Took a trip down to Big R in Homer Glen with MashupDad today — it’s a great place to pick up feed for your backyard chickens, among other things!
A couple of you had asked about how we care for the girls in the winter months, and here’s MashupDad showing off the newer cleaner model of the exact heated poultry waterer he uses in the winter to keep their water from freezing. Since our chicken coop is in our old detached garage, there’s power out there and it’s easy to plug in the heated waterer when needed — but during the rest of the year, he just uses the DIY chicken waterer he told you guys about here.
It’s also important to remember to collect the eggs every day in the winter, especially when we get polar vortex-y around here. We forgot one day earlier this week and ended up with a couple of eggs that froze and burst before we got to them. So, MashupDad scrambled them up and fed them right back to the chickens (yup, they are little feathered cannibals!).
Initially he did use a little heater out in the garage on the coldest winter days, but after more experience and research, the chickens are fine in the cold weather as long as they don’t get wet, and as long as they have a dry place to be that’s protected from the wind. Their coop in the garage protects them from the elements, and they do tend to venture outside very little when the temperature drops to, say, the 2 degrees it was when I looked at the weather this morning. They also don’t like to walk around out in the run when there’s very much snow, and will either stay under the garage overhang and bushes where it’s more protected, or just choose to stay inside the coop if it’s too deep. MashupDad will throw some extra scratch in the coop to keep them churning up the straw when they spend extended periods of times indoors.
We also have a light on a timer in the coop to help extend the chickens’ “day” to keep them laying in the winter; it goes on about 6 AM to keep “sunrise” fairly consistent, and goes off about 7 PM. We do still get eggs all through the season, although their egg production is definitely down from its peak in the summer months.
When we first started our backyard chicken adventure, we got the initial chickens and feed at The Feed Store. At Big R, however, the feed is about half the price, so now we always pick it up there. Today we got a 40 lb bag of scratch and 50 lb bag of feed for about $21 total. These two bags will last our chickens about two months in the winter, depending how many scraps they also get from our kitchen — but will last much longer in the summer, when they also have access to peck around outside and scratch up plants and bugs to eat.
(And for those who are curious, organic feed at Big R runs just over twice as much as conventional.)
Overall, Big R is a pretty cool store to check out if you’re interested in backyard chickens (or farming, or hunting, or…) On our trip today we saw everything from beekeeping materials, to wood stoves, to deer blocks, to duck decoys, to barbed wire fencing — and more. Some items are more of a bargain than others, but they definitely win out in the all important chicken feed category. 🙂