Sunday, February 16, 2014

Barnyard mysteries

Hmm... it has been an interesting morning.  We have sunshine and moderate temps today.  The lull between storms.  A couple of inches of snow yesterday afternoon and more ice and snow expected tomorrow.  Oh, the joys of winter in the midwest.  At least the temperature seems to have gotten over this sub-zero nonsense.
But the cold has taken its toll.  Our frost-free hydrant in the barnyard is frozen.  So I had to carry the waterer for the chickens into the house to fill it in the bathtub in the basement.  Justine, I will be sure to clean the tub well after the hydrant thaws.
But more mysterious is the heat lamp in the chicken coop.  We have a ceramic heater (just infra-red, no light) on a thermo-cube that only comes on when it is cold (I forget the cut-off temp, I think it is 25 or 30).  It helps but isn't terribly effective.  So, with the really, really cold temps we've had, I replaced the regular lightbulb in the coop with a heat lamp.  We've only turned it on when the temps are forecast for below -5F because it produces enough light to keep the chickens awake all night (even though it isn't supposed to because it's coated red) and they eat us out of house and home!  But, back to the mystery.  I know the light was off last night when I closed up the coop for the night.  However, this morning, it was on and no one else has been outside.  And it is on a pull chain that we have tied to the side so it doesn't make contact with the bulb.  Mystery!
V's guess is that there was a bit of frost built up inside the fixture and the last time it was turned off the switch didn't fully switch to 'off' and the warm up was enough to melt the ice and turn it on.  That is possible but I find it weird that it happened at night and not on some of those sunny days when the coop has been fairly warm.  Who knows.  Maybe one of the hens was cold and too smart for her own good.  Or just fluttering too high off the roost.
The ladies have been laying well.  We have been getting 8-10 eggs/day.  Not too shabby from 13 hens, 9 of whom are 3 years old.
I've got some little seedlings up under the grow lights.  Some chard, kale, bok choy, lettuce and spinach destined for the greenhouse.  I'm itching to start my main season crops but I know it's still too early for that. But, just having little seedlings up helps with the winter blahs I've been having.  But sooner than the tomatoes and peppers I long to start, I'll be starting my cool season broccoli and such.  I ordered some romanesco seeds and I'm excited to see how it does.  They look so awesome in a fractal-ly delicious way.
I hope you are all 'weathering' the winter well.  The weather seems to have been so extreme just about everywhere this year.


  1. We have about the same number of hens as you but ours aren't laying quite as well. At least we're getting enough for our own use now though . . . and are past the dreaded winter molting period!

    Do you have heat in your greenhouse at night? I'm sure whatever you put out there soon would be fine during the day, but with no heat wouldn't your greenhouse temp drop to the same as outside temps?

    1. We don't have any extra heat in the greenhouse. That's why this winter was a bust. It does pretty well if the temps are only into the teens or 20's but this extended sub-zero season just froze everything.
      I've got paver blocks that act as a heat-sink. My only other 'solar heater' is a 5 gallon bucket, painted black on the outside, filled with water. The black exterior warms the water during the day when it is sunny and then it radiates heat at night. But it has been too cold for that to work very well. And enough cloudy days that it was mostly frozen all winter. I'm probably going to dump the icy water out and fill it with fresh water when I plant things.

  2. We're having a mild spell- 45, but cold on the way back late this week. Sunny and windy!

    1. Ooo... 45! And I was thinking the 28 we had today was warm! But more snow on the way tonight into tomorrow. Stay warm!!

  3. I have a light on a timer in my coop - during the worst of the dark days, I try and give them light most of the day. If the temps are over mid-teens at night, I don't leave it on. If it plummets down to the single digits and below zero, I leave it on all night. So far we haven't had any cases of frostbite, but it does get costly by the end of the endless winter. I am trying not to start my seedlings too early, but it is so tempting so see a little green after all this white and grey!


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