Gimme Shelter

House Finch_LaVeta-CO_LAH_2316The summer birds have all departed for southern climes or lower altitudes. Many of our human friends have done likewise. Those of us who remain are simmering soup, digging out winter clothes and making sure our homes are snug and warm. The birds who hang around all winter have the same needs—high energy food, winter clothes and snug, warm homes.

We can’t help much with the wardrobe—birds already have down jackets! When they get cold, they simply puff up their feathers, trapping warm air against their bodies. This works remarkably well—until the wind kicks in. And we have a lot of wind.

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Coops (continued)

hen_blkforest_20090729_lah_7828Last week I wrote about the design and layout of chicken coops. Today we’ll talk about the inside.

Lighting

If your coop is large, you’ll need some light inside so that you and the hens can see. Also, chickens lay eggs when days are long, then stop and molt when fall arrives. If you want them to continue producing eggs into the darker months, you’ll need an artificial light source (and electricity).

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Coops

chicken-coop_lah_9119The biggest investment in keeping chickens is their housing. Chickens are remarkably hardy birds, but they need some sort of shelter to make it though a Colorado winter. They also need protection from raccoons, possums, foxes, owls, coyotes, hawks, weasels, and neighborhood dogs.

Of course, the chickens don’t care what their coop looks like, just as long as it keeps them sheltered and safe. From our human perspective, appearance matters. So does convenience.

What should you consider when designing a coop (or choosing a plan)? Today and next week I’ll share what I’ve learned about housing chickens.

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Helping Birds Through the Winter

mountain-chickadee_blkforestco_20100324_lah_1150The tiny bird fluffs its feathers against the cold, while the north wind whips sleet into the pine branches surrounding its perch. With all water sources frozen, it has to use precious body warmth to melt the snow it eats. Last year’s crop of seeds is buried under a layer of white. Wild birds are amazingly hardy creatures, but even the sturdiest Mountain Chickadee (above) finds conditions like these a challenge.

There are a number of ways we can make our yards more hospitable to wintering birds. They need food, water, and shelter to survive. With increased urbanization, all three of these are becoming more scarce, so our efforts may make the difference in whether or not a bird survives until spring.

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