The chickens and the bees are the only living creatures in the garden that I need to help out through winter.
Chickens are warm-blooded and have insulating feathers and fat. Properly feeding and caring for the birds will ensure they have a good layer of fat and healthy plumage for insulation. The colder it gets the fluffier the chickens get as they puff their feathers to hold more trapped air. This also multiplies their cuteness, which they then use to get more treats out of me. It’s a racket. I know. I don’t care.
The following link has more information on what a Vardo is.
Like many of our projects, this one got a good test from Mother Nature the first night it was up. We had a large storm front move in that was powerful enough to knock out the power. And then we had wind and rain that lasted into the next day.
The run cover stayed in place and the ground and the chickens are nice and dry.
We have been working to get ready for this for months. The hive has been fed about a gallon a week of 2 to 1 sugar syrup. The sugar is immediate food for the bees. This is their carbohydrate source. The bees also have a pollen replacement patty from Ultra Bee. While sugar is the carbohydrate, the pollen is the protein. The bees need this to draw out wax and the queen needs it to lay eggs. The bees that are in the hive at the beginning of winter will be the same bees in the spring. No eggs are laid over winter. Therefore, the queen needs to lay new brood in the fall to have young bees hatch before winter really starts.
I have already noticed that some days are too cold for them to fly and the hive has no activity. So I know I need to add insulation sooner than later.
I did consider straw bales for this too. However, straw could harbor other insects such as ants that want to rob the bees of their honey.
Another item we added to the bee hive is an entrance mouse guard. This is a metal strip with bee size holes. It tacks to the entrance and keeps mice from entering the hive in the winter but allows bees to come and go. Mice can be a serious problem in the cold. Warm-blooded mice can come in and eat the wax and honey while the bees are in a ball. The cold-blooded bees can not break the ball to defend their hive. If they do, they die from the cold anyway.
The USDA has a good informative website on the honeybee hives at the People Garden in DC