Coop de Snow

The thing I like best about weather events such as Saturday’s snowstorm is that neighbors tend to come out to the street to share a little of the experience. I find it very energizing!

We received round-a-bout 18-24″ of snow on Saturday. We had just finished (mostly) the chicken coop and put it in place behind the house as the first snowflakes began to fall Friday evening. We decided that the chickens could have one more day in the house but, after the blizzard, they were out!  Since our last update, they took to roosting on the side wall of their bedroom brooder. All 17 of them settled on it to sleep at night…and set their alarm!

On a very snowy Saturday morning, Ginkgo could still bound, pretty easily, down towards the pond.

I moved a bit more slowly. I made a few trips around the orchard during snowfall to free up the fence lines but, eventually, gave up. The snow was beyond my boots and up to my knees. This is the orchard mid-day Saturday.


On Sunday, we woke and took a walk to the road but found none. This morning, it looks much the same with a few snowmobile tracks. There is a road under there somewhere….


Ginkgo started choosing her paths with a little more discrimination…such as behind the tractor.


We carted the chickens to the mobile coop by 4’s and 5’s in a cardboard box to their new home.





The coop window faces east and is covered with thick plastic for the winter as is the door which is facing south. There is a pop-out door to the left of the people door. I didn’t expect to need so much bracing but the trailer is hinged in the center and we needed to make it strong for when we tow it down to the orchard and over the terrain. I like that the chickens will be able to go under the trailer for shelter when they are outside. We allowed for plenty of ventilation. They are hardy (Icelandic!) chickens so I’m not too worried about the cold. However, for now, we can warm these young birds, as needed, with the heat lamp. Soon, they will become adjusted to the cold and we can stop using the lamp.  The house, also, protects them from the cold north winds. We’ve built community nesting boxes. We’re not allowing them to go in there yet. They are only 6 weeks now and I don’t want them to start hanging out or sleeping in there. There are some finishing touches needed. I’d like to make a clean-out hatch under the roosts and to give it a paint job. I’m, also, wanting to make feeding/drinking stations that can be filled from the outside of the coop.  Most importantly, the chickens are out of the bedroom! We can transform the bedroom space into the plant nursery for the spring garden. And, THEN, maybe we’ll get to renovating the bedroom!

I checked in on those winged characters this morning. They seem to be in good health and spirits…eating lots of food and calling in the morning sun. I’ll give them a day to bond with their coop and let them out tomorrow. We’ll see what happens from there.  Looking forward to bringing them to the orchard in the springtime!


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Chickens in the house (literally)!




I think it began with beetles in the orchard. This past summer, the new trees and shrubs that I planted were getting trashed by a heavy onslaught of japanese beetles. They seemed, especially, to enjoy my plum trees. I tried to gather the beetles from the leaves in a bucket every morning. It was a frustrating task. I had little hope of helping my trees as most of the bugs dropped to the ground and not in my bucket or flew away. However, I sure did enjoy dumping the gathered beetles into the chicken run to see the chickens eating them with great, GREAT enthusiasm. I needed chickens in the orchard!



That meant making a mobile coop and getting a new flock of chickens. The four hens that I had weren’t going to do it.



Well, what kind of birds would I want in the orchard? I wanted good foragers. I loved the idea of having chickens raise their own young. I needed good mothers. I wanted them to be hardy and very healthy. I checked in with Harvey Ussery, who wrote The Small Scale Poultry Flock. He gave me some information on Icelandic chickens. They seemed like they would be a good fit. They were beautiful to boot! I joined a Facebook page, found a breeder, and bought some eggs and an incubator.


There was a question looming. Do I vaccinate or not? I did some research. There were groups of people saying “Absolutely!” and others that said “Never!” There were, thankfully, many people sharing some very useful information. Yes, I was concerned about disease and, particularly, Mareks. We have poultry farms nearby and I suspect that I have had Mareks disease rear its ugly deadly head in my own flock. I’ve decided to follow a plan for breeding resistance against disease. This plan, also, provides a strategy for maintaining the genetic diversity needed for keeping a healthy flock.





I used a Hova-Bator Incubator and an egg turner. They worked beautifully to provide the right amount of heat, movement, ventilation, and humidity. I did add a piece of aquarium tubing to inject water for humidity without opening the lid. That worked well. I rigged up a candler with a bright LED reading lamp. I was amazed at how clearly I was able to see the viability of the egg, or lack thereof, with candling. At 9 days, we found 2 non-fertile eggs that did not develop at all and 3 that stopped developing and died. We ended up with 18 hatched chicks, one failed after hatch; so, 17.




Since, it is winter and we do not have electric to the barn yet; I made a brooder in a spare bedroom with old screen windows and doors, heat lamps, a tarp, and bedding. We made waterers with PVC pipe and watering nipples. The chickens went right to these waterers. I like them because they are easy to fill and stay clean.



They are growing very fast. We have about a week or so and, then, we will be looking to get them in their coop. We’ll put it behind the house with access to electricity for the rest of the winter as they may still need heat lamps when the temperature gets too cold. I’m wishing for good health but am prepared for challenges. I’m envisioning putting these ladies and gentlemen to work in the orchard come spring!








WOW! LOOKIN’ SO FLY! (he-he-he)

Categories: Infrastructure, Orchard, Poultry, Strategies | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Visit to the Coop

We’ve had a couple of very cold and windy days, here, in southern Chester County, PA. The hens didn’t even want to come out of their coop. Fortunately, they had plenty of room to go about their daily routines. It was nice to have them together so that I could capture a few decent shots. You can click on an image, once or twice, if you want to see it enlarged.

This is “Blue,” one of June’s hens that moved into our coop. She is big and beautiful.  She’s a bit of a loner and doesn’t, usually, hang with the other hens.

Blue gets the award for the finest feathered fanny! Isn’t that stunning!


StellaLou performs her charming chicken moves.

These are June’s two black hens that moved into our coop.  I think they may be Black Australorps, a favorite of mine. I modified the photo a bit in Gimp.


This is one of our youngest hens. We picked up five juvenile hens in the fall. This one was thrown in for free, a Silver Laced Wyandotte. She is very curious and spunky and small. Unfortunately, two of the young ones died. Very sad for that but the remaining hens seem quite healthy. Paul’s young nephew named one of the bunch, “Ham.” We don’t usually name our hens unless someone else slaps a name on them and it sticks. Ham stuck but we don’t remember which of the young hens was named Ham. We call all the young hens Ham, now….with qualifiers. This one is Little Ham. I think that is Black Ham at her feet. Black Ham has a gorgeous red comb. Little Ham has a terrible habit of biting Red Ham’s butt so that the tail feathers are ratty. Red Ham is going to be beautiful when she molts and gets a new tail grown out.


This is a close up of Red Ham’s feathers. She’s a Golden Laced Wyandotte.


This is Red Ham taking a drink. I brought the waterer inside the coop for the hens. On very cold days, the water has to be changed often because it freezes.

This is one of June’s black hens that moved into the coop. Fluffy. This photo was modified in Gimp, also.



Australorps in a bunch.


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