Friday, November 10, 2017

Preparing your chickens for Winter

Now that the colder weather in setting in, it's time to get the flock ready for winter. This is the first year that I don't have any flocks to move around. Luckily, all my chickens are already in the right coops though I usually have to move them around for warmth before winter sets in. Unfortunately, I do have some coop repair to do though! The older coops get, the more I find sudden problems like loose boards. 

Chicken Care in Winter

Since Winter brings the freezing cold temperatures, I focus on getting things in the coop cold weather safe. From keeping water from freezing to blocking predators, getting winter chores done early can save you from doing it in the snow! Now lets get started... this shouldn't take long at all!

Preparing your chickens for Winter

First, check the chicken coop to make sure there are no holes, cracks or loose boards where predators can get in. As the seasons change their food is going to become less plentiful and when The predators are hungry, your chickens will start to look like a tasty meal. Take the time now to batten down the hatches so you don't have to worry about it when it's freezing out!

If you Grow fodder for chicken feed in winter, now is the time to get your system up and running! Chickens love grass and other greens in summer and by growing fodder, I can supply my chickens with greens all year round.

Block any drafts that are at roost level or below. Plug up holes with insulation, nail a board over them, or stuff with towels. Make sure to leave ventilation at roof level though so moisture doesn't build up in the coop and cause frostbite. If you wrap the run with plastic to keep out snow, now is the time to do it. Make sure to leave ventilation at the top.

Ban the bulb. If you start heating the coop now, you have to do it all winter long which can become impossible if the snow knocks your electric out. Chickens don't need a heated coop in winter as long as they have a dry, draft free coop. If you do decide to heat the coop, do not use a heat lamp. Heat lamps are the leading cause of coop fires and we wouldn't want that to happen! 

Caring for chickens in winter

Add some extra coop litter to the floor and nest boxes. Whether you use straw, wood chips or something else...now is the time to add some extra litter. An extra layer of litter keeps their feet off the cold ground (or floor) and gives them something to dig in when winter boredom sets in. If you use the deep litter method make sure to mix in some DE to get things going. 

Add some carbs to their diets. Feed like cracked corn, scratch, bread etc are full of carbohydrates. In the summer this should be limited, but in winter an extra handful of corn thrown to the flock at bedtime can help them warm themselves up for the long night.

Add grit to their diet. If your chickens are used to getting their grit from free ranging you might want to provide some for them if snow has blocked their access to the ground for day's at a time. 

Now is the time to bring out the winter water bowls. Whether you use a heated poultry fount or a plug in dog bowl, it's time to plug that bad boy in. Make sure you check the plug and cord for any fraying spots or exposed wires. The post Keeping chickens water from freezing shows the different heated waterers I use in each coop.

If you live in an area that frequently gets large amounts of snow, grab an extra bag of feed or two to keep on hand. If you get snowed in, the chickens will have plenty of food to get them through.

Whew! Glad we got that all done. The chickens might be ready for winter, but I'm not ready for the cold weather yet. Are you?

~L

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