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Winterizing your chicken coop and other winter care for your backyard chickens

Click on a photo to enlarge

It’s that time of year. The fall is leaving and winter is starting to bring forth an onslaught of wind, freezing rain and snow is just around the bend. If you live in Kansastan, you will have already seen the first snow a couple days ago. Now, whether you are first time chicken owners or eggsperienced chicken raisers, the cold can create some issues. What do you do first? The first step is to create a checklist of things you will need. I have provided one below:

  • Heavy tarp for the roof if you do not have a sloped roof and only have plywood like meHeat lamps with 250watt bulbs – I have one for outside above their dirt pit and one infrared light for inside the coopStraw or pine shavings or both (I use both. Staw for the bottom and pine shavings for cushion) The straw will heat up because of the lamp so make sure the lamp IS NOT TOUCHING THE STRAW OR EVEN TOO CLOSE!
  • A water trough that you can plug in to keep the water from freezing
  • Heavy duty extension cord if you don’t have electricity outside
  • A dirt pit so they can keep clean
  • Staple gun

Here is what we did:

Roof and Run Covers:

First, we took the roof off the coop to make sure it wasn’t warped. After the roof was placed back on, we covered it with a heavy duty tarp from Home Depot, making sure it covered the entire roof and hung down some. Next, we took another heavy duty tarp and covered the longest side of the run, as to protect them from wind. Depending on where your coop is located, you may need to wrap all the side. I recommend just stapling the top and anchoring the bottom down with something like bricks, so you can roll it up on nice days.

Lamps and Electricity:

After the run was covered, we ran an extension cord from the outside outlet to the run. Once we had the electricity in place, we buried the cord in the ground so no one would trip over it. Inside the coop, we put two hangers on the ceiling for the lamp to attach to. One in the center and one in a corner. The reason for the placement is for when the chickens are laying, I put it in the center, and when they go to bed, and I lock them up for the night, I move it to the corner so they won’t get burned. You need to use an infrared (red) bulb inside the coop. This keeps stress down and puts out more heat. I do not leave the lamp on all night, but leave it on until they go to bed. Chickens need 12 to 14 hours of light per day, and the lamps have really helped! They love staying up late and play in their dirt pit.

Dirt Pit:

Its important for chickens to take dirt baths. This helps clean them (oxymoron) and rid them of mites, ticks and other harmful parasites. We took an old tire, placed it in a dry, protected area, and filled it with dirt from the mounds they made in the yard. Above the dirt pit, we placed a 250watt heat lamp.

Bedding for the Run and Coop:

In the run, we laid down pine shavings about 6 inches deep. This will help them stay warm and dry. In the coop, we laid down straw first, then pine shavings on top. This way, we can leave the straw and take up the pine shavings when it gets dirty.

Other Odds and Ends:

Our coop has windows, so we screwed them shut. Also, chickens will require more protein and munchies to keep them busy. Make sure they have enough food and treats. I give them a warm mash in the mornings, recipe below, frozen corn (thawed with hot water), and dried meal worms. Hiding treats around their run not only keeps them busy, but reduces the stress of being “cooped up”. They will get grumpy and start picking on each other. If this happens, try throwing down scratch more often.

If it snows, you can clear off a patch of grass for them to be able to scratch and peck around.


Chickens waddles and combs can freeze. To prevent this from happening, put Vaseline on them, and their legs. Be careful not to get it in their eyes.

Recipe for Mash:

1 cup wheat bran

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup oats

1 tsp coarsely ground salt

Combine dry ingredients in a microwavable bowl. Mix in water until the dry ingredient are wet but not sloppy. Microwave until warm to your touch, but not hot.

That is pretty much it for now. If I think of anything else, I will post it. If anyone has any questions or concerns, please email me at


Something has to give

Photo:  My newly shaved head.  For those of you who are like, WTF?, I lost a lot of hair and thought it best just to shave it off since I was having a panic attack every time I washed my hair.  It sucks…

So far this week has been going fairly quick. Dane is off work until Sunday night, we don’t have any plans, and will probably sit around the house as usual. There is nothing to do around here, and since his unit is deploying, he is on a 30 minute recall incase they need help packing bags onto the busses that will take the soldiers to the airport. I can only imagine the guilt he feels knowing they are going without him. I don’t feel like this is the end of the road for him. Hitting rock bottom has left him with many bruises, fractures, gaping wounds, all that will heal in time.

Myself… I feel empty, like a lake that has been hopefully awaiting a monsoon rain for what seems an eternity. I am lifeless inside. It hurts to get out of bed in the morning, and Dane is right; I am boring these days. The changes I have made really do suck. Apparently I am snappy, less affectionate, and boring. Those words hurt almost as much as seeing him type to some girl on Skype that he is single. Press on I do, every day, though sometimes I don’t feel like pressing on anymore. I wish I could disappear sometimes. Just load up my backpack, the dog, and set out for a new life, but then I have to remind myself that running away has never amounted to anything good in the past, however, this time I think if I did leave that it would be completely warranted. Its hard enough trying to raise myself, let alone another person who is more messed up than I. The stress from this past year has taken a toll on my body and mind. Physically, I ache. Mentally, I am forgetful and cannot concentrate on anything long enough to finish a task. Emotionally, I am spent. Where is there room to give the affection he needs? Why do I always have to give give give, when I have nothing left? I pray every day for enough strength not to lose patience with him.

I had a therapy session today. She is great, but I don’t think I am getting anywhere. I just spew word vomit for an hour and then I am on my way. Talking about what’s happened doesn’t feel good, in fact, it makes me feel worse, but I know I need to face it. She asked me if I could have any job in the world, what would it be? I answered, “If I had to work for someone, I would be a chef. If I could be my own boss, I would have an eatery.” Saying that out loud was a painful reminder of the things I will probably never do.

I need a change. Something has to give…

A letter to my cat

Dear Cat, I have to say you are the cutest little black hole of need, however, there needs to be some boundaries if we are to co-exist in the same house. I am going to go through a small list of items which annoy me.

1) The trick of jumping into my arms on command is only fun when I expect it and has gotten out of control. Doing it to my back when I don’t expect it not only startles me, but you could hurt yourself. When I am carrying grocery bags or an open container of juice, that is not the time to do it either. Take note that I already have my arms full and do not have the dexterity to juggle. Doing that to random people who come into our house is a no-no.

2) Sandwich making does not require your assistance. Sitting on the counter, being a foreman while the sandwich is under construction is not part of your job description. Your job is to sit on the floor, and yell at me until I relent and drop you a piece of meat. Stealing the uneaten portions of my sandwich, though I wasn’t going to finish it, is no-no. I will over look the time you removed an entire slab of turkey off my sandwich and take it as a hint that I need to lose weight.

3) When I start to walk out of a room, no matter what room, this is not a green light for you to play NASCAR and cut me off causing me to trip over you. I fall a lot faster than you can move.

4) Bathroom time is alone time for humans. Jumping into my lap or up onto my shoulder whilst I poop is not the time nor the place. Also, TPing the house is a practical joke meant for outside, not for indoors. Toilet paper needs to stay in the bathroom. The balancing act on the edge of the tub is not a good idea. You may fall in one day. Though I will laugh hysterically for hours, you will be very upset. Our sink is small. I cannot put in my contacts nor brush my teeth if you are in the sink, trying to smoosh your face into mine while you purr.

5) The dog’s tail is not a cat toy.

6) Yes, the chickens are mean to other animals and you will be attacked again should you cross paths. I told you it was better to stay inside then to sneak out.

7) You don’t need to climb into the refrigerator every time we open it. Nor the freezer.

8) The movement under the sheets is not a mouse, I assure you. It is our toes and they do feel pain when you bite down on them even through the covers.

9) My computer is off limits. I know you want attention, but I am tired of sending emails and IM’s that look like this: fhjasfhu00ehf8888888gds

This is just a small list of items. I know we can work through these things!

Love, Amy

October 30th through November 6th 2010

Week One:

This week has been uneventful. My life is up in the air, so what I have decided to do is to set short term goals for myself. I have been wanting to take some artisan bread-making classes, read one random book a week, set an actual workout schedule for myself, finish learning French and finish writing a book. Right now I have been looking for a job since I will be in Kansas for a while longer.

Picking myself up will take a lot since I am the queen of incomplete.

As far as this week goes, I don’t feel any older, just lost.

Cracked but not broken

It feels strange to sit down and write. Discouraged is the only word I can find to describe the feeling I have been getting every single time I sit down at my desk. Why? Because one person, who’s opinion should hold no weight, said some things that really bothered me. I am a writer. My job is to be completely transparent. If you don’t agree with my choices, then I really don’t need you in my life. Just remember, I have been nothing but supportive to everything you decide to do with your life.

Well, it appears Dane and I both will be deployed in Kansastan a while longer. If you happen to have read two previous blogs, that have since been deleted, you would already know that Dane and I hit some pretty rough waters. He did some incredibly stupid things in the past couple months and is now on Rear-D/non-deployable. Let’s just say, the depression got to him and he took a downward spiral. Things were so bad, I didn’t know if I would be able to stay with him and work this marriage out. For someone to be hurt time and time again by the one person who is supposed to love and care for them, is unbearable. If this were any other guy, I would have been long gone by now, but, I cannot do that to him. Even after all the hurt. Divorce would have been the easy way out, but not the right thing to do. So, we are working things out by going to counseling together and on our own, talking more and doing more constructive things together.

When you get married, after a while you start to lose yourselves. Meshing together, you become one person. That is a great thing, but you still need to maintain some individualism in order to keep things interesting. Time out with friends, hobbies, even just taking some time out for yourself to do something for you is a very healthy thing! So for now, this is where we stand, cracked, but not broken.

Eggsistencial Crisis!!!

**Update on the chickens**

Halp!  We are up to our knees in eggs…

They are laying eggs like crazy! The Buff Orpingtons are broody, and are going to be the last ones to start laying. Dane and I got to watch a couple of our girls in action, as they lay. So cool. The other chickens will come in the coop and watch over who ever is laying, as if they were the midwife. The chickens have started this thing where they hunker down in the “do me” position whenever Dane or I go to pet them. We get their feathers all ruffled up. It is disturbing and hilarious all at the same time!

A second proposal

This past week through tonight… Dane is back from training and I worked 50+ hours this week, on Ft. Riley. So exhausted! Sunday nights and Tuesday are my least favorite parts of the week, but because he is leaving soon, they have become more sweet than bitter. Every moment counts. This past week, while I was in the middle of handing out battle-rattle to guys in his Battalion, he sends me a text message with the approximate dates for deployment. I have been so focused on all the positives that I didn’t expect the news to hit me like it did. Just as I read that text, another soldier sat down in my station. My friend who happens to be a SGT, was sitting next to me and noticed my face lose all color. He asked if I was alright, I turned to him with a smile and said that Dane just gave me “the news”.  He asked if I was alright, and I replied yes. Then I looked at the soldier sitting across from me and suddenly, I felt like I was going to throw up. I shook my head no, and motioned for the soldier to go to the next station. I had to excuse myself, went outside and completely fell to pieces. I was surrounded by guys in uniform, the deployment whoopla and at that moment, I wanted to die. I could feel the pain rising up like continuous tidal waves, crashing into me as if I was the helpless sand laying there on the beach. Before I knew it, my SGT friend caught me before I could drop to the ground. He talked me through things, leaving me in a little better condition but still in pain.

I made it through the day, and driving home with Dane that night, I felt warmer, closer to him than I have ever felt. It is truly the hard times that bring you closer. We are down to the last weeks and then we won’t see the other for six months. In the midst of so many uncertainties, and the looming pain we have yet to face, our marriage has taken on a stronger exoskeleton. I was never exposed to a successful marriage while I was growing up. My mother has been married and divorced five times. There was a lot of alcohol abuse, physical/mental/emotional abuse, with a lot of name calling, cheating and lying. As you can clearly comprehend, I have only seen what NOT to do, whereas Dane comes from the total opposite. His parents are still married and appear quite happy. I have never seen two people flow better together than them. His parents are a the perfect example of what Dane and I hope to be like.

This week, as hard as it was work wise, was fun. We came home tired every night, but happy. We walked down to the mall one night and I bought him a pair of sneakers along with a few other things he needs for deployment. We ate Subway in the food court, walked around glued to the hip, making wise-cracks about others as we normally do. On the way home, we chased each other down Poyntz Avenue, playing tag and laughing until the Subway almost came up. We have ended every night by playing fetch with the dog at our little park, collecting eggs out of the chicken coop and falling asleep wrapped around each other. The Wellbutrin is helping me cope with the little situations and the Kolonpin is taking care of the anxiety, but when I have time to let things hit me, I go numb. My body hums, whirrs and buzzes. I feel dizzy, so in order not to fall over I have to keep my mind and body going. This weekend had an, okay, start. My hair is falling out like crazy. While in the shower today, applying conditioner, every stroke through my hair was covered in hair. I stood there, picking it off my hands and putting it on the tiled wall so I could show Dane how much I am losing at one time. Why I do this to myself, I don’t know. I stood in the shower and cried, staring at the wall, at all my hair. I remembered my mother insulting me about my hair the times I have seen her this year and it really made me angry. I used to have long, thick, flowing locks of golden hair. Not anymore. Sorry mom, I hate to disappoint you. I now have short, darker hair with chunky blonde streaks and now have to wear a wig just to feel better about myself.

Dane has been really supportive about my hair loss. Today, he took me to get new vitamins from GNC. I could probably shave my head, and as long as he is the one to shave it for me, he would be thrilled no matter what. It’s great to have a best friend as a husband. Ladies, if your boyfriend or fiancé isn’t man enough to handle the girlie things, he isn’t a man and completely not worth it. My own opinion… Saturday, yesterday, Dane took me for coffee, and drove to the water tower. It’s a place on a high point, where you can see all of Manhattan, KS. We drank our coffee and watched the sun go down. Magical.

Today I made such a huge breakfast, that we went back to sleep until noon! We got up, showered and walked down to Starbucks in Aggieville then to the mall again just to get out. I was so hyper from the caffeine, I talked the whole way. Complete psycho-babble, but meaningful. Around 6pm we headed to our park to play fetch with the dog. Dane and I usually play this game where he tackles me to the ground and I lay on him, trying not to touch the grass as he rocks me back in forth trying to make me fall off him and into the grass. I hate lying in the grass because of spiders! He tried that on me today, but after seeing a huge wolf spider web, I said hell no to that! He tried to take me down and since I wouldn’t budge, he stayed down on his knees while I pretended to dub him a knight with the ball chucker. Dane got to where he was on bended knee and pulled out a little black box. He proposed to me, again, this time on bended knee, and with a ring. Not just any ring, my dream ring with matching wedding band. The band I had before is was given to me by my step-mother and is too big. I was so completely touched by what he did, I will never forget it. We have been through so much in such a short period of time, have both gone insane which lead to meds, my hair is falling out, I was PMSing all week, yet at the end of the weekend and the day, he loves me enough to want to do this all again. I feel truly blessed and humbled…