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It's Winter in Austin, which doesn't feel much different than Spring of Fall and we don't really need to 'Winterize' our coops. Even in the coldest climates chickens can fare pretty well on their own as long as they have A. Plenty of water B. A draft free place to take shelter and C. Plenty of food with supplemental fat. I give our girls scratch on the chilly days to warm up their metabolisms and i covered their open-air coop with plastic last year since they were pullets without their true downy feathers grown in. Open air coops are really the best housing for any climate because they allow plenty of circulated air to flow about, minimizing smell and disease, and keep things cool in the Summer. The girls all pile into the nest boxes on chilly nights (which i'm SO happy to clean out in the morning, gross) and their warm feathers do all the insulating they need. Roosters can suffer from frostbite on their combs and wattles in very cold climates because they do not tuck their heads while sleeping.
Belina gave us another scare earlier this year. We went out of town for my Grandmother's 90th birthday and left the chickens cooped up the whole time we were gone. Belina (the Buff Orpington) has been slowly demoted to 4th hen and when cooped up isn't allowed at the food and is pecked at and harassed constantly by evil Queen Soot (despite BB the Chantecler being #1 amiga). We returned from our trip to find a pale, very skinny, bedraggled Belina in place of the big, sassy, fat and happy hen we'd left. I'm happy to say that the last few months have been good to her, she's fitter than ever though her comb is still chalky and she still gets kicked around quite a bit.
|Hens on the porch = lots of messy poop and potted citrus shown disrespect|
I haven't noticed many mites, lice, or other problems with the flock lately. I worry about the chalkiness of their combs, but not enough to do any research about it. I dust their nest boxes with diatomaceous earth whenever i change them to prevent nasty bugs, and i give them poultry vitamins in the water every once in a while for good measure. Otherwise, they pretty much manage themselves. We let them out, feed and water them, say hi occasionally and lock them back up at dusk. Chickens are sure easy going pets. I say that now, before i'm trying to move across state lines with them.... hmmm.........