7 Steps to Clean Out and Winterize that Chicken Coop

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The time of year has come to clean out and winterize the chicken coop! Most often when I speak of the coop, I’m speaking metaphorically, but today I’m talking about our actual chicken coop. Here at the Hall Heritage Homestead, we use a deep litter method. That means we have a dirt floor and basically allow nature to takes its course composting and enhancing the floor of the coop.

7 Steps to clean out and winterize the coop consists of a few steps.

First, the Rooster and I  clean out the nesting boxes tossing all pine shavings onto the floor. We move the nesting boxes, roosting bars and feed dishes out of the coop. The chickens stay close by watching our every move.

Next, we rake out the floor of the coop bringing any pine shavings, leaves, hay and poo into the garden cart I hook up to the mower. We then haul this to the garden. It makes great compost for the bed and enhances our soil for next year. I am constantly fascinated at the way God made everything to work together!

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Then, we take a broom and extricate spider webs that have collected in the crevice of the roof line. We patch any holes or weak areas in the fencing and make sure it is still safe from predators.

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At this point, we spread diatomaceous earth on the remaining floor of the coop and in the dust bathing area. This keeps mites, fleas and any creature with an exoskeleton at bay and away from my chickens.

Now Arkansas winters are not that harsh (unless we get ice) so we don’t need heat lamps or heated water, but we do put hay down. My girls love it and it’s inexpensive. If we don’t have a wet winter, it can last all season. We spread the hay down in patches and let birds do the rest. They LOVE to forage through hay!

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Finally, we move everything back in exactly as it was and the birds fill the coop making sure all is as it should be. We add fresh pine shavings to the nesting boxes (don’t use cedar it is toxic to chickens) along with some herbs. Before we call it quits we do one last thing.

We put a wind barrier up in place.

Our coop is open on all four sides so the only protection the birds have from weather is the nesting boxes. With one broody hen and 7 layers, those boxes fill up fast! We buy plastic painters drop cloth. Hang it from the roof line of the coop stapling it in place and cutting it about one foot shy of the ground. This still protects the birds from wind, rain, and snow while giving them the ventilation needed to breathe well.

On a side note: we don’t cover the door, so that’s open ventilation as well.

It’s a hard job, but one that gives this SpoonieChick good exercise. And while I may use a day’s worth of spoons on this job, I’ve got the rest of the season to conserve them until the spring cleaning!

Question: What ways do you winterize your chicken coop?

THE WINNER OF THE JESUS CALLING GIVEAWAY IS… (drum roll please)… ABBY BREUKLANDER! Please message me so I can get your address and send it to you. Big thanks to all who entered!

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7 Tricks for Making Life Stress-Free as a Spoonie Mother Hen

7-tips for Making Life Stress-Free as a Spoonie/Mother Hen

Being a mother hen is hard work. Being a mother spoonie hen is even harder. I became a spoonie when my baby chicks were born. My pullets are now 16 and 12, but when they were baby chicks was the hardest.

How do you feed your flock when you can’t feed yourself? How do get them to school when you can’t get out of bed yourself? And how do you set boundaries and rules when you can’t enforce them?

Here are 7 tricks for making life stress-free as a spoonie mother hen.

  • Store chick feed and water at their level: Storing snack packs and sippy cups at your baby chicks level is essential. When they need something it is within arms reach. They can get what they need without needing a stool or climbing on counters. I did this for food in the refrigerator too. Whatever they normally snack on if it is accessible you can instruct them what and where to get what they need.
  • Teach your baby chicks to be independent: My goal as the mother hen is to raise healthy independent birds. I want them to grow up and find food for themselves and run their own coop one day. My chicks learned by doing. If they wanted something to eat, I told them where it was and they got it themselves. This helps when you store things at their level.
  • Use the TV: Yep. You heard that right. We had the TV on all time in our coop. Not because I wanted to, but because you can only lay on the couch or in bed for so long before your brain turns to mush. Now I managed what we watched and used the TV to teach life lessons my chicks couldn’t experience due to my lack of spoons. It bonded us and now my whole flock has a love for movies and we have a movie night every Friday.
  • Spend Time with your Chicks: Just because you are laying around doesn’t mean you can’t spend time with your flock. Many nights my rooster and chicks all climbed into my bed and we ate dinner in bed. I have many pictures of us playing cards, games, coloring, and reading. These are all things you can do even though you can’t leave your nesting box.
  • Rely on Your Neighbors: It is OK to ask for help. My neighbor brought us food ever so often and let my baby chicks come to her house to play on a really bad day. We took turns taking them to school and picking them up and I always knew I could call her if I needed her an extra day of the week. I found most people are willing to help if they know you need help.
  • Learn to Tell your Chicks No: This one can be difficult. As mother hens, we want to give our baby chicks the world. Other flocks are doing it all. But your reality is that you physically can’t do it all. So figure out what your limits are and set boundaries to follow. My flock does not participate in sporting activities (we did try a few, but they didn’t like them). We limit school events, church events and shopping excursions giving us more time together as a flock and not pushing my body’s boundaries.
  • Don’t Judge Yourself by Others Standards: This is a hard one. The play dates I managed to attend seldom made me feel like a great mother hen. I listened to other hens talk of cooking great meals, going on hikes, limiting their chicks TV and guilt climbed into my nesting box and made itself a permanent resident. Remember what works for your home will be different than other homes. It is OK to be different!

These work for me and my flock and rest assured some of these won’t work for you. I hope you will try each task holding onto what works and discard what doesn’t.

Question: What tricks do you have up your sleeve for being a spoonie mother hen?

 

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25 Ways to Conserve Spoons in your Nesting Box

If you count spoons in your coop you know how easy it is to lose them and how hard it is to regain them. The most obvious way to keep a healthy supply of spoons is to never lose them, but you and I both know that isn’t possible. The other logical way to maintain a spoon stash is to replenish them when you can. But even replenishing spoons can take effort, which in a sense causes you to lose more than you gain.

So What gives?

This mamma hen has found a few ways to collect spoons and add them to my nesting box when I can.

  1. Eat Right for YOU: Everyone has their own dietary suggestions of what will fix you and make you healthy. You know what your body likes and doesn’t. Listen to your body above your peers.
  2. Eat frequently: Life on the homestead is a busy one. Don’t get so busy that you forget to eat. Eating every couple of hours can keep your spoon level higher.
  3. Take Vitamins: In this day and age I wonder if we are eating any real food at all. With the GMOs and processed foods on the market, it’s hard to believe there is any nuturional value at all in what we eat. Vitamins will help make up deficiencies and give your body the boost it needs to keep a steady supply of spoons.
  4. Exercise: I know, I know us spoonies have a hard time with this one. If we had the energy to do it, we would. And often times exercise puts us in bed for a week. Find something that works for you and don’t over do it. Even a walk around your property is enough to boost your energy levels.
  5. Rest as you can: If you’re like me, you’re tired of resting. But this one is important. Once you over do it your spoons start sliding out from under you faster than you meant for them to. Resting replenishes spoons.
  6. Pace Yourself: This one is easier said than done. When I have a day full of spoons, I want to accomplish all I can in that day (because who knows when I’ll have that many spoons again)! But when I pace myself, I conserve spoons and they last longer than one day.
  7. Find an Activity you enJOY: You’d be surprised at how doing something you love can replenish spoons. Whether it’s crafting, reading, shopping, coffee with a friend or taking care of your chickens, when you enjoy what you’re doing your spoons last longer.
  8. Limit Your Time with Negative People: This one falls into the category of conserving spoons. Negative people often times use more spoons than cleaning my whole coop can. If you find you are worn out and exhausted after being around certain people, limit your time together.
  9. Journal Your Thoughts: As a writer this comes naturally to me, but keeping a journal allows you to get out your frustrations, thoughts and emotions so you aren’t using spoons dwelling on them.
  10. Keep a Routine: I find this to be critical to maintaining my spoon count. Any deviation from my routine results in spoon loss. Find a routine that works for you and stick to it.
  11. Get Good Sleep: For me, there is a direct connection from sleeping well to feeling well. If I can’t sleep, I take a sleep aide (natural or otherwise). I require a solid 10 hours a night to be at my best. Give your body what it needs.
  12. Eat Before Bed: It is said you should not eat before bed, but I find if I eat some apples and peanut butter (something high is protein) it helps stabilize my blood sugar when I sleep. Thus I feel better when I wake.
  13. Tell Others No: Knowing your limits is essential to keeping your spoons. When someone asks me if I can do something, I tell them I’ll need to look at my calendar and if I have too much going that week, I say no.
  14. Give Yourself Space: As a mamma hen raising two chicks and a rooster to care for, I don’t get near the amount of space I need in the coop. Often times I send the chicks to a friend’s house and the rooster to the shop. Space can replenish spoons! It gives you time to just think and be with no one needing anything from you.
  15. Spend Time with People: This one requires balance. People either increase or decrease my spoon count. Some days I need to be around others to remind me I’m human and not alone, other days I need to be alone. But on the days you muster enough energy to engage with people. Do it.
  16. Hire Help: I can not always afford it, but when finances allow, I hire someone to clean my coop. That deep spring cleaning that’s needed every year? It’s too hard on me and my spoons are worth paying someone to do it for me.
  17. Choose Your Battles: Not every decision is worth the spoon count. Prioritize and make decisions based on necessity and let the other stuff go.
  18. Learn to Let Go: There are so many things on my homestead to take care of that some tasks just don’t get done. It’s not uncommon for me to go to bed with a sink full of dishes or laundry piled high. Do what you can and know you’ll get to the other stuff later.
  19. Find a good counselor: Nothing builds up my spoon count like counseling. Having someone to talk to about my health limitations, keep my perspective in place and not damage current relationships is essential to collecting more spoons. If you can’t afford a counselor most churches have a pastor you can talk to.
  20. Find a good support group: Support groups are important because you realize you aren’t alone. Many people struggle with the same things and learning from them will keep your spoons at a higher count. But be wary, some groups focus on negativity and that can deplete your spoons, so find a positive support group.
  21. Try Alternative Medicine: I have little faith in our medical system. They know the basics sure, but when I am in pain and all tests come back normal, there’s little hope in gaining spoons from there. I have found chiropractic care works wonders for me. Others swear by acupuncture and meditation. Don’t be afraid to think outside of box.
  22. Listen to Your Body: My body tells me when it’s starting to shut down. I can be in the middle of a task and it hits a wall. When that happens, stop your task and wait for your body to tell you when it’s ready to start again.
  23. Find Something to Focus On: It is said those who count spoons do better when their focus is not on their spoon count. I have found this to be true. Having a project to work on (writing a book, blogging, canning, sewing, gardening, etc.) gives me something to think about other than the way I feel.
  24. Share Responsibilities: Divide household chores up among family members. Make a list of the things you can physically achieve. The ones you cannot give to other members.
  25. Listen to Uplifting Music: One ways I stay positive is to listen to uplifting music. Fill your mind and heart with positive messages.

Please know this mamma hen doesn’t do all of these things every day. Just pick a couple and try them. You may just look down and see a couple of extra spoons in your apron pocket!

Question: What ways do you conserve spoons?

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Protect Your Flock with a Set of Chicken Aprons

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Did you know aprons are made for more than just moms in a kitchen? Chickens wear them too?

This week the Hall Heritage Homestead is proud to present Chicken Aprons!

What is a chicken apron you ask?

A chicken apron slides around the wings of the hen and lays across her back protecting her feathers.

Often times roosters get a little randy with the girls or he may have a favorite hen. As a result the hen’s feathers become damaged or their skin can be punctured by the roosters feet. This is especially true if you have more than one rooster in a flock.

Now if you don’t have roosters at your homestead these aprons may not be a top priority. But they are so fun you’ll want them for your girls just so they can look pretty foraging when they free range!

Patterns selected reflect a old farmhouse feel and are a timeless item for any homestead.

Each aprons consist of three layers. The top layer is made from ticking, printed duck fabric or furniture grade fabric for durability. The middle layer is interfacing for added protection. The last layer is cotton for comfort-ability. Each apron has a 1/4″ elastic running through to wrap around each wing so the apron stays on the bird.

4 aprons come in a set and the material may vary. Included is one small, one medium and two large aprons. A small size will fit most Silkies, Polish, Leghorns, etc. A medium size will fit Barred Rock, Rhode Island Reds, etc. And a large will fit Orpington size birds.

These are great additions to any homestead and are wash and wear. A light iron may be needed, but I don’t iron my own clothes, let alone my flock’s.

Priced at just $25.00 for a set they are inexpensive and serve a purpose. These items only ship in the United States. Please remember when you purchase from me, you are supporting the SpoonieChick and the Hall Heritage Homestead.

You can visit my shop or click here to be directed to this item.

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5 Tips for a Stress Free Fall

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Fall arrived at the homestead last week! The trees wear coats of brown, gold and auburn. The cooler temps make it bearable to be outside in the south. Winterizing the actual hen house is in full swing, the rye grass is planted and garlic lay nestled beneath the soil. My cabinets hold jars of green beans, chicken broth and tomatoes from summer, and now it’s time to buckle down for winter.

But as temps cool, this old hen’s body starts shutting down. Now I don’t think my chickens feel the aches and pains of winter like I do, but they certainly slow down this time of year too. Less sunlight means slower egg production and when they molt they stop laying eggs altogether.

Now my birds have pine shavings, hay, corn and black sunflower seeds to keep them warm and healthy this season. They seem to love the transition into fall. I do too, but it does bring  stress on my body.

Does this happen to you?

Through the years of trial and error I have found 5 tricks for a stress-free fall.

As I gear up for fall I make sure I have all the ingredients needed for these 5 tricks.

  • Hot Baths: In the summer I seldom take baths unless my muscles demand it, but during the fall and winter season, baths start up in full force. Quite honestly they become part of my nightly routine. And if it’s been a particularly long day, I’ll throw in some Epsom salt, baking soda, celtic salt and an essential oil. For those of us old birds who can remember the Calgon commercials…it’s just. like. that.
  • Bump up your Vitamin and Essential Oil use: I believe in the balance of modern medicine and natural medicine. I take 3000mg of Vitamin C a day and keep cold medicine on hand. I seldom use the cold medicine as Vitamin C is a miracle worker all by itself. Oils are one of those things I’ve started using more frequently, but in the winter you can’t possibly use them too much. This hen diffuses Breathe Easier at night while I sleep, a Fall Spice Cider blend during the day (because you know, it’s fall) and I put Frankencense in my homemade body lotion to help me stay hydrated and calm.
  • Throw an Electric Blanket on your Bed:  When cold temps hurt your bones, it only makes sense warmth soothes them. In the winter we bust out the flannel sheets and throw the electric blanket on the bed. We buy a simple one from Wal-Mart or Kohls, but we make sure it has dual controls. My rooster roasts when he sleeps, so dual controls are great for us. This hen with old bones needs a high temp to keep the pain at bay to ensure a good night’s sleep.
  • Bring on the CuddlDuds: About 75% of my pain comes from the cold. One way I counteract it is to layer up! I learned that small trick living a short stent in Illinois. But I don’t like the bulk of layered clothes, so I’ve invested in CuddlDuds. These are thin microfiber leggings and tops that cling to your body preventing your body heat from escaping. The best part? The wind does not go through them! So when I wear dress pants or jeans I can’t feel the cold when I’m sporting my CuddlDuds. You can find them many places now, but Wal-Mart has started carrying them, and this hen on a tight budget can’t pass up those rollback prices.
  • Use a Light Therapy Lamp: Nothing can supplement good ole fashioned Vitamin D from the sunshine the Lord made, but having a medical light therapy lamp is a good option. For those of us suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) light therapy is an excellent solution for getting through the fall and winter months! For an overview of how it works click here. Now, I must admit I haven’t tried it myself, but one of my very good friends used one when she lived in Alaska and swears by them. I plan to try it this year!

For those who don’t know, Arkansas has short falls and winters. It’s the best climate for homesteading because this hen has A LOT of grow-able days in the garden. And shorter falls and winters are better for me physically. I manage this regimen from November until about April maintaining a stress free environment. And then the glorious sun comes out and all is as it should be.

Question: What tricks do you have to get through the fall season?

 

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