Jenn gave me a couple of chicken-themed gifts for Christmas: a sign for the coop, and a stamp for the egg cartons.
The sign is a fun custom one via Etsy, that says “Coopacabana, est. 2017”. That’s our name for the new coop, since it was painted in bright Caribbean-inspired colors:
The stamp was also via Etsy, and says “Farm Fresh Eggs, Yellow Cottage Homestead, Laid On: _______”, with a space for the date stamp I use to mark when the eggs were laid.
Today I made a wooden block to act as a brace for an egg carton while stamping the top. The cartons we use have a perforation down the middle, so they can be split into two six-packs, so I made the block with two parts, connected in the middle, to fit that carton style. (I actually made it out of a single 2×4, but in retrospect it would have been easier and tidier to make two separate blocks and connect them together via another bit of wood; oh well.)
It’s a little chilly at present… like dipping down to 25° F / -4° C overnight. Which is fine for us, and as discussed is okay for the chickens, but not entirely pleasant for the feral outdoor cats. Sure, they can snuggle together in a sheltered place, but I still felt bad for them.
So, I decided to get them a heated shelter. I bought an outdoor multi-kitty A-frame shelter from Amazon, that is big enough for several cats, and includes a pad that emits a bit of warmth.
I placed it next to the deck, under which the cats often shelter from the elements. I put a camera pointed at it, so I could see if they used it:
I really wasn’t sure if they’d try it, or avoid it as something strange, being cats. But pretty much moments after I left, they started “investicating” it, and soon afterwards some of them went inside. They looked very comfy in there:
I think it might be a success. But we’ll see how it goes long-term… and whether or not the raccoons cause trouble for the cats.
I previously posted about the outdoor kitty condo I got as a feeding station for our outdoor feral cats. I since got a food dispenser, but that attracted the attention of raccoons and other wildlife, so I started putting it away overnight, which got old fast.
Next I tried getting an automatic feeder… but that didn’t fare too well; it was stolen and ripped open by the masked bandits; I found it elsewhere in the garden:
So time for a better solution: I repurposed one of our plastic deck table boxes to contain a different auto-feeder. I cut a hole in the bottom, and made a kind of funnel out of a pipe reducer (leftover from the chicken feeder), so the raccoons couldn’t get to the feeder. Even if they reach up the tube (and they’ve certainly tried!) they can’t get the food, as the feeder closes off the outlet after dispensing food:
The box also contains some sand bags for extra weight, and to help hold the feeder in place:
The box is also strapped to a couple of concrete blocks, to give it extra weight and raise the hole off the ground. The food dish from the feeder is also strapped to the blocks:
So far this has proved raccoon-proof, so I think this’ll work.
The kitty condo now just houses the water, which helps keep it cleaner:
Most mornings I provide a few kitchen scraps or other treats for the chickens. I always enjoy how they come running as I approach, and grab bites and run away from the other girls.
Watch on YouTube.
It’s getting cold, starting to drop below freezing at night, so it’s time to put out the waterer heaters. Each of the coops now has a metal water dispenser that sits on a heated base. The base only comes on when the temperature drops below freezing, to warm up the water a little, just enough to prevent it from freezing:
The coops themselves aren’t heated or insulated. It may seem counterintuitive, but providing heat is actually bad for the chickens — since a sudden power loss could result in them freezing to death. If they gradually get used to colder temperatures, they build up fat and fluff to keep themselves warm. They also snuggle together while roosting.
The main requirements for winter are to prevent the water from freezing (and thus preventing them from drinking it), avoiding cold drafts while ensuring ventilation, and collecting eggs more often so they don’t freeze (and crack).