The winter in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan is long, cold and tiring. It’s rough on everybody, sure. But it’s even tougher on the critters that don’t have a leather recliner to snuggle into by the wood-fired stove. The winter of 2014 took the heaviest toll on the chickens of Heavy Hardwood Corner. They were plagued with sickness, causing six of them to pay the ultimate sacrifice over the course of the cold months. Egg production stopped. The chickens were no longer pulling their weight. They were barely hanging on, just trying to survive until the spring sun warmed up the chicken park again.
During the spring and summer of 2014, we vowed to make changes. We didn’t want the flock to have to fight through the cold months like they did during one of the harshest winters on record. We raised a batch of brand new laying hens throughout the summer months, and we headed into the winter of 2014-2015 with 10 hens, optimistic that they’d stay healthy and productive.
They did. It’s now March, and we still have 10 hens. Throughout February, the coldest month of the year, they pumped out seven to 10 eggs daily. Even when the temperatures dipped to 25 degrees below zero, the chickens produced. Even when the winds whipped through the woods at a blistering 30 mph, the chickens clucked in the coop with a smile across their beaks.
Here’s how we did it.
It’s only the beginning of March. I know we’re not in the clear yet. In fact, it was minus 23 degrees just three days ago when I chored the chickens in the morning. We have weeks until the April rains wash away the last of the snow and ice, bringing the chickens back out on the search for free-ranging forage once again. But we’ll stay the course, knowing what we’ve done this winter works.
If all goes well, the hens will stay the course too, living happily and healthily in the cold, providing us with a brand new batch of fresh eggs every day.