The ladies are looking like they just stepped out of a Martha Stewart Backyard Chicken book.
OK, I slight exaggeration - some of them are still molting - but the majority of them are filled out in feathers and plumpness. My flock is doing great and they look like the chickens you see in the how-to books on backyard chickens. On chill evenings, I see them shaking their feathers up, like a dog shaking off after a dip in the pond. I want to think this is because they are aware of their beauty and not just flapping their feathers to keep heat against their skin.
I am quite proud of them, and they have been laying more eggs since the weather has warmed up, which is another plus. We have had a great spell of warm daytime weather so I have been leaving the coop door open. But I make sure to close it up on chill nights, when there is snow, a wind chill or unfavorable conditions in general. They are stuck in he coop on those cold days, but they don't seem to mind.
I have been using my spare time to clean up the coop lately and I put a fresh layer of straw down on the deep bedding inside and some more fresh straw on the ground in their outdoor run. This not only gives them hours of digging and pecking entertainment, it also keeps the mud down in the run which means cleaner eggs. The coop will need to be completely cleaned out pretty soon since it is starting to get quite "ripe" in there and I don't want to let it go too much longer. The deep bedding is providing warmth and insulation but with the weather starting to turn towards spring, it is time to clean things up.
We have had a mild winter here for the most part so I did not have one incident of frostbite due to wind chill. The coop temperature never fell below freezing - the lowest it got was about 38 degrees.
I have combated the cabin fever by giving them various forms of entertainment such as flock blocks, extra scraps, cabbage or lettuce heads, apples and home made chicken bread. Things that take time to peck away at and that take a lot of effort seem to keep them happy, full and content. This means no fighting chickens and no pecking at each other.
I have so much crumble dust since I started using my system to filter it out, I decided to try using the dust in a shallow tub for dust bathing. In what may just amount to a glorified chicken litter box, this shallow container, about 2 feet in diameter and about 6 inches deep, seems to be working. They sit in it and wave their feathers around and all that, just like outside when it is dry and the ground is worked up a little.
Our second winter with chickens seeme to have gone by without incident and I am looking forward to a spring a summer filled with new challenges. Not only for egg production - these ladies will be chickens with a purpose. I plan on using them to clear the space for my new vegetable garden.
More on that project soon....