Registration for this class is available through Metro at this link.
Our Chickens 101 course at the John Janzen Nature Centre is sold out, but we are excited to be teaching a class through Metro Continuing Education on May 8, 2018 with a coop tour for registered participants on May 12, 2018.
Registration for this class is available through Metro at this link.
Our instructors are pleased to be teaching a course through Metro Continuing Education, Chickens and the City:
Urban hen keeping demystified! Instructors with River City Chickens will walk you through the essentials of keeping hens in an urban setting. Topics include coop design and requirements, climate challenges and solutions, tips for selecting birds, health and welfare, among others. The course will include both a class component and a coop tour that will give you a chance to experience what urban hen keeping is all about.
The course is set to take place on March 13, 2018, with a coop tour for registered participants on March 17, 2018.
Registration is available through Metro.
Here in Edmonton, it can get very cold. However, hens can cope admirably with our weather if their owners take proper precautions. Let's have a look at some common recommendations. Remember to do your own research, and have a plan in advance of really cold weather. And importantly, even when it's cold outside, keep visiting your hens regularly to see how they are behaving. Hens should display their natural behaviours even in cold weather. If they are huddling together or otherwise looking unhappy, that is a sign something is amiss.
1. Start with a cold-hardy breed. Some breeds of chickens do better in the cold than others, and it is really important to take this into consideration. Cold-hardy breeds are generally sturdier and well feathered, with small combs and wattles. There are a number of breeds to choose from, including a breed, the Chantecler, that is considered to have been developed for Canada's climate. A cold-hardy breed in a properly designed coop (read on!) can be very happy, even in an Edmonton winter.
2. Weatherproof your coop and run. There are solid arguments in favour of insulating backyard coops in our climate. There are many options for insulation, but whatever you choose, take care to make it inaccessible to the chickens as they will peck at any exposed areas. Another aspect of weatherproofing is keeping the run dry. The run should be roofed and protected from blowing snow. Some people choose to use clear plastic to wrap their runs; others use tarps, plywood, or clear solid plastic. Consider your individual circumstances, and do a bit of research to see what will work best to keep your hens happy. Do your best to avoid drafts in the run, while ensuring adequate ventilation (more on this below). Other recommendations include providing a wider roost, such as a 2x4 with rounded edges, so that the chickens extend their feet underneath them at night, warming them with their bellies.
3. Ensure the coop is draft-free and well ventilated. Proper coop ventilation is critically important in the winter. Drafts, or air blowing across or around chickens, take away the natural protection of their feathers. However, humidity in the coop drastically increases the risk of frost bite. To adequately balance these considerations, design your coop so that in winter air ventilates upwards, and not across the hens. While windows are helpful in the summer, in winter you will need a different form of predator-proof ventilation near the top of the coop, to allow humidity to escape without disturbing the hens. In the example shown above, the window can be closed in the coldest weather; however, the coop contains predator-proof vents in the ceiling underneath the plastic roof, which ensures draft-free ventilation. Remember during the winter to keep bedding dry and watch for signs of moisture. Any visible moisture build up is a sign that your coop does not have enough ventilation.
4. Provide access to clean, fresh water at all times. Chickens drink a lot of water, and they need constant access to fresh water. Even in our coldest weather, there are a number of options for ensuring your hens have water. As shown in the image, some people use a heated pet bowl, elevated and partially covered to keep bedding (and clumsy chickens) from falling in. There are also specialized chicken water dishes available locally and online. Some owners have had success in designing their own. Do your research and have a plan before it gets cold! Consider keeping water in the run, rather than in the coop, to reduce humidity, and to keep the hens active.
5. Provide plenty of nourishing food. Chickens need to eat more in winter to keep themselves warm. Make sure their food is readily available, and consider supplementation with a little extra "scratch" in the evenings. Do not overdo this, however, as chickens can become unhealthy; this is another area to research.
6. Ensure the chickens have enough room to move about, and activities to keep them busy. Making sure your run is comfortable will go a long way towards ensuring your hens are happy in the winter. Keep lots of dry bedding, so the chickens have a relatively warm place to scratch and move about. Add a dust bath and different areas for the chickens to stand and take in the world. Look into different ways to keep them entertained; there are plenty of great ideas online. Watch their behaviour - do they seem happy? If not, take stock of the conditions in your coop and consider what needs to be improved.
7. Consider light and heat, with caution. This is a topic for you to consider very carefully. Chickens need over 12 hours of light to produce eggs, but some people prefer to let them take the natural winter break from egg production, and therefore do not add additional, or much, lighting. With respect to heat, some owners feel that chickens can become dependent on a heat source and will experience stress if it is suddenly removed or if the power goes out. In a dry, draft-free environment with adequate food and water, cold-hardy breeds can adjust very well to colder weather. However, to help their hens stay comfortable through the coldest periods, owners may choose to add a safe heat source. Research carefully in advance of cold weather, and be very cautious. Electricity can be a fire hazard, in coops as elsewhere, and there is potential for burns from heat sources that are too hot or too close to the chickens. Heat lamps are often cautioned against, so some people use low-wattage infrared bulbs or flat panel heaters. Whatever you choose, don't forget to monitor conditions in the coop. If something isn't working for your hens, re-evaluate and adjust your set up.
We hope these ideas will give you a starting point for your own research. Happy winter!
We are excited to be able to teach two courses this fall, one through the University of Alberta Botanic Garden and one through Edmonton Public Schools Metro Continuing Education. The Metro course will include a coop tour. We hope to see you there!
Registration for the U of A course on September 14, 2017 is available through their website at this link.
Registration for the Metro course on October 17, 2017 (coop tour October 21, 2017) is available through their website at this link.
We are pleased to be able to offer an additional Chickens 101 course on Saturday, May 27, 2017 at the John Janzen Nature Centre from 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM MDT. Registration is available through Eventbrite. We hope to see you there!
Once the snow finally melts, it is time to think about spring cleaning. It sounds like a chore, but a thorough cleaning a couple of times a year will save you time in the long run, and help keep your birds happy and healthy.
We've put together some ideas to get you started, but there are lots of other articles online. Do your research before you start, and consider your circumstances. For example, you may be using the deep litter method, or may be cleaning the coop in response to illness in your flock, in which case you may need to modify your cleaning procedures accordingly. With that in mind, here are some basics to think about.
Pick a nice warm day where your hens can free range or move to an alternate enclosure for several hours or even longer. You don't want them around while you are cleaning, and you don't want to reintroduce them to the coop until it is safe to do so.
Gather your cleaning supplies: garden fork or shovel; bucket and scrubbing brush; assorted rags for dusting; disinfectant of choice; wheelbarrow or garbage bags. You are going to get very dirty, so wear suitable clothing. Consider a dusk mask, as well, to protect your lungs.
Remove the bedding from the coop. If you plan to compost, move the bedding to your compost site, adding any compost amendments necessary to establish a hot compost. You can read more about how to make this wonderful stuff here. Edmonton also has free composting information, including a composting help line. If composting is not an option, double bag the bedding and discard as per your garbage disposal regulations. Make sure you get all the bedding out of the corners. A good outdoor vacuum can come in handy.
Remove any droppings that may have gotten stuck, for example on the roosts, walls or floor. Dust all surfaces and and ensure the coop is completely empty.
Disconnect your electricity. Thoroughly wash the coop, including the walls, floor, roosts, ceiling, nest boxes and windows. Go behind any crevices that could harbour mites or other critters. Clean under any flooring you may have installed. Rinse the coop, and mop up any puddles.
Consider whether any improvements are needed for your coop. For example, seal any drafts you may have noticed over the winter. Chickens need plenty of ventilation, but in the winter the coop must ventilate upwards, without any air blowing across the chickens. Consider whether any ventilation changes are in order to help keep your hens cool in summer and dry in winter. If you saw evidence of humidity in your coop over the winter you likely need more ventilation. Make any changes you think are necessary to your roost, nest boxes, predator-proofing and insulation (make sure your chickens can't eat your sealer or your insulation!)
Once the coop is clean and ready, disinfect everything. You should be disinfecting water and food dishes on a regular basis, but this is your chance to get all the spots germs like to hide. Apply your disinfectant of choice according to the manufacturer's instructions. Follow all safety recommendations both for your sake and for the sake of your chickens.
Make sure the coop is absolutely dry and that any fumes from your disinfection have dissipated. Keep in mind that the timing of this will depend on the disinfectant you use - don't reintroduce your chickens until it is safe to do so. Once the recommended time has passed, add back your bedding, and, finally, the hens.
As our upcoming April Chickens 101 course is now full, we are pleased to offer a further course on Thursday, September 14, from 7 to 9 at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden (formerly the Devonian Botanic Garden). Registration is available through their website.
River City Chickens Collective is pleased to be teaching another Chickens 101 course through the Devonian Botanic Garden on Monday, April 3, 2017 from 7 to 9 p.m.. Registration is available through the DBG's website. We hope to see you there!
River City Chickens is excited to teach another Chickens 101 course, scheduled for Thursday, Sept 15, 7-9 pm, offered through the Devonian Botanic Garden.
Urban chicken-keeping demystified. Topics include:
• Coop design and requirements
• Feeding and care
• Winter needs and concerns
• Breed selection, buying hens, and flock introductions
• Predator and vermin prevention
• Waste management
• Disease recognition and control
• End of life options
...and many other tips and resources for keeping hens in the Edmonton region.
River City Chickens