We were seeing grass. Actual green. The woods were clear of the white stuff. Trees were starting to bud. It was Spring! And then March whacked us with 8 inches of wet, heavy snow. Doesn't sound like much? When the snow is this wet it weighs down branches, bends trees, takes out power lines, and causes heart attacks when people shovel it. It's not the depth, it's the weight.
Fortunately, it's also pretty. And March isn't totally mean - you typically get warm(ish), sunny days after the snow that lets it melt off fairly quickly (in relative terms anyway). This snow came on March 19 and by April 9 it was gone completely. The ground was fully frozen so when it started melting it signaled the start of upstate NY's unofficial fifth season - Mud Season. Yup, it's a thing.
|Chicken coop decoration
|Future greenhouse site
|Shoveling a path for the girls
The coop design is great. It was easy to maintain, the open area underneath gave the hens a spot out of the snow-covered pasture where they could peck and relieve some boredom as well as giving me a storage area. The run gave effective shelter especially once I added lots of straw for them to burrow into during the day. Throwing in scratch seed kept them busy and helped turn the straw (compost!). Stapling up plastic around the west/north corner kept the snow from blowing into the run and helped keep the straw dry.
I have New Hampshire Reds and they are amazingly hardy. They came through the winter with minimal weight loss, almost no frost damage to their combs, and maintained a laying schedule that averaged 5 eggs per day for the six hens. Granted, they're young, but I was still pleasantly surprised.
I fed them layer pellet (free choice), provided grit and calcium (again free choice - they went through a lot of calcium by the way), and supplemented with cooked oatmeal, garden squash, and kitchen scraps (mostly greens). The electric water heater worked perfectly. I had one instance of frozen water and that's when the temps dipped to 10 below zero overnight. So incredibly glad I bought the heater instead of hauling water jugs every morning. That one day was bad enough.
Winter cost averaged $1.11 per dozen and I expect that to drop as free-range foraging starts with the spring. Actually, they're already out and about turning leaves and eating bugs so the feeder is emptying much slower than it was. I'm up to 450 eggs so far this year already. And I'm desperately searching for recipes that use eggs - lots of eggs.