Chickens in Winter: Happier Hens

It’s already been below freezing here and winter hasn’t even got started yet. Whilst I do worry about the chickens over the coldest periods, at the same time I don’t really worry at all. I know that doesn’t make sense. Really what I mean is that I shouldn’t be worried – chickens can cope well with cold weather, better than they can when it is boiling hot at any rate. They are quite well equipped naturally so even though my instinct is to be a bit concerned I know I shouldn’t worry too much. Here are the things I do to try to help them along a bit :

Firstly I check their coop over and make any needed repairs before the weather gets too bad. They want ventilation, but they don’t want any major drafts whistling around them.

I also attach thick, clear plastic over the chicken run as a wind break – it becomes a bit of a sun trap as well. Over the years I have tried other things; bamboo fencing, and corrugated plastic roof – neither have lasted particularly well through the strong winds we have every year it seems. The clear plastic has seemed to work the best so far.

I add some extra bedding to give them a little extra insulation. Also the nest boxes are padded out more. Whilst most of my hens roost I do have one who nabs herself the corner nest box on cold nights – I guess she is the cleverest of the bunch!

winterwheatI have never gone as far as insulating the coop walls – although that is an option for me it has never really seemed necessary.

They love their winter treats of warmed mash (and sometimes scrambled egg). I don’t add a heat lamp because I don’t trust them (I would be worrying more about it catching light than I do about them being too cold). However we don’t get as much snow and freezing temperatures as other areas do.

What I do think is important though is keeping the water from freezing – a heated dog water bowl worked well for us last year. We did put Vaseline on their combs when there was a weather warning for freezing. It is supposed to help protect against frostbite. Mine didn’t get any so it may have worked. I’m not sure I want to wrestle with our rooster again to get it on though – we shall see….

frank

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