Local chickens are getting cozy for winter.
Backyard farmers in the Okanagan have outfitted their coops with all the amenities to keep their hens happy and healthy all winter long.
Cluckingham Palace, designed by Heather Blomgren in Pritchard B.C., is a greenhouse-chicken coop hybrid that houses her 50 laying hens, five roosters, and a peacock during the winter. The palace has passages for the chickens to access the sunroom for dust baths, the outdoors to stretch their legs and explore, and the coop with cozy cubbies, where they sleep and lay their eggs. Blomgren built Cluckingham after realizing that her winterized coop was too small and did not have enough ventilation.
Humidity control is a top priority when winterizing coops. Chickens produce a lot of heat and moisture, and improper management can quickly cause illness in your flock, said Blomgren.
Healthy hens can stay warm in sub-zero weather because of their puffy feathers, but their skinny legs are vulnerable to frostbite. Wooden perches that allow chucks to tuck their feet into their belly feathers and escape the frozen ground are necessary for winter weather.
“If they’re feathered and can get up off the ground they’re pretty much bulletproof,” said Mick Giroux, a local chicken farmer. Despite having an insulated coop some of his chickens prefer to spend their nights on the branches of a pine tree in his yard.
Unfortunately, not all chickens are treated like the royalty from Cluckingham Palace or Giroux’s farm.
“When someone is advertising farm fresh eggs, look into how they’re treated,” warned Giroux. Not all farms selling eggs provide an environment for chickens to explore and stretch their wings.
If you want to ensure that your eggs came from a sustainable and responsible environment, Giroux encourages people to try backyard chickens for themselves. Depending on the local government restrictions, Okanagan residents are allowed to have backyard chickens in residential areas, and they make surprisingly good neighbours.
In Kelowna, city bylaws permit up to 10 urban chickens on lots larger than 0.5 acres in size, while in Vernon, bylaw allows up to a maximum of four.
Chickens do not make much noise and don’t smell if you keep their coop clean, said Giroux.
If you are interested in having your own backyard chickens, without the learning curve of winterizing a coop the Okanagan’s Marie McGivern runs Rent the Chicken, a full-service chicken rental service for the spring and summer.
“It’s backyard laying hens without the hassle,” says McGivern. The chickens, coop, and feed are delivered in May and picked up in September. For more information on renting a chicken for next summer visit rentthechicken.com.