10 Chicken Care Tips to Get Your Flock Winter Ready
Leaves are falling and everyone knows that Winter waits for no one. Now is a splendid time for preparing your coop for Old Man Winter’s arrival. Ten Dos and Don’ts to keep your flock from freezing.
10 Tips for Winter Chicken Care
Provide fresh, not frozen, water at all times.
If you keep ducks, this won’t be as big of an issue because ducks will splash and swim (yes, even in the winter) continuously moving the surface of the water, therefore keeping it from freezing. If your ducks aren’t active enough or if you don’t have ducks to play in your pond, it’s crucial to ensure that your water does not freeze. There are a plethora of options for water heaters on the market, many of which are good options, but emptying the water troughs at night and refilling in the morning will work pretty well, too. Chickens won’t drink once they’ve gone to roost so they won’t need the water at night anyway.
Insulate your coop well, of course, but remember it needs to breathe!
There’s lots of moisture happening inside your coop whether it’s cold out or not. Be sure to provide enough ventilation for it to evaporate. Just like in the warmer months, your coop needs air to be healthy, just be sure that your ventilation doesn’t lead to drafts.
Open those coop doors even in the snow!
Don’t keep your feathered friends all cooped up. While some may not, most of your birds will enjoy the snow! Allowing your chickens to go out into the cold will also encourage them to adapt to the changing weather and become more cold-hardy.
Watch them for aggressiveness.
Your flock isn’t used to being confined in cramped, or even spacious, quarters and much like ourselves, they tend to get a little testy when we are literally cooped up too long. You can avoid this by giving them something to do. Treats that take time to access, such as suet blocks or hanging cabbage heads are helpful as they prevent boredom. Repurposing child and infant toys as entertainment for your coop is another worthy way for your flock to flee boredom.
Only use safe heating sources for supplemental heating purposes.
If you heat your coop on a regular basis, your birds cannot acclimate to the weather as it changes. These raised temperatures can lead to an intolerance for colder weather that otherwise may not have existed. If you live here in Wisconsin, or in another area of the US that gets pretty cold, we recommend using a coop-safe heating source to supplement them if it falls below 37 degrees inside the coop, such as a 250-watt heat lamp mounted out of reach to your birds.
Clean the bedding more often.
Because your flock is contained in one area now instead of galavanting the countryside, it’s important that the litter gets cleaned more often. Even those of us that use the Deep Litter Method will need to add bedding and stir way more than in warmer months.
Be an avid egg collector.
Because hens like to lay their eggs during nocturnal hours, it’s super important that come morning; eggs are gathered up to avoid freezing, cracking, or another undesired status on your daily gift. Try to round up your eggs a couple of times per day or more.
Provide outdoor shelters.
While your poultry partners may enjoy outdoor weather, storms and heavy snow or ice can stress them tremendously. Avert the stress by allowing them to take shelter under a small lean-to, or another shelter of some sort beside the coop.
Consider artificial lighting.
When you have your flock cooped up, you’ll want to provide some rays for them to bathe under. Naturally shorter days and confinement can take its toll, so if you don’t have a ton of windows and natural light, consider offering artificial lighting to keep egg production up and keep your friendly flock as happy as ever.
Provide healthy greens and vegetables and up the protein.
Your ladies and gents cannot forage in the snow for fresh fodder, so offer up some dark, leafy greens and healthy treats that they might be lacking. Consider increasing their protein levels to help maintain and grow our any remaining feathers from molting. Feeding high fat and protein snacks before bed can help them keep their body temperatures up when the temps drop, too. Think peanuts or mealworms.
What do we all do when we are stuck inside on a cold, rainy day? We snack, cuddle and entertain ourselves. We can only expect as much from our flock of feathered friends out in the coop.