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We’re closed–but there’s still DRAMA!

Check back regularly! here’s last month’s drama! Egg season will begin in spring 2021!

December Coop News 2020

Of course freezing weather began December, continued from November’s last days. It’s winter. We were ready and put up the plastic weather barrier in a matter of minutes. The ladies huddled together on the really cold nights, like the 31-degree morning of Christmas Eve but mostly enjoyed the sunny days. So did hawks! One swooped barely over the myrtles, sending the ladies to safety! We planted the myrtles for their spikey top branches that can’t hold a hawk, but can give a sharp poke, deterring a ‘fly through’. So far, that theory has, gratefully, held! We ended the month grateful for rainfall! Although it wasn’t freezing weather, grey skies and cold rain ended the month!

Winterizing the coop involves applying white or clear heavy plastic to the exterior meshed part of The Garden Coop and adding the plastic slatted door cover for the roost entrance. The plastic exterior wrap allows light and heat inside, similar to greenhouse, passive solar heating. The coop is oriented with entrance facing East so the sun warms it in winter. With leaves gone from the Crepe Myrtles, which helped provide spring/summer shade, now let the sun in, keeping it five degrees warmer. That difference means the ladies wake up to find their water drinkable after a really cold night. To help keep the heat the hens generate inside their roost area, the slatted plastic (placemat) partition covers the roost area door. I cut vertical slits every two inches, making a lightweight, nearly solid cold barrier. Some use fancy chicken curtains—cute, but mites enjoy living in fabric, so I have stuck with plastic. The ladies get chummy (forgiving grudges) as nights get colder. Their body’s temperature is around 105 degrees. Three or four hens together stay cozy without any help from any heating. It is dangerous to heat a coop—coop fires and tragedies are seen each year as newbies learn a horrific lesson. Altogether, the winterizing only takes about an hour, an enjoyable outdoor task on a nice day in the 50’s. Now the hens will stay warm and dry.

Door Danger!!! As we finished with the white plastic weather barrier to the mesh parts of The Garden Coop, I nailed the roost door protection over the roost entrance. The hens stick a beak between slats, see the roost area, and walk effortlessly through! That’s the theory! And, since the ladies all learned how last year, I figured all was good! I forgot Red is a new chicken–new to everything! I hoped she’d watch the others and just follow everyone through the plastic slats for the night! Nope. The night I put up the roost door cover, I checked on everyone, opening up the big roost clean out door and shining a light around, counting. Rosie, Dottie, and Sophie, murmured curses at me from the top back roost and Sassy, Sunny and Speckles ducked their heads on the front roost. Red was missing. I called as I searched. I knew she had come back into the chicken yard with everyone that evening. I checked around the coop, softly calling,and finally looked at the spot, under the fallen branch, where I’d found her hidden eggs. There was Red, but she dashed out immediately, squawking! Lucky me, she ran into the corner and I grabbed her up in my arms! With calming words, Lil’ Red stopped squawking, so I set her by the covered roost door. She leaped back into my arms. More soothing and another attempt. She sat down and squeezed her eyes shut. I picked her up again, gave her some encouraging words and tried again, pushing her head through the plastic slats so she could see the other hens. After a moment, she walked in and inspected the nest boxes. I got her settled on a roost without further drama, and said “Good Night”. It took a week of encouraging her in and out through the slatted cover before she did it herself.

Good Eats! When the hens were making lots of eggs, customers came first and we rarely got eggs for ourselves. With the ‘farm’ closed, we had the luxury of fresh eggs sometimes for breakfast and in dishes. Bacon and eggs are always welcome! A crust less quiche is good with roasted vegetables on a chilly evening. Sweet Lil’ Red has been gifting us an egg each morning so she’s our Star Layer this month!!! We are thankful! Of course, freezing eggs is also possible! Simply mix the yolk together with the albumen in ice cube trays, popping them out into a freezer bag once frozen! They’re then ready to thaw for a morning scramble, or any recipe calling for eggs. Add an extra egg to pancakes, waffles, or cornbread to make them extra yummy! They’re good to feed the hens. If you broke or cracked one and don’t want to eat it, just cook in the microwave with no spices, mix with their usual breakfast and give them a great start to their day! We never waste an egg! But, since we don’t eat eggs on a regular basis—habit, I guess—we packed a dozen for a deserving neighbor. We gave a dozen to the neighbors who’d called us about the chicken in their yard. Lil’ Red’s brown eggs made a beautiful presentation—complete with New Year confetti! We know she was thankful for being saved.

Tending and watching our sweet —and sometimes quarrelsome—flock has been such a relief from awful news and mental strain this year. The ladies seem to have enjoyed participating in our outdoor celebrations. We just might continue the activity as friends did too—partly because they enjoyed watching our flock too! We’re happy to add to anyone’s joy! We’re so glad the weather cooperated to make those (masked and safely-distanced) gatherings possible! We’re hoping everyone stayed safe and well through the holidays, making unique memories to remember. We hope our tales of the ladies’ doin’s have brought a giggle and helped you through the tough times this year and hope you’re ready for more.

Though memorable, this year’s roller-coaster ride is gladly over. The ladies turn their fluffy sides to 2020, and dream of luscious bugs emerging this spring. We drank a “Good Riddance 2020” with peppermint martinis! A big pot of Black-eyed Peas is simmering around the Christmas ham bone and jalapeños. We’re ready to celebrate The New Year—safely, of course! Cheers!

(we’re on instagram: #cluckinbetterfarm)