Farm Bill Update Meetings are scheduled for Licking County

Do you have questions about your selection options available in the new Farm Bill?  The 2018 Farm Bill allows the choice to enroll in ARC or PLC for 2019-2023.  These programs are designed to help provide protection in case of yield losses or loss of markets.  Enrollment for 2019 is currently open with the deadline set as March 15, 2020. Join OSU Extension and the Farm Service Agency for an informational meeting to learn about changes to the ARC/PLC, important dates and deadlines, crop insurance – supplemental coverage option, and using decision tools to evaluate program choices to make informed program decisions. Click on this link for dates and locations. Farm Bill Flyer

Small Farm College coming to Licking County

Are you interested in learning how to make the most out of your acreage.  If so this eight-week course is just for you.  It will meet on Wednesday evenings starting January 22, 2020.  Our instructors will bring the knowledge you need to get your small farm up and going or improve the profitability of your existing farm.  We will introduce you to a wide variety of topics and help answer questions specific to your situation.  Details and registration information is in this flyer: Licking Small Farm College 2020  Registrations will be limited to insure interaction with instructors.  Please call 740-670-5315 with any questions.

Save the Date for Ohio Beef winter programs!

Mark your calendars now for the Ohio Beef Cattle Nutrition and Management School, to be held in 2 locations, with 2 sessions at each locale.  Session 1 will focus on utilizing small grains in the diets of all ages and production groups of beef cattle, utilizing alternative forages, and managing your herd or feedlot with lower quality feedstuffs.  This discussion will be led by our former OSU research nutritionist and current University of Georgia Department of Animal Sciences Chair, Dr. Francis Fluharty.  Session 1 will take place from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. in Sandusky County (location to be determined) on January 29th, and 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the OSU Newark Campus in Licking County on January 30th.

Session 2 will also be from 6-9:00 p.m. at the same locations on February 12th in Sandusky County, and February 13th in Licking County.  This session will feature talks by several OSU Extension Educators on marketing strategies, commodity market outlook, feeding for the grids/carcass quality, forage testing, and managing annual forages for grazing and hay.

The Ohio State University Extension Beef Team also plans to hold a hands-on, Ohio Beef Cow/Calf workshop at the Claylick Run Farm Sale Facility outside of Newark, in Licking County.  This workshop will be held from 10 a.m – 2:00 p.m., including lunch, with 2 different session, held January 30th, and February 13th.  Session 1 will focus on alternative feeds and forages, and managing beef brood cow nutrition, with discussion led by Dr. Francis Fluharty.  Session 2 will focus on herd health and reproduction with Dr. Les Anderson from the University of Kentucky, and include live demonstrations from OSU Extension Beef Team members on body condition scoring, bull breeding soundness evaluation, and semen handling.   Both sessions of the workshop will be held in a heated barn, with an informal, demonstration and question/answer type setting utilizing live animals and equipment.

The cost for the Ohio Beef Cattle Nutrition and Management School will be $40 and will include handouts, and snacks.  The cost for the Ohio Beef Cow/Calf workshop will also be $40 and will include lunch and handouts.  More details and information for both of these winter beef programs will be published as they become available later this fall.  For questions, contact Allen Gahler in Sandusky County at 419-334-6340 or, or Dean Kreager in Licking County at 740-670-5315, or


Nomination time for the Licking County Agriculture Hall of Fame!


Is there someone you know that has demonstrated life long exemplary service to their community and the industry of agriculture?  If so, we would like to hear their story.  Please complete the nomination form and return to the Licking County Extension office by December 31, 2019.  We are glad to help you through the process.  We have created a new application this year that can be completed online and emailed to me.   Click on the following link for the application: Hall of Fame Nomination Form 11.13.19 or stop by the office.

Get backyard chickens ready for winter

Winter and Your Backyard Chickens

Sabrina Schirtzinger, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Knox County

Tim McDermott, DVM, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Franklin County 

Raising chickens during the winter has challenges: decreased egg production, frozen water, and possible frostbite. However, there are management strategies that will keep your flock safe during the winter. Winterizing your chicken coop and daily monitoring of your chickens will help to keep your flock healthy, happy, and warm.

Choose Cold-Tolerant Breeds

There are several breeds of chickens that winter better than others. These include Ameraucanas, Ancona, Black Australorps, Black Giant, Brahma, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Delaware, Dominique, Langshan, New Hampshire, Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Red, Speckled Sussex and Wyandottes. While these breeds are noted for their hardiness in withstanding cold, note that a larger comb or wattle present in a breed or roosters of most breeds can be a location for the development of frostbite in an otherwise cold-tolerant breed. Strategies to avoid frostbite will be discussed later in this fact sheet.

Block Drafts 

Check the doors and windows of the coop for drafts. Make sure the doors and windows can be sealed tightly and locked as needed to maintain temperature. Inspect your coop for holes where air, moisture, or vermin can enter. To check for holes, turn the lights on when it is dark and walk around the outside of the coop inspecting the structure for visible holes. Address repair and maintenance of the structure in the warm weather in preparation for the upcoming winter. Ensure that spray foam insulation or caulk used to seal holes is not accessible to the chickens.

If you purchased a coop with several open fenced sides, consider purchasing heavy plastic or a tarp to cover the fenced sides. This heavy tarp is an effective temporary wall to prevent wind and moisture at the ground level of the coop and can be added or removed as needed. When blocking drafts, do not completely eliminate ventilation, but control the airflow to prevent humidity and ammonia accumulation.

Maintain Ventilation

While most chicken breeds can tolerate cold, even sub-freezing temperatures, complications can arise when wind and moisture are accompanied with cold temperatures. It is important to protect the birds from drafts and excess wind while still allowing ventilation. Maintaining air quality in extremely cold temperatures is critical to the health of the flock.

The buildup of ammonia from litter in a tightly sealed coop can cause problems over time such as respiratory diseases. While the buildup of humidity in a poorly ventilated coop will predispose the chickens to frostbite as humid air creates more frostbite risk than drier air. If a heavy plastic tarp was used to block drafts, ensure that the sides do not extend to the roof level to prevent adequate ventilation and allow excess moisture buildup.



Address drafts, snow, and rain with tarps or heavy plastic being careful not to extend the material to the roofline. Photo by Annika McKillop, DVM, MspVM, DACVP, McKillop Poultry Medicine.



Increase Bedding

To prepare the coop for winter, remove all used bedding and clean the coop prior to adding a large quantity of new, dry bedding for the winter. Bedding materials may include wood shavings or chips, straw, soft hay, ground corn cobs, or shredded paper. This bedding keeps the flock warm through an insulation effect.

Deep bedding can increase humidity levels, so litter management is critical in the winter months. Check the moisture level in the coop daily; when adding large amounts of bedding you will need to clean the coop more often and regularly adjust, mix, or fluff the bedding levels to provide a warm and dry coop.

Modify Feeding

Chickens will eat less in the winter than the summer. Each laying chicken requires 2 pounds of feed per week. Dual-purpose chickens require more, where bantams will eat less. Mature laying chickens need to be fed a pellet or crumble containing 14-17 percent crude protein during the winter. Chickens enjoy scratch, which is a mixture of grains (such as oats and wheat) and cracked corn. Feed a small amount of scratch late in the day to help chickens to stay warm throughout the night as egg laying chickens need more carbohydrates for warmth and egg production.

Monitor Water

With winter weather, frozen water is inevitable. Change the water twice per day, and change the water more often on colder days to prevent freezing. Check the water source in the evening for frozen water so the birds have water available for the full 24-hour time. Even automatic waterers can freeze if not heated or insulated. Check these waterers for leaks that can contribute to increased humidity problems in the coop. Heated water bowls or containers help to keep water from freezing; however, be cautious as these devices may malfunction and cause a fire.

Encourage Egg Production

A decline or stop in egg production is natural during the winter because chickens require 14 hours of daylight. By providing 12-14 hours of light, you will help increase egg production. To provide light for the chickens, use a 60-watt incandescent lightbulb or 13-watt compact fluorescent or comparable LED bulb that is hung at approximately 7 feet with a downward reflector. This method will provide enough light for a 200-square foot coop area. Lights may be left on continuously or turned off manually or automatically with a timer.
Collecting eggs once or twice a day will help prevent eggs from freezing. Most eggs are laid in the morning. Time egg collection with water management checks. Discard eggs that have frozen and have possibly cracked.

Avoid Frostbite

Injury from frostbite occurs most commonly on extremities such as feet, combs, and wattles. Frostbite causes the cells in this area to freeze, causing cell death and subsequent changes in color and texture. Gray, black, or brittle areas are indicators of frostbite.

To avoid frostbite, remove the snow from the chicken run or straw areas to protect their feet when outdoors. Inside the coop, make sure that all the chickens are able to roost off the floor at night. Roosting allows the chicken to lie on their feet to avoid standing all night. Provide at least 6-8 inches of roost space per chicken. Roosts should be 1½ to 3 inches in diameter.

If you notice frostbite on a chicken, there are some basic treatments to attempt. Bring the animal into a warm space, slowly warming the affected extremity back to correct temperature. Do not attempt rapid warming of the affected area as this may cause further damage. Gentle use of warm—not hot—water foot soaks to warm the feet may be beneficial, but do not attempt on the comb or wattle. Monitor the affected extremities carefully for infection and contact your veterinarian if you suspect infection. In some extreme cases of frostbite, the loss of the extremity can occur.

Heating the Coop

Supplemental heat may or may not be necessary in the coop. Chickens are hardy animals with the ability to withstand substantial cold temperatures if drafts and excess humidity are eliminated and they can find a warm, dry spot in the coop. Prepare the chickens by allowing them to acclimate to the cold naturally as winter approaches. This builds up their natural tolerance to cold.

Insulating the coop can be an effective way to maintain warm temperatures without the need for electricity. Make sure that insulation material is not accessible by the birds. If supplemental heating is required, make sure the electrical feed to the coop is sturdy, safe, and not accessible to the chickens. Take care when using space heaters, radiant heating, or heat lamps to avoid excess heat, carbon dioxide buildup, or a fire hazard situation. Cold tolerant chicken breeds acclimated to the weather living in an insulated, dry coop with adequate ventilation do not usually need supplemental heat.

Key Management Strategies

Key points for keeping your flock healthy are to increase the frequency of monitoring the coop as needed to address and prevent problems promptly. Monitor for spilled feed and water. Controlled ventilation and air circulation that prevents ammonia and moisture buildup while allowing the birds and the coop to maintain temperature is critical.


  1. Damerow. (2017). Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, 4th ed., North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.
  2. Damerow. (2002).Barnyard in your Backyard. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Jacobs, J. (May 5, 2015). Frostbite in Chickens. Retrieved from:



The Benefits of Long-term No-till on Earthworm Activity and Rooting Depth

In long-term no-till, nightcrawlers are much more prevalent, thus leading to deeper root growth than in conventionally tilled soil.

Sjoerd Willem Duiker, Ph.D., CCA

Last week I went out to our long-term tillage plots to observe comparisons of 41 years of no-till, chisel-disk, and moldboard tillage. I was impressed by the difference in earthworm activity between plots of conventional tillage and long-term no-till. This year is our soybean year in a wheat-corn-soybean rotation (with either hairy vetch or crimson clover as a cover crop after wheat). The soybeans had just dropped their leaves. In the conventional tillage plot I noticed very few earthworm middens, however in the long-term no-till field I found many.

Pencil-sized nightcrawler burrows can be observed under the middens. (Credit: Sjoerd Duiker)

Very few nightcrawler middens were found in conventional tilled soil plots compared to long-term no-till soil plots. (Credit: Sjoerd Duiker)

Middens are the small mounds that anecic earthworms make on top of their deep, vertical burrows. These burrows can easily go as deep as 3 or 4 feet. Middens consist of crop residue pulled into the burrow by the earthworm (in this case mostly soybean leaves) and earthworm casts that the earthworms deposit at the soil surface. When you carefully remove the midden, you can see the pencil-size earthworm burrow underneath (see top photo).

These burrows are coated by organic substances. In our type of climate, these deep burrows are important pathways for root growth into the subsoil. In a study in Wisconsin, researchers observed that the average rooting depth of no-till corn was 49 inches, but that of tilled corn was 26 inches. The difference was attributed to the prolific nightcrawler activity in no-till: there were no nightcrawler burrows in the tilled fields, but on average 2.3 middens per square foot in the no-till fields – that is about 100,000 middens per acre. The average length of the burrows made by the nightcrawlers was 49 inches or more than 4 feet! In one study in Australia, researchers found that below a depth of 2 feet, almost all roots grew into pores and cracks. These deep roots are very important for facilitating water uptake in dry years.

Licking County rainfall totals for the 2019 growing season

Who would have believed that we would have ended the growing season with normal rainfall.  At the beginning of August we were well ahead of normal and then the rain shut off for much of the county.  On the up side the fall harvest is progressing at a very fast rate and is a long way ahead of last year complete.  On the down side the pastures are disappearing fast.  This is the first year I have ever had to start feeding hay by the middle of October but at least I was able to go 2 months without mowing the yard.  We are getting some rain now and hopefully soil moisture conditions will keep improving until time to plant again.

Rainfall – Licking County 2019

 Township April May June July August September Total
Alexandria 3.49 6.23 7.07 6.46 2.45 .69 26.39
Bennington 3.65 4.65 6.05 4.85 2.30 .90 22.40
Bowling Green 4.05   4.45 5.90 6.95 2.75 .10 24.19
Madison 3.18 3.52 7.48 6.51 2.08 .69 23.46
Newark 3.55 6.55 7.25 6.60 2.10 .40 26.45
Newton 3.00 4.80 6.95 8.50 2.05 .50 25.80
South Union 4.00 4.40 7.40 6.35 4.25 .40 26.80
Union 3.21 4.97 5.10 4.70 7.99 .66 26.63
Burlington 2.90 4.40 6.76 4.46 1.60 .50 20.62
Washington 3.50 4.10 5.25 4.35 .75 trace 17.95

County Avg 2019















Long term avg. 3.66 4.41 4.57 4.37 3.58 2.99 23.58


I would like to give a special thanks to the following individuals and families who graciously devoted their time and effort to keeping track and reporting their totals. Without their help this would not be possible. If you know someone who would like to participate in this project next year, please have them contact the extension office at 740-670-5315.

Rick Black                     Ed Hankinson           Dave Shipley

Larry Coe                      Kayla Hughes             Tom Sorg

Orville Felumlee         Jim Kiracofe

Marcy Williams          Jeff Martin