We completed some normal fall chores this week. We have closed off much of the open areas in the chicken coop. While these were great for venting in the summer, weneed less in the winter. The coop will now hold in heat better. Chickens are hardy creatures and do not need a heated house in our climate. They do need a roost to keep them off the ground, they need dry shelter, they need more food, and they need liquid water. Their layer of fat (and our girls have plenty of that) and feathers provide amazing protection from the rest of the elements.
We also dug out the chicken water heater from storage. This is adevice that the metal waterer sits on. This is plugged in to the outside electrical socket and it keeps the water just above freezing. This provides liquid water all winter and allows us to get the waterer apart for refills.
We do not bag our leaves and haul them off to the dump. Instead our leaves are blown out of the hard to reach areas and simply returned back from whence they came.We started mulching our leaves years ago. There are a number of advantages to mulching your leaves.
-The work is much less. There are no piles to move and bag up.
-It is cheaper than leaf removal. I do not have to buy bags. I do not have to pay the dump to accept the trailer load of leaves. My garbage pickup will accept a limited number of yard waste bags but with our trees we would have too many.
-Free fertilizer. The leaves falling from my trees are the carbon and nitrogen the trees took from the soil in the spring and summer. I can return the nutrients back to the dirt to take the trip again. As a result, I have not had to fertilize the lawn in years.
-Improved soil. The soil in our lawn no longer looks anything like the orange clay that most of this area has. The mulched leaves fall between the grass blades and decay into a thick layer of topsoil.
-Drought hardiness.We have not needed to water the lawn in years. The layer of organic material from the mulched leaves seems hold water longer and help the lawn with dry spells. The grass will still die back if we have a long dry spell. But it does die less than before and it comes back quicker when it rains.
We do use a mulching mower. This has a special shaped blade that chops the leaves up smaller than a traditional mower. However, one can use a traditional mower and make two or more passes to finely shred the leaves.
Chicken Sandand Run Maintenance
Fall brings a lot more rain to the mid-Atlantic area. This rain created a big mess in the chicken run. The wet sand will eventually compact and begin to smell. Therefore, we periodically dig out a few inches and filled it back in with new play sand. We do this procedure once every few months.We have done this three times since we built the coop in early spring. We usually add four 50 lbs bags to the run at a time.
The added work and cost of replacement sandis another factor anyone considering backyard chickens should consider. The digging, hauling, raking, and sifting requires a good back. The daily cleaning must be done regardless of the weather. We do this in the rain, snow, and cold.