Musings from the Easy Chair

It Probably Was the Beard...

Ok, funny story I have to share and thought you'all would appreciate it.
As many of you know, I'm a college kid (who says they can't teach old dogs new tricks) Anyway, on campus today, these two big burly yet clean-cut young men just came out of the gym at the student union and were standing on the side walk. I went to pass them because I had somewhere to be...
"Ah Sir, you don't want to go down that side walk"
Me, "Why Not"
"There are two mean ass gooses (yes, they said gooses) that won't let you go by them...they chased us back here"
I look up the sidewalk, off to the side, near the edge, there were two Canada geese grazing peacefully.
Me, "I've not had a goose scare me yet, not going to now" and started up the walk.
"Ok Sir, but you can't say we didn't warn you"
I head up the walk, both geese turned, put their heads down and looked my way and took a step as I got closer. I looked straight at them and gave a couple hisses... kind of making a long s sound followed by a short T. "ssssssT!, ssssssT!"
They looked at me and turned and went back to grazing.
I hollered back down the side walk, "See guys they won't hurt you, just don't make any movement towards them"
They both started heading up the side walk..the heads of the geese went down, the boys picked up their pace...and the chase was on!
Boys were running towards me, geese honking, flapping, biting legs, shorts, whatever they could get a hold of. Boys were yelling, acting like the devil was after them and about had them caught. I just stayed put. As the boys were running by, I hissed at the geese loudly again. All four, both geese and boys stopped and looked at me. I hissed again and the geese sauntered off the other way.
Boy 1 "Man, how'd you do that?!?"
Boy 2 "It probably was the beard!"

I just smiled and walked on leaving them confused....It might have been, well, I might have forgotten to tell them to hiss when they walked by to sound like a bigger goose than the mean old Canadas were trying to be...

To Heat or Not Heat the Chicken Coops & Difference between Draft and Ventilation

Often times over the last few years the two types of questions I get especially this time of year are, “Do I need to Heat or not Heat the Chicken Coop” and also, “What is the difference between air Draft and Ventilation?” In extreme cold climates, those that keep chickens in areas that get and sustain temperatures below zero degrees (Fahrenheit) should consider low level supplemental heat. But if you live in an area that may dip to zero or even below but does not hold to those temps, as long as you have proper amount of chickens for the space you have them housed in and have good ventilation with minimal to no drafts, no supplemental heat is required.

So where to start? Let’s start with the some chicken biology basics. You do know the average body temp of a person is 98.6*F. Did you know the average body temp of a large fowl chicken is 105*F? So how does that translate to heat? Heat is measured in BTU or the British Thermal Unit. It is the amount of energy needed to cool or heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

Now, I’m still going to stay with the basics, because it would be easy to get into the weeds on math, figuring volume of the air mass per population of the coop density, etc. Let’s keep it simple, but some math will be required. A coop with 20-25 large fowl chickens will put off the same amount of heat like a 400watt heat lamp in your coop. But if you have a small flock of chickens 4-6, then the BTU output is more important as well as the volume of space they inhabit. To figure out how much heat your flock is producing, take the weight in pounds of each chicken then average them together. Depending on the size, age and type, 7 pounds is a common average. Once you have that sum multiply by the number of birds you have for a total flock weight. Take that result and multiply by 8BTU. The result will tell you the amount of BTU per hour. It looks like this for a typical 6 chicken flock:

9lbs+8lbs+7lbs+6lbs+7lbs+5lbs= 42 total flock pounds
42 lbs X 8BTU = 336 BTU per hour is similar to 100 watt heat lamp.

Now for the fine print and perhaps another whole article, for the chickens to maintain their 105*F and produce BTUs that takes calories. Calories are created by processing good feed and having a good diet. A working crop produces desired calories so feed whole corn or other grain before they roost at night so the crop is full and works all night. Corn also provides starches which is another good energy source.

So now you can see that even a small amount of chickens will produce enough heat to maintain themselves with no additional heat even in the coldest months. “So where does the ventilation and drafts come into play?” Great question! Let’s go!

As the chickens are sitting on the roost in the cold air, they of course are breathing. With each exhale, like us, they emit warm damp air. As that damp air raises it will then rapidly cool and cause it to condensate on the backs of the chickens. This condensation can cause frost bite, chills (loosing body heat), respiratory infections, and even death with prolonged exposure. When you add that to ammonia levels that could build up in a coop that is too tightly closed up, it is a recipe for disaster.

A cold air draft is a temperature difference between the outside and inside air will create a "natural draft" forcing air to flow through the building. The direction of the flow depends on the temperatures. If inside temperature is higher than outside temperature, inside air density is less than outside air density, and inside air will flow up and out of the upper parts of the building. Cold outside air will flow into the lower parts of the building. You do not want a draft or direct air flow on the chickens at night as they roost, so make sure their roost is not directly in front of the chicken door, windows, or people doors that do not seal completely.

Ventilation is the process of "changing" or replacing air in any space to provide a good quality air, remove excessive moisture, ammonia and other toxin build ups, dust, and airborne pathogens. Ventilation is also used to introduce outside air, to keep interior building air circulating. So how do we accomplish this without introducing drafts? Several ways, roof vents, eve vents, peak vents, etc. They can be permanently open or designed with a damper to partially or completely shut off the vent opening.

The goal is to have an opening near the top of coop where all the fumes and moisture will rise and be able to be released outside bringing in new air near the bottom of your coop. This exchange of air and especially new air which will be cooler should not be in such a manner that it will blow across your chickens, thus becoming a draft.So in conclusion, do we really need to add supplement heat to out chicken coops during the winter? No, not if you have the right amount of chickens for the space they are occupying. As long as they have good ventilation that does allow for discharging bad air and bringing in fresh air, that at the same time does not release all the heat produced. No drafts are present in the coop and they be given a good protein and starch diet, the chickens will be fine. Wish you the best of luck and enjoy your flocks!

The most current musing will always be on the home page or located at the top of this page, the rest will archived here on this page for easy reference.

Don't use hot water to water your animals in the winter.

OK, you'all are going to get a nerd moment, or science lesson; one or the other.
It's already been cold in much of the country, my neck the woods is just now experiencing those temperatures. Because of the freezing temperatures, I have been seeing more and more posts about putting warm water out for the chickens specifically, but other animals as well.

Two reasons you don't want to do that: First, if an animal tries to drink and burns its mouth (think you and hot coffee), it will be less tempted to try again...and become dehydrated waiting for the water to get to that perfect temp. The second and more important, warm or hot water freezes faster than cool water in the cold.

"Bill, that is just a wives tale and there is no science behind it"
"Well, have you ever heard of the Mpemba effect?"
"Uhm, well, no."

Yes, that is spelled correctly and the term for the science behind it! I'm going to post a pretty lengthy scientist friends will like it. For everyone else, here is the bread and butter of it. Because of the greater temperature difference between the ambient temperature of 32F (or 0 C) and hot water, and that of cool water to freezing point, it will drop not only more quickly but will freeze at up to 5 degrees above the freeze point too...or freezes more quickly!

When putting water out for your critters when temps are below freezing, just get it out of the tap. Your liquid water will stay in that state longer, your critters can drink it more of it, and ultimately, you will make less trips breaking ice and adding fresh water.

Hope this helps and clears things up!

(As a side note: Since this was put on social media I've heard the responses, "I've known that since the second grade." and "I learned that in physics 50 years ago." My response, "Good for you! Then this article is not for you! It is for the people just learning.")