Farm life is, in a lot of ways, seasonal. Winter is generally a quieter time but there is certainly still work to be done.
When temperatures are above freezing we collect rainwater and pump it into the coop. When we’re able to use this system, the waterers only have to be filled every other day or so and all it requires is the turn of a knob. In winter water is the biggest chore.
The only outside water source we have that doesn’t freeze if left on in the cold is a spigot on the back of our house. So I fill twelve 5-gallon buckets every 4-5 days and carry them two at a time to the workshop, right next to the coop.
I tried loading up the cart with buckets and using the tractor to drive them over but there’s so much spillage it’s not worth the effort saved. So instead I just get my arm workout hauling those buckets!
Twice/day I rinse out the heated water bowls and refill them. We recently purchased some heated buckets with nipples on the sides. These are nice because they hold more and stay cleaner but the ducks can’t use them so I have to keep the water bowls out too.
The chickens lay fewer eggs in winter but they still lay so there are eggs to be collected and washed. When we are getting fewer eggs I often switch to a system where I collect them everyday but wait until the day before our Jungle Jim’s delivery to wash and box them. This saves me some time since I only have to set up everything once.
There is, of course, also always feed troughs to be filled, old bedding to be removed, and fresh straw to be laid – no matter the season.
In winter I pay special care to making sure my bird feeders don’t go empty. We have a lot of songbirds that visit and perch along our fence. It brings me such joy to watch them out my kitchen window.
The chickens, too, love the sunflower seed in the feeders. They’ve figured out how to jump and knock the lowest one to throw seed on the ground. And when I big songbird flies in chickens come running too because they know it’s likely a big bird will swing the feeder, dropping seed for them. Today a big red winged blackbird landed and instantaneously chickens were gathered. The blackbird was squawking up a storm and the chickens were all staring up at it. It cracked me up, looked like a preacher preaching to his congregation!
If the pond freezes solid, we use the opportunity to cut down cattails that are trying to take over the pond. This is important for maintaining the health of the pond so it will be a vital spot for our ducks to hang out. We got that chance to trim them in early January before Josh’s injury.
We hauled the cattails in several trailer loads up to our compost pile. My job was to lay on the pile and make sure it didn’t fall off the trailer – my kind of job! Check out the gorgeous January sky.
When the temperatures dropped back in December we stapled thick plastic over a lot of the open ventilation in the henhouses to cut the breeze coming in at night. This makes it significantly warmer for the girls. When they huddle together on their perches their combined body heat keeps them warm enough without any additional heat. The plastic will stay up until we are staying at freezing or higher consistently, even at night.
We also stacked hay bales in the runs to provide some wind blocks when they are just hanging out during the day. This is surprisingly effective and the birds love pecking at the bales and trying to nest in them – warmth and entertainment.
When it’s super cold out I sometimes also make the birds a warm treat like oatmeal with berries. It’s always a big hit and helps them stay healthy and strong through the stress of winter.
That’s a glimpse into some of what our winter days are filled with. I’ve also begun prepping for my garden this spring but that’s a topic for another day.
Good night all. May you find some rest in this quieter season of the year!