In the winter, chickens may naturally decrease their laying or stop altogether, but this does not mean we should be giving them any less care during the colder weather. In fact we should be keeping a closer eye on them, in order to keep them in peak condition for the new laying season.
We have put together a quick guide to help you prepare your chickens for winter, to ensure that they are kept safe and healthy throughout the harsher conditions.
Weatherproof your chicken house
Chickens are surprisingly hardy animals, having been conditioned over centuries to live and survive outdoors. However, domestic chickens need shelter and warmth in order to remain happy and healthy. When preparing your chickens for winter, paying attention to their living quarters is extremely important.
- Repair any draughts that may exist in your current chicken house. If left unfixed, this can cause illness in your flock. If you believe your chicken coop is beyond repair it is time to invest in a new one, such as the Outdoor Small Animal Hutch and Poultry Chicken Coop.
- Be careful not to block up any ventilation holes. It may seem natural to cover up anything that will allow warmth to escape, but vents are important for letting condensation out and fresh air in, especially as your poultry will be spending more time indoors than any other time of the year.
- If the temperature is predicted to drop overnight or heavy snow is expected, it can be a good idea to loosely cover the coop with a blanket or some old carpet. This will stop most of the cold air from penetrating the house, whilst still allowing the vents to let in fresh air.
- Even though the weather may be cold and wet don’t keep your chickens locked away, as they still require a decent amount of daylight. Perhaps create a greenhouse style extension to their coop, where they can also shelter from the elements. When the days are shorter and your chickens prefer to spend longer roosting in the warmth, consider a low energy bulb for inside the coop. Avoid lamps as this could cause a fire risk.
Keep good hygiene in the coop
You should always have a good hygiene system when keeping chickens in a coop, but this is especially important during the winter months, when there will be more mud, dirty water and possible contamination than any other time of the year.
- You may normally clean out your coop once a week, but in the winter, you should try to increase this where you can.
- After you have cleaned the chicken house of any old bedding and droppings, treat the floor with an animal friendly disinfectant. This will help to dry out the floor and keep it smelling fresh.
- Decent bedding is essential, but don’t overdo it. Ensure that it is a good depth and that it is absorbent. Shavings are generally better than straw as they absorb more moisture and there is less fungal growth within it.
Ensure your chickens can eat and drink healthily
No matter what the weather outside, chickens need to maintain a balanced diet to keep them healthy through to the spring.
- Ensure that you clean and disinfect the chicken feeders and drinkers every week. The extra mud that may be formed from wet and snowy conditions can often be transferred to the eating and drinking areas, causing the risk of illness through cross contamination. An Osprey BEC Tripod Drinker will make it harder for mud and dirt to work it’s way into the drinking area, due to its height off the ground.
- De-ice the food and drink bowls several times a day if needs be so that your chickens always have access to food and water. If you would normally leave bowls outdoors overnight, bring them indoors to avoid the hassle of de-icing them, then put them out fresh the next day.
- Clean out and refill the grit bowls on a daily basis, as your chickens will need a fresh supply to help them digest their food.
- Giving your chickens extra corn can be beneficial, as this will help to heat them internally as they digest it overnight.