Last night we moved the chickens into their winter hoophouse, just as the snow started falling. We seem to have a knack for squeaking by when we have deadlines to face. Each year the autumn weather patterns are a bit different, so we don’t have hard calendar deadlines. Rather there is a complex coefficient of management hassle that tells us when to bring the chickens in. This is hard science folks:
coefhassle = rain + 2(snow + mud) + cold
Chickens don’t need protection from a little bit of snow, but with the nights in the teens and twenties and the days above freezing, the soil becomes gooey and the chickens turn the area around their pasture coop into a muddy slurry. Added to that is is the problem of moving their coop. We move their coop periodically to keep them on fresh grass, but in this weather the coop begins to sink into the mud. Last night I was barely able to get the coop towed out of the pasture, leaving big ruts as the tractor clawed its way along in four wheel drive. So we knew the time was right to move them to their winter home.
The chickens have a fenced yard out behind the hoophouse, but for the first two days we’ll keep them enclosed to latch their brains onto the idea that this is their home. After their homing instinct connects with this shelter, we’ll be able to let them out during the day without having to herd them back at night.