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Free Range Winter Chickens

| 3/1/2013 10:20:35 AM

winter chickens oneI don’t really know if our chickens are like all chickens or if they are evolving into something so fantastic that we will be featured in agricultural textbooks for all time. Our chickens are becoming winterized.

We got these chickens fully grown a couple of years ago. Not being experienced we weren’t really sure what to expect. Our chickens are free range chickens. That means no one owns the property they graze on and whatever they find they get to keep for free. Horse pooh, dog pooh, crickets, and many other disgusting things.

Our chickens also have feathers so I figured we were good as far as winter goes. One of our friends told us they would be able to survive clear down to zero degrees. I was a little concerned because when I was a kid we had a Bantam Rooster called Popeye and one morning we woke up and ‘Ol Popeye was frozen solid in time never to thaw out again in our presence. We were told he was old and that’s why he froze. My sister and I never bought that one. Our parents were old and they never froze.

We live in the mountains at 4200’ and it does get pretty cold here but we also live off grid. That means no forced air furnace and hot water heater for the chicken coop. These guys were just going to have to tough it out. That’s the way I was raised and it worked for me and my sister, well it worked for me. Our parents would always say things like “just tough it out” and “quit whining” and we seemed to get through the winters okay with good parenting skills like that.winter chickens two

I did put insulation in the chicken coop and cover all the holes. We even had a freeze proof faucet nearby so we could get fresh water every day. Laurie made me get some sawdust for the coop floor. I guess I had to “cave” on something. 

Fall came and I thought we were as ready as we were going to be for winter and right then all of the stupid chickens lost their stupid feathers when the stupid temperature got down to freezing at night. Well, how smart was that? All my life I had been told how “Mother Nature always gets it right”. Well apparently Mother Nature never had to live off grid. I just knew we were going to have to buy new chickens in the spring – every year.

3/24/2015 9:06:54 AM

We have two fenced-in garden areas. During the winter we put barn cleanings on the gardens (chicken, llama, guineas, goat. )These barn cleanings are mostly hay. I was wondering if we could turn our chickens loose on one of these gardens. They are used to a chicken tractor. Deer have been eating in the gardens all winter and my hope is that the chickens will eat the sprouting hay seedlings and used grain. Normally we would till then plant the gardens, but we have had a lot of problems with the hay sprouts becoming weeds (i.e. plants where we don't want them to be).Normally the chickens are free-range with a chicken tractor for the summer. Opinions please?

J.Russell Bailey
3/8/2013 12:49:08 AM

Another great article Ed! Loved the humour and I, like yourself and your sister, grew up learning axioms such as 'stop whining', 'get with the program', 'toughen up', 'don't wear your heart on your sleeve', 'sticks and stones...', and like you, I had chickens (also had turkeys and quail as well). Raising livestock, understanding their needs and how to tend to them really taught me about life, biology, and yes, work ethics; what a pity that kids today are not taught as we were: sadly, they're taught the OPPOSITE; that the world OWES them something rather than the other way around.......I look forward to your next article!

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