Country Living Series

Monday, December 6, 2010

Morning chores

Ever wonder what kind of homestead chores need to get done in the winter? Here's an illustrated guide.

After my first mug of tea (hey, a woman's gotta have her priorities) I suit up to go feed the beasties. Right now we have one horse, eight bovines, and sixteen chickens.

Eighteen degrees, not bad working weather.

First I release the chickens (sproing!!) and give them fresh water. Here's a hen looking for a spot to lay an egg.

Remember Snap and Crackle? Here's what they look like now. Both are roosters, by the way.

As we use up hay bales, we're burrowing our way into the barn.

The critters are hungry. They get three wheelbarrows full of hay in the morning, two in the afternoon, spread out in the feed boxes.

Here's Ruby, scarfing down.

Jet and her calf Nebuchadnezzar.

Happy beasties.

I feed Matilda and Pearly separately in the barn. Since they're lowest on the totem pole, they wouldn't get enough to eat at the feed boxes if I didn't feed them separately.

By this time I'm sweating. Off comes the coat, scarf, and hat.

Next it's time to clean Matilda's pen. Gotta get that soiled hay up and out.

I use a deep plastic sled/toboggan gizmo to move the manure.

After the soiled hay is pitchforked up, I spread a little bit of clean hay over the area they typically soil. The cows cooperate in this by only soiling one side of the pen. Generally, that is.

Then I sled the manure over to the manure pile and add to it.  Most is below the snow, only the recent stuff is above.

A pile of hay in the pen for Matilda's evening meal, and the chores are done.

Total time, about 45 minutes. Time for another mug of tea.

In the afternoon, Don does the feeding, Older Daughter feeds and waters the chickens, and Younger Daughter fills the water tank. Then we button up the chickens, as well as Matilda and Pearly, and that's all for the night.


  1. Patrice,

    If you don't mind my asking, how do the chickens handle your cold weather? Do you ever need to add some type of heat to their coup? Or is it ever too cold for them to go outside?

    Tanya (FL)

  2. Are Matilda and her calf the only 4-footed critters that sleep in the barn? Lucky them!

    Just the other day I was thinking about Snap & Crackle. Thank you for providing a photo of them. They certainly grew up to be fine looking young fellas.

    Anonymous Patriot

  3. The chickens usually do fine in cold weather. When we had that spate of zero-degree weather a couple weeks ago, we shut them in the coop and didn't let them out for four days. Man were they bored, but at least they didn't freeze. We have a heat lamp on in the coop (a 250-watt bulb that hangs low) that keeps the temperature above freezing when the door is shut.

    The rest of the time we just open the coop door. One of our "some day" projects is to built a small chicken door directly into the barn. This is not simply a matter of cutting a slot. It has to be cow-proof, because the cows LOVE chicken feed and will rip apart a wall in an effort to get to it. But once that chicken door is in place, then we can keep the big coop door shut in the winter and keep the colder air out.

    As for Matilda and Pearly sleeping in the barn... yes. The rest of the animals have access to the open barn space, of course, but we keep those two locked up.

    - Patrice

  4. Patrice, do you have much problem with "critters" trying to get the chickens? I would love to have some chickens but don't know if they could withstand our numerous coyotes.

    Oh, and I know where you can get some REALLY good tea for your tea time. ;-)

  5. I can sure relate to your post! It is 18 degrees here in Northern KY. We are milking 2 goats once a day, feeding 30 chickens, 6 pups, 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 cows and 4 horses. Forget the gym, that's enough of a work out!

  6. Our chickens would be decimated within a week by coyotes if we didn't have them buttoned up at night. Once in awhile a chicken hides out and doesn't go in the coop at night, and in the morning all that's left is a trail of feathers. Coops are critical.

    Tea....? Do tell!

    - Patrice

  7. Here we have bobcats and raccoons that strike our hens in broad daylight. Sounds like I had no need to worry about my girls with tonight's impending 32 degree temperatures. I wasn't sure since they are molting and it hasn't been that cold here since we got our chickens. Thanks for the info.


  8. As you can tell by my "nickname", I'd rather clean out stalls and stomp around in snow than be in a mall.....there's something special about the quiet "morning rounds" that allows the brain to think better.....

    Altho, I don't miss the chopping up the water in tanks/containers with below freezing weather......

  9. Patrice, check the shopping page on my website under TEAS - the Oklahoma Prairie Blend is my fav!! :-)

  10. In fact, how 'bout I just send you some for Christmas??! :-) Your pictures look like you really need to be kept warm. It's a balmy 29 here with a high of 40 expected.

  11. OPCCook, you're very kind but I make it a policy never to accept gifts from readers. There's just too much potential for such things being misconstrued. I do appreciate the generous thought, however.

    My friend Enola Gay introduced me to Upton Tea Imports ( where I purchase bulk Darjeeling and English breakfast. Cheapest and best tea I've ever found.

    - Patrice

  12. That is a very wise policy. Didn't even think along those lines! Sorry! I will check out the link to the tea site you like. I have not heard of them before. :-)

  13. Patrice,

    Just curious. The cattle and horses only get hay, even in winter in Idaho???

    Here in TX, we feed grain year round plus free choice grass or hay.


    Diane in TX

  14. Yep, just hay. Grain costs an arm and a leg and would break our bank account. They have mineral blocks, of course, but the bulk of their diet is hay. When you think about it, that's what they're bred to eat. Clearly there are higher and lower qualities of hay (alfalfa, grass hay, oat hay, bluegrass, timothy, etc.) but ruminants like cattle are made for a primarily grass/hay diet. Same with horses.

    Grain is like candy - a nice treat, but their systems did not develop to depend on it.

    - Patrice