I love the pics you all have provided.
- What bedding/material works best for the coop floor and the nest boxes? In the coop, I use leaves, and when available, add grass clippings. I collect bagged leaves from surrounding towns in the fall, and set aside the bags of dry leaves for the coop. I do deep litter, however, have found that in a wood floored coop, it never composts. (the rest go in the garden, run, HK, orchard. Never enough.) In the nest, I use hay.
- How can you keep the coop dry, especially now, over the winter months? Keep topping off with leaves. If I run out, I resort to shavings or hay. Do a partial clean out in the spring. Water kept in coop over the winter: heated dog bowl with milk jug making a "moat". I can't stress enough how very important it is to provide lots of ventilation, especially in the winter. My coop has gable and eave vents, 18 s.f. of windows, a floor level louvered vent, in addition to the pop door.
- Roosts and nest boxes - How many do you provide, how much space on the roosts, what do you use as nest boxes and how do you make them attractive for the hens, etc? Roosts: 2 x 4' on the flat with edges "eased", spaced about 15" apart, and 15" from the wall, 2.5' from floor. 2 roosts, each 10' long. Other perching opportunities on their hay bale stack. Behind the perches, there is a nice big clean out door to make it easy to slide all that rich bedding into the run so the birds can then turn it into lovely black compost. Nest boxes: 3 over 3, with large dish pans as a base. Those are screwed in place so they are not tippy, yet they are easily unscrewed for cleaning. Upper set of nest boxes has a tip up perch that can simply be raised in late afternoon (to block those nests) if there are birds that have a desire to fowl the nest at night! However, by far, their favorite nest has been a large crate placed in the broody area that I built. They seem to flip flop back and forth re: favorite nest. Nests are adorned with golf balls and weighted Easter eggs. Lined with hay. Outside access to nest boxes. (boxes are built into the foot print of the coop to help prevent frozen eggs.) In the winter, I often line them with cardboard for extra insulation. May put the cardboard UNDER the dish pans this season to keep them from shredding it. Nests often have aromatic herbs in them: oregano, citronella (my favorite), and mint.
- What "boredom busters" can you provide to amuse and distract bored, cooped up birds when the weather is really bad? By far, the most important thing one can do is keep plenty of space in your coop. It's so easy to have too many birds in your available space. Every fall, I "thin the herd" to keep winter numbers down. IMO, the smaller the set up, the more space needed per bird. My coop is 120 s.f. with a raised broody pen. At most, I've wintered 23 birds. This year, there are now 16, including Jack. The birds LOVE hay bales. I have 3 bales, stacked with a space between the bottom 2, and a 3rd bale on top so they have a little tunnel to run through. For safety, I put a piece of plywood under that top bale so there won't be any collapsing accidents. They love multiple height opportunities. I also have a wooden ladder (resurrected from an almost bunk bed) and the raised broody area. Lots of natural light: 3 thermopane windows, and 1 full sized thermopane door, resurrected from the town dump. Sun room built in the run to allow them to be outside. Pop door open every day that is above 0*F
- What else do you provide/do to make sure the flock is happy and comfortable in there? I often toss some scratch into the litter to keep it fluffed up. Will also be sprouting grains to provide winter greens. When we get into a deep freeze, and as I run out of dry leaves, I'll bust open a bale of hay for them. That will provide hours of entertainment.
Edited by lazy gardener - 12/13/16 at 6:07am