Decreasing your CHICKENS Carbon Footprint
Saving the WORLD one choice at a time. We all hear this, almost daily sometimes. I want the world to be a better place, and I bet you do too. The need to cut back on our use of practically everything, doesn't stop at our own front door. Beyond that door, a little closer to your chickens, are other places to make a difference. You might even have gotten your start with chickens to make yourself more self sufficient, and your own carbon footprint a little smaller. Well, you can do the same for your chickens, my friend.
The advantages to decreasing your CHICKENS carbon footprint are twofold. First, it will keep some of that hard earned money in your pocket! Second, you can have warmer happier wintertime birds as a result! If you follow along with me, I'll even show you some great easy ways to do it.
It's best if their sheltor is on the south side, so chickens can enjoy direct sunlight.
Lets begin with a quick look at your chickens' shelter, shall we? Consider the location of your chickens' shelter. If you live in a place that cools off in the winter, it would be ideal to have your shelter on the south side of a building. If your summers are hot as well, a giant deciduous tree overhead will provide shade in the summer, but allow indirect solar heating in winter. The sunshine is free, I think you should use it to your hens advantage. Now, weatherproofing is the next order of business. If you have to provide heat for your birds, because your winter temps regularly dip below 0*F, you need this. Cover windows with plastic, feed bags, foam (out of hens reach), or even old blankets to put more useful dead air space between old man winter and chickens. Additionally a tarp stretched and weighted over a chicken tractor can block air, plus increase and hold heat on sunny winter days. If you can't change location, or do much more weatherproofing, don't forget straw bales (discarded fall decor?), bags of leaves, and even ruined or old hay bales can be put on the north side of coops, tractors, and cages for free protection and insulation. A three wall bale "structure" around your hens, with opening on the south, will increase warmth and cut back on the chill winds.
Bags of leaves and styrofoam boards can help save money on electic costs!
Now that you've dealt with your chickens shelter, we can explore some greener warming methods. First, its time to recycle jugs and buckets. Paint them black and fill them up with water. Put them (inside or out) where the sun will hit them and make sure they are inside come evening so they can slowly dissipate all the heat they've absorbed from the sun during the day, warming your hens for free. Remember chickens are hardy. Don't give them heat lights and warmers unless their water is going to freeze. If you've made sure the wind is blocked, their feathers (even silky feathers) will keep them warm. A nice closed place to sleep goes a long way. Don't use expensive electricity that you don't need to use folks. Now, if you must have heat, and you are already utilizing all the indirect solar you can for free (coops face south, water jugs warm in sunlight, windows allow in sunshine), then first try just heating your waterer using a small waterer heater available on-line (I have seen some BYC sponsers carry this) and in farm supply stores. This will not only keep water thawed, but any leftover heat will keep the temps around it just a little warmer too. Make that energy do double duty! Another green idea? Use a timer for water heaters as well as any heat or egg production lights by setting them only for the coldest hours like 11 pm to 4 am.
Another way to decrease that carbon footprint? Don't buy products that use so much energy in their production. Use recycled containers for water if you can. The same goes for feeders. Old pots and pans, refrigerator drawers, and retired bowls may have a useful place with your chickens. What feed do you use? It takes energy to grind grains, pellet grains, and then dry and bag the product for formulated foods. What about feeding whole grains, if not completely, partially? There are some useful threads here at BYC to give you some ideas there. Whole grains require no energy for production after the they are harvested and bagged. No grinding, pelleting, and factory production. No special inks for the bags either. Need I even mention letting birds free or tractor range as much as possible? The more bugs and delectables' they pick up on their own, the less you have to supply to them.
You can feed a blend of several grains for a balanced diet of whole grains for a lower carben footprint.
Here are wheat kernals, whole oats, scratch grains, cracked corn, and Black Oil Sunflower seeds.
Finally, reuse recycle please! Beyond some old containers, keep saving and reusing those egg cartons as long as you can. Every single one that's used again after its first time out, is saving more materials from being needed to produce them. Don't forget free building materials for coops, pens, and tractors. Old windows by the curb, while not efficient enough for a home, can sure help your hens as another layer against winter winds, plus aid in indirect solar heating. Partial pieces of plywood and lumber can also be pressed into use. Consider making buckets and wooden boxes into nest boxes. Think outside the wire when it comes to fencing. Old milk and pop crates can be wired together for a fence or nest boxes. Old plastic baking racks can also make good fence, and may be artfully arranged. They even support growing vines if secure for summer shade. Inquire at demolition sites and building sites about scraps of wire and other building materials. (Please DO NOT just take them without asking) If you see an old fence needing to come down, you may be able to take it home, if you help the willing owners remove it. Don't forget that orange mesh fencing is often tossed from work sites, so don't be afraid to ask for it. One last easy to use recyclable is old doors! I find them all the time, and they make great solid fences, stall dividers, roofs and walls. Try to open your mind, and look around you for more ideas on how to press things into re-use for your hens.
Its easy to look around and think that the problems of Earth are beyond your help, but that's just not true. You should do anything you can as often as you can, to reduce the carbon footprint of yourself, and all the things you've been made steward of. Every time you make a greener decision, you are joining your time and energy with a great many other thoughful humans to improve and protect our generous planet. Step up, my fellow BYC chicken fanatics, and lets do our part!