me to use organic feed, instead of the genetically modified feed. Organic feed costs at least double the $13 a bag for standard feed. This farming is expensive -- especially the luxuries like water and electricity. I haven't seen how much the light increased my electric bill.