5 Essential Ways to Prepare Your Chickens for Winter

Chickens are surprisingly good at keeping themselves warm, with around 8,500 feathers; a chicken will fluff them up, trap air under her down and keep warm and cosy for hours. However, extremely cold weather and damp will leave your chickens feeling chilly and uncomfortable so it’s important to prepare your chickens and their coop for the winter months.

This post, written by coop specialists Eggshell Online, will talk you through the best ways to keep your chickens happy throughout the winter:

Protecting Your Coop from Drafts

Contrary to common belief, your chickens don’t need insulated houses to keep warm in winter; keeping your coop closed up can make the air unhealthy and can lead to nasty respiratory diseases in your birds. What’s important is keeping your coops ventilated whilst still protecting your chickens from cold winds and drafts, so block up any large gaps and place vents up high, near the roof.

 Heating – It’s Your Call

Most chickens, particularly the hardy breeds will not need heat lamps. If you do decide to heat your coops you must do it correctly – by heating the whole coop. The problem with using just one heat lamp or only heating a section of the hen house is that the birds will only be warm when their under the lamp. Once they move to reach the food or water they can become very cold, very quickly as they won’t have their feathers fluffed up – it’s not good for them to go from one extreme temperature to another. The alternative is that you leave your coop completely unheated, birds will huddle together to keep themselves warm.

Keeping Floors Clean and Dry

It’s vital that cleanliness is still a priority in your chicken coop throughout winter, it must be kept as dry as possible; their droppings can create a lot of moisture so regularly shovelling out in your coop is essential. Make sure you have a good supply of shavings to lay on the floor to keep it nice and dry.

The ground where your chickens can roam around outside needs to be well maintained too, the cold weather won’t bother them too much but they don’t like walking in snow! Try to create a snow free space for them outside by clearing some of it away, if this isn’t possible then lay some logs down and they will use those to avoid the cold ground. Adding a layer of hay over the snow can also help cheer your birds up.

Lighting Your Coop

Chickens love sunlight and during the cold months it’s not unusual for you to see a significant drop in egg production, you can try to counter this by using light bulbs. Chickens needs fourteen hours of sunlight per day for optimal egg laying conditions so many people choose to use a light on a timer. This should be turned on in the early morning but it shouldn’t be used through the night, make sure it’s turned off before nightfall, this gives your chickens chance to naturally acclimatise to the evening light and settle into their roosts before dark. 

Food and Water Needs

Your chickens, just like any other animal, need a constant supply of fresh water at their disposal, this means you need to find a way of combatting freezing water in your coop. You can do this by placing your water containers directly on top of a base heater or you could invest in a heated water dish.

Your chickens will use extra calories keeping warm in the colder months so upping their food intake slightly will help keep them at a healthy weight. It can get a little boring for your birds with less room to roam so hide treats or hang veggies such as cabbages from the coop for them to peck at.

Although your chickens do need to be protected during the winter months it’s still important to give them their freedom, they’re tougher than people think - let them out regularly to roam around, if they don’t want to be outside they’ll soon head back into the coop on their own accord.

Win a Delicious Healthy Veg Box

Riverford delivers healthy delicious and award-winning organic vegboxes and other food fresh straight  from the farm to your door and for this months competition we have one of their fantastic well packed hampers to give away.

Riverford offers a range of weekly organic essentials like vegetables as well eggs, milk, meat, juices and cereals, they can even deliver wine and chocolate when you need a treat and their amazing Organic vegboxes start from just £10.35 for the small classic vegebox. The Riverford box scheme began when Guy Watson started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends in Devon. They now deliver around 40,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from their regional farms. Ordering is easy and flexible, delivery is free and you don’t even need to be at home.

The prize is a large vegbox with meat that will be enough organic meat and veg to feed 4+ people for around a week. Typically 12 veg varieties with potatoes, carrots and onions most weeks. You’ll also get 3 RSPCA award-winning meat items that will always include a joint and mince, plus a different cut such as diced chicken.

To be in with a chance simply tell us what you would like to cook with your prize and who you would love to cook the meal for.

Extra entries can be made by sharing this competition on Twitter (include #DiligentGardener) or by liking our page and sharing the competition on Facebook.

An additional entry can be made by "following" this blog via Google Friend Connect

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 31 October 2014. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random from the valid entries and will be announced here on the blog. Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win.

Garden Storage Options for Your Tools and Bikes this Winter

Those cold winter months are just around the corner and that means that if you’ve not already started, then it is time to start making preparations for your garden. It may be hard to believe, but a garden is not all about your luscious lawn and well-tended shrubs and beautiful flower beds. From your BBQ to your bike to that abundance of garden tools you’ve collected over the years, there are just so many items that require protection from the harsh weather conditions. With those chilly, autumnal days are fast approaching and so there really is no better time to consider your winter storage options.

“Spring” Clean

It’s important to keep your garden tools out of the wind and rain and the more you look after your tools, the longer they’ll last. Ensure you clean them properly before storing them, or else they could rust or become stiff before spring arrives. A warm bucket of soapy water and a household sponge are the easiest way in which to do so, but be sure to clean those hard to reach places too.

If you’ve decided to put your bike into storage for the winter months or even just for a few days, then you’ll most likely want to consider giving it a clean and a quick check up before you do. You may already carry out a yearly service on your bike to make sure that is in safe, working order but it’s vital that your bike is cleaned and oiled regularly too. Especially if it’s going to go untouched for a few months, or else you run the risk of it rusting or tainting. 

Storage Facilities

Garden storage is a must for any garden and no matter how big or small your garden may be, there are plenty of options available to you. The garden shed is nothing new, having been a firm fixture in back gardens for many, many years and are the obvious solution to storing a whole host of items. Whether you opt for a metal, plastic or wooden frame, making room for a garden shed can help you to keep your garden tidy and your tools safe and secure.

It’s so important that you utilise the space inside your shed as best you can, especially if your shed isn’t the largest.
Clever space saving ideas such as mounting your tools to the wall of your shed, or turning old plant pots into storage containers.

Cycling seems to have become somewhat of a staple hobby for a huge amount of people this summer thanks to the Tour de France arriving in the UK. If you’d rather not store your expensive bikes with your lawnmower, then fear not, as there is an easy solution. Companies such as
Sheds and Things offer a range of bike storage options and whether you want to store one bike or four, they come in a range of sizes to suit you (and your garden).

Winter aside, keeping your tools, your bike and other garden items stored correctly is extremely important, not just in terms of maintenance, but in terms of security too.

Why Garden Furniture completes a Garden

Your garden is something very personal to you; you look after it, you decide how it looks and more significantly you decide what goes in it. With that final point I’m not just referring to the trees, flowers or herbs you may plant, or the appliances and tools; yes these are an important part of it but what really completes your garden above all is the furniture you choose.

It could be said that a garden without furniture is like a guitar without any strings – you have the basic elements but there’s a crucial part missing that you need to get before you can fully enjoy it. What’s more is there are specific areas of your garden that you will find have their own unique features when you acquire yourself some furniture for them.

A patio is without a doubt a place for socialising all year round; from the excitement of bonfire night to the warm late summer evenings – a patio is a place for friends and family to gather.

What you can’t expect though is for everybody to remain standing the whole time they are out there, nor will they have enough hands to hold all of the potential food, drinks and technical devices you expect to see at social occasions these days - the obvious solution to this is some furniture. Shackletons provide a fantastic range, from tables to loungers to sofas that will accommodate your every need. Also you will be able to find the type, size and material that you think best matches your patio – this is as much your choice as the rest of your garden and with the right ones your social events will feel just right.

Your Lawn
The other area that cries out for some furniture is your lawn. In the spring and summer months your lawn will be a lush emerald while your plants will be blooming and blossoming into a kaleidoscope of colour for you to enjoy; the autumn will then show off its pretty, golden browns before the winter potentially showers your garden with a blanket of crisp snow. Whatever the season nothing will beat sitting out in and relaxing on your own comfy bench or chair, feeling yourself calmly unwinding in your own personal Eden. 

Finally, much like your patio the choice is yours from a design point of view; the materials and types are entirely up to you. Channel your inner-nobility and go for a traditional 1900s Edwardian look or go for a more contemporary style – whatever you decide you will find that the furniture really does complete your garden.

Sliding Doors: A Perfect Fit for your Garden

Are you are considering home improvement of some variety? Perhaps aimed at making the most of the sometimes sadly overlooked garden you have? There is a straightforward and very effective means in which to do this - installing a set of sliding doors on the rear of your house or perhaps even on your greenhouse or on your shed.

You may think that sliding doors are reserved only for beach houses and might not suit your property and garden, however this is certainly not the case and by getting some fitted you will be opening yourself up to the many, many benefits that come with this choice. So what are some of the positives on offer to you?

Natural Beauty
If you take great pride in your backyard you should be showing it off for all to see; many beautiful gardens often go unnoticed purely because they cannot be seen or are obscured by closed doors and shut blinds. By replacing your dull back door or rear wall with a set of sliding doors it will be impossible for people to ignore what you have worked so hard to nurture. On top of the wonderful view you’ll get other plus points are that the doors will let in lots of natural light to your house illuminating the interior, you will find yourself saving on energy bills as your house is warmed by nature and you will save a great deal of space without the hassle of a hinged, swinging door.

Greenhouse Effect
Sliding doors aren’t just for your house – by adding a set to your Greenhouse not only will they give it a complete and finished look you will reap the benefits of convenience by casually being able to slide the door open without running the risk of a swing door clattering into you or damaging any of your plants.
Further to this your plant life will thank you when they grow strong, healthy and plentiful thanks to the full light they will get should you choose to fit in glass panelled doors.

Don’t forget the Shed

Yet another place you could fit them would be on your garden shed. Again, aside from being a more convenient and aesthetically pleasing addition, you will also gain added peace of mind knowing your tools and lawn equipment are safe and secure behind a set of sturdy, robust and well-made sliding doors.

Why Choose a Polytunnel to Grow Your Garden?

More and more people are taking steps to grow their own fruit and vegetables in their very own garden. Apart from the extra work to nurture and tend to your own produce, it is actually incredibly satisfying and helps to build a sustainable lifestyle.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or don’t know where to start, picking your plot and the best environment to grow your own plants is often a tricky decision. Many people opt for greenhouses but polytunnels are an increasingly popular alternative - here’s why.

1. Loads of Light
The polythene that creates the tunnel is actually specially manufactured to filter UV rays and allow enormous light diffusion and distribution over the plants and soil. The dome-like shape of the tunnel allows vegetation to receive essential sunlight throughout the tunnel no matter how big or small it is.

2. Heat Retention
Not only does the technically advanced material create UV filtration and light distribution but it also retains heat. This means that plants are protected in adverse weather conditions, particularly in variable climates like the UK. The tunnels are designed to encourage and help plants and crops grow to the finest health and quality so that your skill and attention doesn’t go to waste.

3. Cost Conscious
Did you know that a polytunnel will cost less than half of a greenhouse that’s around the same size? With the wide variety of options in a polytunnel you could also get round four times the growing area when compared with a greenhouse. In this way, a polytunnel would suit different financial circumstances and seems like a smarter option.   

4. Flexibility and Versatility
Another advantage is that polytunnels can be moved and reconstructed in different areas of your garden if you decided to change plans. They come in a range of shapes, sizes and options depending on what you’re looking for and can be used to grow a wide range of plants, foods and flowers and even exotic species too!

As you can see, polytunnels are definitely worth considering if you want to get those green thumbs to work and grow your very own produce or plants in your garden. 
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