Saturday, December 14, 2013

ready or not, winter is coming

Tiger Bronze hen wondering at the progress in the cheep shed

One of the final tasks we do each year on the Little Farm is ready her for winter.  The most unglamorous task involves mucking out the cheep shed and getting it prepped for the long winter ahead.

Mojo supervises Papa unloading woodchips

Ideally we'd have it mucked out in the late spring, as soon as the birds move out to pasture.

Woodchips are the foundation layer of our deep litter system

However, lately it seems there is always something living in it that prevents the mucking out until the last moments before we're moving the birds back in.

rabbits live happily "colony style" in the cheep shed in winter

Several loads of woodchips secured from sources near and far lay the foundation under the bedding that will become a "deep litter" system (click the link to read all about the health benefits of this system!).

Woodchip layer down!  Top with hay, manure, hay, manure...

The hanging black bucket is actually a poultry waterer. On the bottom are poultry nipples they can drink from, keeping their water super clean as they cannot stand on the edge of the dish or sit and poop in it, nor can dust or debris fall into the bucket.

Once the birds come in, they will of course poop all over the bedding.  So about every week (should be every week but sometimes these farmers are all "pooped out" and it goes a couple of weeks) we add another layer of hay, straw, pine needles or woodchips.

Tiger Bronze hen peeks outside of the cheep shed

A word of warning - being naturally frugal farmers, we always opt for free bedding sources over ones we have to purchase.  We do not raise any grain crops on this farm (yet), therefore we have no access to free straw bedding.

winter arrives at the Little Farm

We do have free access to woodchips, although we must haul them from quite a distance.  We also have access to leftover hay (whatever the ruminants don't eat).  So we use what we have at hand, hay and woodchips.

winter arrives at Litengård

If you use a lot of hay, you will have issues with the bedding becoming matted like a felted wool blanket.  Very hard to muck out at the end of the year, also not as absorbent as straw or woodchips. The more woodchips and straw you can incorporate, the better.

winter scene at Litengård

The birds have access to the outdoors all winter long, although the turkeys are far braver about facing the elements than the chickens are.

contemplating winter from the pop-hole door

Which just proves turkeys aren't chicken.

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl writes about readying the cheep shed


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