This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, chickens, and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the chickens are home

Today I picked up my 3 new chickens from the local post office. They all came in one small box. They were clucking away on the bench at the Post Office.

chickens 1

They are pullets (females, hens 18-22 weeks old). All are about the size of a large pigeon. I think they'll grow quite a bit more. One of the breeds I got grows to 10 lbs and I can't imagine she's much more than 3 or 4 lbs right now. They are supposed to start laying in a week or two.

When I brought them home, I opened their box in their new coop. They immediately began to explore, scratch and eat what they could. I had scattered feed pellets and some chicken treats. They found their waterer. One of the chickens dug up a nice worm! Slirp. They seemed very comfy in their new home.

Only Ginger, the Auracana, went up the ramp and into the hen house at dusk. Bertha the big white Brahma and Penny the black Australorp, settled down to sleep in the run. So I picked them up and put them inside. Ahh - they noticed the feed bucket inside and the roosting bar and the reading lamp. How nice, they seemed to say.

I was worried about the young birds in the cold weather. Emily wrote that they are fine and don't need special chicken comforters or heated blankets. I called McMurray Hatchery and they repeated what Emily said. They are fully feathered out and don't need special attention, no matter how cold. As long as the hen house has no drafts. I said what if it's 10*F - she said they are OK. I said what if it's 0*, she said they are OK .... (She said I could check and see if they are huddling together and look cold and if so, plug in a heat lamp.)

Right now its, 31*F inside the hen house, and 27* outside. Brrr. I trust the 3 young hens are happy and sleeping soundly. (I know I'll be sleeping under a warm comforter!) roosting chickens 3



Anonymous Anonymous said...

They'll be fine in the cold. It's been as low as 17 and snowing here and the chickens just huddle together. Don't be surprised if they are delayed laying due to the move. You don't have raccoons there? If you do, you need to replace that chicken wire with hardware cloth. Enjoy your babies!

November 20, 2013 10:41 PM

Blogger The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

It is funny how we humans project onto them. But, while they can survive without us, I am sure they wouldn't mind having a heat lamp when it is 0F outside. Regardless of if they actually need it. ;)

Pretty bird!

November 20, 2013 11:38 PM

Blogger kathy said...

I think at about 20*F I will turn on their heat lamp. Think I'll also get a big tarp to throw over the coop to reduce any drafts. Its supposed to be even colder tomorrow night. Right now it's 28* in the coop, 23* outside.

November 21, 2013 12:25 AM

Blogger kathy said...

Raccoons! I'm worried about the fisher cats and coyotes. I plan to lay 12 in of hardware cloth on the ground around the whole coop nd run and tack it securley to the base. This will stop any diggers.

Do raccoons get through poultry wire? Ihav not actually seen raccoons here yet, but have no doubt they aree out there. Do they go after the chickens or just the eggs? ... Maybe i should post Skippy on sentry duty ...

November 21, 2013 12:41 AM

Blogger Ashlee said...

They are beautiful! Looks like they have enough room on their roost to snuggle up all at once and also have enough room to cover their feet with their feathers. They will be fine! The only thing I would recommend is that if the temps get really cold and the wind is blowing, apply a coat of petroleum jelly to their combs and wattles to prevent frostbite and stay on top of it! One of my hens lost a small part of her comb to it last winter. She came through just fine, but I can't imagine it was comfortable.

November 21, 2013 8:35 AM

Blogger Karen Anne said...

I wonder if the daylight thing mentioned a few posts ago to keep the hens laying during the winter is actually a good idea. They must get depleted of calcium while they're laying. Maybe they need a few months of rest to recover.

November 21, 2013 5:18 PM

Blogger lolamako said...

These kind of chickens couldn't survive without human help. They can also get frostbite if it's very cold, here once it drops below freezing we start to cover the coop.

Raccoons will reach through wire and rip your chickens apart, so it's good to have hardware cloth buried and a solid wall corner for them to retreat to.

November 21, 2013 9:29 PM

Blogger Yvette said...

Congratulations on the new girls! I'm delurking just long enough to point you to Terry Golson's FAQ on cold-weather care, at

It seems to be sort of universally accepted that most chickens do better without supplemental heating. Terry's site is wonderful and so helpful. She's also in Carlisle and holds chicken-keeping workshops every so often.

Cheers to you, Kathy!

November 22, 2013 8:43 PM

Blogger Stefani Bel said...

I know nothing about chickens, but they look cozy in their new home. They are all beautiful by the way!

November 23, 2013 11:15 AM

Blogger Margit said...

I have an open air poultry house that keeps them out of the wind and rain. My chickens don't seem to mind the cold at all. We have had days this winter with lows of -21 and high of 8. They still continue to lay without supplemental heat but I agree-I worry about them being too cold.

January 21, 2014 5:12 PM

Blogger kathy said...


I am beginning to wonder if space is the answer. My hens are in a small coop. I have 3 hens in a coop built to hold a max of three. It's only about 3 x 4 ft inside the house and the attached run in about 4x5. Pretty tight quarters. I think the tight space may reduce their laying in the bad weather. My girls have a light in the house 7 am to 7 pm. But it seems they always want to get out, flap their wings and move around. Me too! Well springs a ways off yet.

Today I cleaned out the coop, removed all the old wood shavings that were soaked with manure and added it to my compost bins. I laid down severall inches of fresh shavings and hay. In preparation for the snow storm, I lowered the tarp on the run so it covers the sides and secured it with bungi cords. And, since temps are back down in the single digits, I plugged in the ceramic heater. So the hens are battened down for another storm. So much for eggs this week.

While I was cleaning the coop this morning, the hens decided there wasn't room for me and them in the run together. With a big flurry of wings they all flew out the open door and across the yard to a clear patch of ground. Well good for them. I let them hang out there a while before wondering how to get them back in the coop. There was a big swath of snow between them and the coop and they do NOT like to step on snow! Well I made a path of straw from their cleaning to the coop and got the dreaded rake. Penny ventured down the straw path first. She's such a good hen. Eventually i sooed Ginger down the path, and then Bertha. and then I raked up the straw path. Chickens are so silly!

January 21, 2014 10:46 PM


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