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How to Care for Chickens in the Winter

Views: 2023     Author: LONGMU     Publish Time: 2023-04-20      Origin: LONGMU


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When it’s getting darker earlier, temperatures are beginning to dip, and the flock is starting to molt. Luckily for chickens, they are incredibly adaptable. Chickens are not mammals like us. They are poultry birds. Because of this, their bodies’ interpret weather differently than we do. It is important when selecting flocks that we consider their hardiness in the winter climate. With proper care and management, over-wintering your chickens can be a success with a little bit of planning and proper preparation.

Feather Replacement

Chickens prepare themselves for winter by going through a molt each fall. If more than a year old, chickens will molt each fall to replace their body’s feathers with new ones. Like all birds, they rely on their feathers to keep warm. The molt is very systematic. The feather loss begins at the top of their heads, then progresses to the chest, back, wings and finally the tail. Fall molts can start as early as August or as late as November. Every chicken molts on his or her own schedule during the fall.

Tip: If you clip your chicken’s flight feathers to keep them in your poultry backyard chicken coop, you will need to do it again after they molt. Those feathers will return anew.

poultry equipment

Preparing Your Chicken Coop for Winter

When you start out raising chickens, two of the most important things to decide are where you will build your coops and how many chickens it will house. Consider caring for the flock during all four seasons, but especially winter (and summer). How accessible is the coop? How far away from the house is the coop? Will it be difficult to reach the flock in a snowstorm? It is also important to consider coop size. During periods of nice weather, chickens use their coop for really two reasons. The first is to sleep and the other to lay their eggs. Most chickens prefer to spend most of their days outside in the fresh air exploring. However, chickens will retreat to the coop during times of harsh weather, rainy days and snowy ones too. It is a good idea to allow 4 square feet of floor space per chicken in harsher climates.

Some people like to increase the depth of their flock’s bedding during winter. Whether you use pine shavings or straw, double up the depth. Some also switch to a deep litter method of chicken waste management during the winter. This method is a great way to generate heat from the composting process in the coop for your flock all winter long. When using the deep litter method, be sure to regularly add clean litter to prevent moisture issues in the coop.

Roosting space is also important. Each chicken should have about 18 inches of space on the roost. Wooden roosts are a must. Avoid using metal roosts in the coop. The metal will conduct the cold. The flock will “snuggle” together on the roosts during the night and even sometimes during the day.

Tip: Wrap the run in plastic so it can still be opened or rolled up on nice sunny winter days. You can plan ahead and unroll the plastic prior to the next storm.

Late each fall, I also like to give the coop a good deep cleaning before winter. In my case, the next regular cleaning will not take place until a warm day during the late winter or spring. A shop vacuum works great to reach those nooks and crannies and remove the chicken “dust.” Another reason for a fall coop cleaning is to break the life cycles of chicken mites, lice and fleas before heading into winter.

Lastly, check your poultry coop for possible entry points for predators and opportunistic rodents. Repair the coop and inspect your locks prior to winter.

How to Keep Chickens Warm without Electricity

There are a few steps to take for how to keep chickens warm without electricity. Some cold hardy breeds that should be able to withstand cold weather. Chickens become acclimated to their environment. This includes a heated coop. If we were to lose power, the chickens would lose the heat source in their coop. By forcing the flock to acclimate rapidly to an unheated environment, it can lead to stress and death.

So how can you keep them warm? Add extra bedding. Insulate the chicken coop when building it. Close the coop pop door at night. Surround the exterior of the coop with hay bales. Don’t make a coop too big for a very small flock. Give them a treat like cracked corn or scratch before they go to roost at night. This helps to boost their metabolism so they can generate heat and eggs as they sleep. Also, ample ventilation, lots of fresh water, and plenty of food are good things to provide year-round.turkey transport crate (9)

Poultry Waterers

If you are using regular chicken waterer, I might suggest purchasing two or three. Keep the extra ones in your home or garage ready to go. Simply replace the chicken drinkers in the coop with a fresh one. Bring in the frozen waterer and allow it to thaw and rotate them out a few times during the day. This rotational method works nicely.

You can also purchase chicken heated bases that poultry drinkers perch upon to keep them thawed or even waterers that have a heated base already incorporated into them. Some people use heated dog bowls and others have become quite inventive by making their own heaters from cinder blocks, terra cotta pots and even cookie tins.

Chicken Frostbite

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, chickens can experience frostbite on their combs, wattles, toes and feet. To prevent frostbite, be sure to keep the coop environment dry and humidity free. Be sure to provide adequate ventilation to help remove moisture from the chicken’s breathing and droppings in the winter. Make sure all chickens are sleeping on the roosts. Do not let your flock sleep on the floor or in the nesting boxes. Sleeping on the roosts allows the chickens’ feathers to cover their legs, feet and toes keeping them warm and protected from the cold winter air. To prevent frostbite, you can rub some Vaseline on your chicken’s combs and wattles just before nightfall.

chicken cage

Chicken Predators

During the winter months, you might notice that predators are more prevalent. Be sure your locks are predator proof and that you lock your flock into the poultry house each night. Also, avoid using chicken wire on your run. Chicken wire was designed to keep chickens in but not predators out. Half-inch hardware cloth is a much better and stronger choice. Also, add a 3-foot wide hardware cloth apron around the run buried 2 inches into the ground. This will deter digging predators too.

Just set the timer. Automatic chicken coop doors are great helpers at locking up the flock at night and opening them up in the morning.


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