Winter Is For The Birds! Winter Care for Your Flock

WINTER CHICKEN WORKSHOP

How and when to winterize your coop and day pen:

- You should winterize your pen and coop before the first major snowstorm or by the first of November.   Keep in mind, we live in New England and Mother Nature likes to mess with us!!!! I will post on our FB page when it is a good time to winterize.

- Thoroughly clean coop and inspect for any drafty areas, loose wire or structural issues that need repair.

- Make sure your coop has proper ventilation for winter! Vents should be above roosts and near the top of the coop to avoid drafts! 

- Wrap day pen in heavy clear contractor plastic (staple gun) or screw in clear plastic panels around entire pen leaving 1 foot open for ventilation.  This will protect your birds from gusting winds, snow drifts, wet food, and frostbite!   It acts like a mini greenhouse and allows your girls to be outside on less than desirable winter days!  Once your pen is winterized it will remain in place until March!  USE CAUTION WHEN REMOVING PLASTIC IN SPRING THAT NO STAPLES OR SCREWS FALL, AS CHICKENS WILL EAT THEM!

- Once the ground is frozen you can put straw in your day pen.  Watch out for wet/mold under the straw if we have a warm winter!  Change it out periodically.

- Make sure you have a proper area for dust bathing throughout the winter months!  I keep soil mixed with wood ash in a bin in my garage and add to their bathing areas throughout the cold months. An old tire,  or square of cinderblocks works great for a dust bath area! This is essential, as your flock can still get poultry lice and mites during the winter.

- Add more shavings or Koop Clean in your coop during the colder months and straw to your nesting boxes for extra warmth.

- Put a battery operated thermometer in coop, so you don’t have to guess temperature or humidity.

Essential Poultry Needs For The Winter

-          Chickens are far more cold tolerant than heat tolerant.  They will gradually adapt to the climate change.  Your goal is to protect them from drafts and wind chill,  keep a clean dry coop, provide a proper shelter, and fresh food and water.

-          Chickens eat more, drink more, and burn more calories during the winter to regulate body temperature.  You can give them an extra scoop of cracked corn or scratch grains during winter months. 

-          Purchase a heated waterer.  I recommend a heated plastic dog bowl, but there are several options available.

-          Keep an eye on roosters, or girls with large combs on very cold days!  You can put some petroleum jelly or bag balm on combs to protect them from frostbite.  Also make sure feather footed and top hat breed chickens do not get wet feathers.

Winter Snacks

  -     Keep in mind snacks should be fed in moderation!  Too many snacks, even healthy ones, can lead to obesity, prolapsed vent, fatty liver, abnormal laying, and a variety of other health problems.  

-          Make sure your chickens have plenty of greens during the winter as they will not have access to grass and other natural vegetation.

-          Kale, collard greens, dandelion greens and beet greens are my favorite.

-          On super cold days I serve my girls warm (NOT HOT) plain Quaker oatmeal cooked with water and made loose.  I mix in natural apple sauce, raisins, or mashed banana or a touch of honey. Warm cooked pumpkin or butternut squash made with no salt or butter is also a great treat!

-          You can also warm up any veggie for them just make sure if you are using cooked frozen veggies there is no added salt or sugars.

Heat &Lighting

-          NEVER USE A BROODER OR HEAT LAMP IN YOUR COOP

It is a fire hazard plain and simple!

-          We will discuss the pros and cons of using a heat source during the workshop and if you choose to use a heat source I recommend a flat panel radiant heater, heated pet mat, or Sweeter Heater

-          I have mine on a thermo cube set to turn on at 32 degrees and shut off at 35 degrees.

-          If you use heat be consistent and avoid huge fluctuations in temperature.

-          If you decide to add extra light, do so after your birds have molted or it may cause them to molt later in the season, which is not good.

-          If you decide to add extra light in your coop during the shorter days, do so in the morning not the evening.

-          Chickens are used to the subtle setting sun and abruptly turning off a light can cause chaos and accidents if they are not roosted.  Extra light at night also keeps your birds active and more apt to peck each other.

-          One hour extra is the maximum time to add.

-          Use soft, low light and never bright or fluorescent. 

-          The soft glow of a night light or small string of white Christmas lights is more than enough light.

To Prevent Winter Boredom

-          Periodically, change the scenery in your day pen.

-          Add extra roosts, stacked milk crates, wooden boxes or your retired Christmas tree.  Anything that breaks up the open space will provide new excitement for your girls.

-          Hang treat cakes in a large suet cage.

-          Hang veggies like cabbage or corn on the cob for your girls to peck at.

 

Love,

The Crazy Chicken Lady, Gretchen