As the last of the leaves turn and begin to fall to the ground – one thing is for sure – Winter is just around the corner!
And with that in mind – we will spend this weekend getting the garden and chicken coop ready for “old man winter’s” arrival in the coming months.
Preparing the Chickens…
One of our most important “winterizing” chores is preparing our coop to handle the cold and windy temperatures we can face here in Ohio.
The key to keeping the chickens healthy through the cold winter months is really quite simple. Chickens are bothered more by damp and drafty conditions than the actual cold temperatures of winter – and if you can keep the coop dry and free of chilling breezes – your chickens stay comfy and happy! Here is how we winterize our coop:
We cover all of the mesh window openings with salvaged barn windows. It allows the light and warmth to still enter the coop, while keeping out the winter wind and snow.
It’s important to keep as much light as you can in the coop to keep egg laying to maximum levels. Some even place a light bulb into the coop to help add extra hours of light – but luckily our girls have always kept laying with just the natural light. The bulb is also an excellent way to warm up the coop on really cold nights.
Using the deep litter method for warmth through the winter months…
We will give the coop one final clean-out today – and then placed in a good 6″ to 10″ layer of straw all around. For the next few months, instead of cleaning – we will add a few inches of new straw every week or two on top of the old. The straw provides a nice clean, dry surface for the chickens to roam about on.
More importantly – the old straw below, along with the chicken droppings that are mixed in, will start to slowly decompose, releasing heat that helps to warm the coop and keep the chickens comfortable through the cold months. In the early spring, when the night temperatures begin to rise, we will clean it all out and start fresh. This big clean-out has an added benefit – it’s a great start to a new compost pile each spring!
Preparing the Garden…
The garden also needs a little help and protection from winter as well – and for us that means seeding all of our planting rows with thick cover crop of annual rye.
We actually seeded most of our rows a few weeks back – and they are already filled with bright green starts of the annual rye. The rye not only protects our rows from erosion and weed seeds blowing in – but also provides much needed nutrients back into the soil when we dig it under in the Spring. (see:how to plant cover crop)
For our few rows that hold our fall planted crops of garlic and onions – we apply a thick 3 to 5″ layer of straw to help protect them from Winter’s fury.
And with that – we are ready for the cold to begin! Well – not really :). Actually we will be counting down the days until next year’s garden season begins!
Jim and Mary – Old World Garden Farms
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