Tuesday, November 29, 2011


So, with the weather getting colder - and the first snow of the season already having happened - we've been doing a lot of reading on what to do to make a warmer environment for our two remaining hens (Henrietta and Beulah).

Makeshift heater
We've decided on a combination of things.  First, we wanted to address them being able to sleep in a warmer environment.  There was a chicken owner in Wisconsin who made a make-shift heater out of a light bulb socket mounted on a board with a clay pot attached over it.  We liked the idea for a couple of reasons:

  1. The chickens wouldn't be exposed to the light bulb directly, chancing burning something - or worse, somehow starting a fire.  Many a chicken coop has burned down because of a light bulb.  
  2. A 60-watt bulb is relatively inexpensive to keep on all the time, and heats the clay pot up sufficiently to give plenty of heat to the interior of the Cube
We cut off the outlet end of an inexpensive lamp extension cord to wire to the light socket.

Current setup
Next, we purchased some 6 mil clear, exterior plastic sheeting to attach to the run of the Cube.  We covered the entire front, door, and most of the sides.  We then stacked straw bales around the sides and back of the entire unit to block the wind, and provide insulation.

We purchased pine wood shavings from Tractor Supply to spread on the ground of the run.  We're not particularly partial to Tractor Supply, but it is what we have in our area for purchasing farm supplies.  An 8 cu ft. bag of pine shavings is around $5.00.  It covers the inside of the run nicely.  Our hope is that what we have done to enclose the run will keep it dry inside so we can rake the shavings out every couple of weeks.  That's how we'll clean and renew their run.

Water heater
We also purchased an Allied Precision bird bath de-icer for their Glug water container.  It's 250 watts at 120 volts, so it's just over 2 amps.  That won't be a big electrical draw, either.

Wired outlet & cords
We'll wire both devices to one of these thermostatically controlled outlets so they will only kick in if the temperatures fall below 35 degrees (f).  The water de-icer also has built-in thermostat controls.

Lastly, we're placing a bin containing soil so they can still take dust baths while enclosed in this setup.

Our hope is that the Cube will stay above freezing so the eggs won't freeze, as the hens have not both laid their eggs before everyone is gone from the house.  We have to collect them in the evening after returning home.  We'll keep updates on the progress as we test out this system.

With the run enclosed like it is, we can already tell it's warmer inside.  Granted, temps have not dipped much below freezing yet, but they will soon be here.

(12/6/11 updated with photos)

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I just picked up this book (or is it a magazine?). It's from the editors of Hobby Farms® Magazine. If you're just starting out with chickens - whether it be an entire flock, or just two hens - it's a very good read. There are a couple of good articles on heritage breeds (sorry no info on hybrids, which is what the hens we have are - Gingernut Rangers).

I guess I'd call it a good primer on getting into the chicken world - whether it be for a business, or just for pets. It was well worth the $10 I spent on it.

There's a wealth of information on chicken keeping on the web. Heck, there's a wealth of information on pretty much everything on the web. The main thing is to do a lot of reading of blogs, articles, basically most everything you can find. I think you'll find there is good information as well as bad. You have to kind of sift through it yourself.

Our goal is to build a small farm and have it be sustainable. In other words, raise most of our own food. We want to live totally off-grid. It means we'll have to get away from town, and find some land that is farmable, but with enough woods to have timber for building, wood heat, and maybe even making maple syrup.

By next Summer we'd like to have at least 25 laying chickens, and maybe 50 - 100 broilers to sell, as well as a few beehives.

I'll keep you posted.