Coastal Farm Life: Easy-Peasy Winter Duck + Chicken Keeping

It’s our second winter out here on Beloved Farms, our little coastal happy place, and I thought we’d share how our ducks and chickens are doing in the chilly times….

While we may get more precipitation here on the Oregon Coast than we did in Portland, we are definitely blessed with less extreme temperatures compared to the city…and most of the rest of the country. That being said? We do occasionally get a wee bit of snow, and more than that, we get some serious WIND in the winter, being our town is located at the confluence of the Columbia and the Pacific.

So while we don’t need a fully indoor coop, like in the city, we made sure we were prepared with a few basics:

1) Organic Cracked Corn – While they normally eat Scratch and Peck organic feed that is free of corn, soy and other things they don’t need, in the winter they do get some cracked corn  as treats. The chooks are

2) Heated WatererThis is absolutely the most valuable thing we have, easily worth the thirty bucks. Most things we have DIY’d in their world, but not this. While the ducks and chooks are often able to peck through an icy layer over their watering troughs/buckets/ponds/etc, when it gets below freezing, sometimes there can be 1/2″ to 1″ thick layers our girls can’t defeat, and this backup bucket in their enclosed run makes sure that when they get up (which is always before me) they have immediate access, as it keeps the water to just above freezing (no hot tubbin’ here, y’all). This attached to an extra-long extension cord leading to the barn? Perfection.

3) Extra Straw – Our ducks and chickens share the run at night. And while the chooks are roosting up high, if it’s super windy or raining/hailing, they make it clear they’ll stay in the run, thankyouverymuch, so we spread some straw on the ground as well for them to play around in. They also like the fun of finding the aforementioned cracked corn 🙂 The ducks have a slightly elevated coop with straw bedding that we use the deep litter method with as it’s fantastic mulch for the garden beds, and but we don’t really do much for them as they can withstand temps into the 20’s no problem. If it’s snowing and a bit too cold, you’ll see them laying outside with their feet tucked into their bodies, pecking at any exposed grass, or if they’re particularly spunky like ours, going crazy with joy when I dump out their old water so they can do their usual mucking around.

(PS – don’t believe the hype about ducks always sleeping on the ground – if it it’s rainy and cold, it’s always good to have your coop 6-10″ off the ground, even if it’s just setting the coop on cinderblocks…we have a tiny ramp that has a piece of roofing shingle stapled to it that prevents slipping, and our girls are more than happy to walk up and cozy up in there together during winter weather…not to mention give them a little privacy away from nighttime predator eyes).

4) Random Bits of Plywood (not pictured) – Because the ‘walls’ of our enclosed run are hardware cloth, we screwed in a few pieces of what we’d call “otherwise-unusable” scrap sheets of plywood to the the side where the east wind (and sideways rain) can drive in pretty crazily. These serve as a triple threat – both wind and rain barriers for the birds, and in the summer provide a bit of shade if we have to go out of town overnight and need to leave them locked in the run rather than free-ranging in the garden.

As you can see, our 6 month old chooks (Delawares & Australorps) eventually were happy to get around to helping us tear up and fertilize our spent raised garden beds (and yeah, we’ll be protecting the beds in spring and summer for sure!!) after realizing they could make a mad dash from the run to get to their beloved, but they are definitely more homebodies than the ducks….and have become the happy and hardy coastal chooks we hoped for!

NOTE: If you live where there are REAL winters – check out the tips on Fresh Eggs Daily blog for some more hardcore suggestions.

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