The fall and winter months can be brutal to your chickens if they aren’t prepared. It’s important to prepare your chickens and make sure they can handle the temperature drops.
Winter-hardy breeds are quite popular in the Midwest. The amount of eggs they produce can drop heavily or even stop completely if they aren’t well-fed and kept warm.
Fortunately, there are many steps to prepare your birds for the cooler months. Additionally, it will keep them happy and healthy, and hopefully not mess with their eggs.
Prepare Your Chickens and The Coop
Good shelter is essential for survival. As a pet owner, it’s important to keep your chickens warm in a good shelter.
They can become ill or even die if they’re too exposed to the hefty temperature drops. Keep their coops clean and as warm as possible. You should also keep it draft-free.
Cleaning Will Prepare Your Chickens
Another great step to prepare is a good coop cleaning. Give everything a thorough cleaning. This goes for their nesting boxes, perches, dishes, and anything else in their home.
Use commercial cleaning products, along with scrapers and scrubbers, to remove feces and anything stuck on. Alternatively, you can use a simple vinegar and water solution.
While you’re at it, inspect everything. Look for cracks or wearing on food dishes and perches. If something is in bad shape, replace it with something new to take care of your chickens.
Check The Integrity of the Coop
While you have everything out of the chicken coop, give it a thorough inspection and take advantage of the extra space. Believe it or not, a fortified coop can make a big difference in the fall and winter months.
Although it’s important to maintain airflow, don’t let too flow through. Your chickens might get too cold. At the same time, however, you don’t want too little airflow.
Controlling water leaks is also crucial. It can increase the humidity which invites parasites and diseases to attack your chickens. Ideally, your coop should be around 40 and 60 percent humidity.
There are a few specific things you should watch for when inspecting.
- Ensure doors and hatches are correctly hinged and can shut tightly.
- The roof should should be watertight. If there are leaks, replacing the roof may be necessary.
- Seal any cracks or holes you come across. Additionally, you may need to seal some vents and hatches for winter months.
- Reinforce weak spots that you come across.
- Inspect any wires and other electrical components if your coop has electricity.
- Look for signs of mice or unwanted pests throughout the coop, and especially in the bedding.
Prepare Your Chickens with Fresh Bedding
Many chicken owners find it unnecessary to replace all of the bedding in coops. The heat created by the decomposing bedding and manure adds heat to the coop. This will help prepare your chickens for the cold.
Good insulation is great to retain the warmth. You don’t want your chickens getting too cold.
However, if you do choose to give your birds fresh bedding, it doesn’t have to be anything super special. There are many things that work perfectly throughout the year.
Straw is always a good choice. It’s easy to acquire and it works great by itself. It can also be mixed with other types of bedding if you choose to do so.
Wood shavings also make nice bedding. Many stores carry pine and aspen wood shavings. The shavings work great as insulation. The scent can keep bugs away and mask the smell.
Lastly, you can line the nesting boxes with shredded paper. It shouldn’t be used as bedding on its own as it compresses and decomposes quickly. But it is usually free and adds insulation. Newspaper is the best choice.
Keep The Coop Heated
Providing a source of heat is not a bad idea. In some places, temperatures drop to single digits or even below zero.
Some breeds of chicken and single-combed roosters are sensitive to cold weather. This puts them at risk for frostbite.
If you do run electrical heaters, make sure the wires can’t be reached by your chickens. The best place to put your heat source is in a corner. This leaves room for your chickens to move away if they get too hot.
Nutrition is Important
Keeping your chickens well fed is important when temperatures start to drop. The body needs a fair amount of energy to stay warm. You may have to increase their diets by 10% or more.
Increasing the diets shortly before the colder months will prepare your chickens and get them used to the extra feeding.
Providing your chickens with a quality brand of chicken feed is ideal. Consider adding some extra treats in with their normal food to help their stress.
Occasionally feeding your birds warm oatmeal can help them bulk up. Some people even give lettuce and wheat grass to their chickens. It will help your chickens until they can forage again.
Water is Always Essential
Chickens always need access to a clean water source. This is no less important during the winter months.
The water may freeze if the temperature drops too low. If you’d prefer to not break up the frozen water, you should get a water heater. Chickens will enjoy the warm water and you won’t have to bother with the ice.
As with the electric heaters, be mindful of the wires if you go this route. Keep them out of reach of your birds. Additionally, you should check for damage or other issues regularly.
Keep your chickens and all of your pets happy, healthy, and warm during the winter.