Come rain or snow, it is good to get chickens ready so that they can survive and remain productive throughout the frost.
Winter is coming. Temperatures drop. Snow falls. Hours of the natural light become less. There is less food for predators. Your chickens become a target.
In this article, we cover some of the things you must do to take care of your chicken in cold weather.
Ensure you have enough feed.
Chicken need enough food for optimal production. When it is cold, they will eat more so as to keep their bodies warm. When the ground is covered with snow, the chicken will not be able to supplement their feed by foraging for worms and other insects. Ensure you give then enough well-balanced feed for their health and wellbeing.
You will need to ensure there is enough chicken feed in the store, preferably to last you throughout winter. In the event of a storm, you might not be able to go to the stores to replenish your stock.
Provide enough light in the coop during winter
During winter the number of hours when there is natural light reduces. Light stimulates the hen’s pituitary glands, which in turn stimulates the ovaries to produce eggs. The optimal light hours for laying hens is 12-14 hours. When these reduce, egg production reduces and may stop.
Providing enough light in the coop during winter will ensure your hens keep laying. You can get a light with a timer, that will light up the coop for 14 hours, and with a light sensor so that it goes off once there is enough natural light in the coop.
Some backyard chicken farmers opt not to provide additional lighting during winter in order to give the chicken rest. They choose to be satisfied with the drop in egg production.
Provide enough water for your chickens in winter.
Water is an essential nutrient is chickens. It is responsible for digestion, egg production, and temperature regulation. The bodies of chicken are 65% water and this needs to be maintained. Less water means less production and may affect the health of your chi
With the low temperatures in winter, there is a high chance that the drinking water will freeze. Chickens will not drink frozen water. You can use a heated waterer or create an inexpensive DIY solution to keep the water from freezing.
Please note that keeping your hens without water for a few hours will disrupt their laying cycles for several days.
Bedding for chicken in Winter
Whether you use sand or straw, ensure you have enough bedding for the coop. This is because chickens will spend more time in the coop during winter.
You might need to place a thicker layer of bedding during winter as compared to other seasons.
Provide enough ventilation in the coop
While preventing drafts, make sure you do not prevent enough air in the coop. Drafts in the coop can be defined as the air that moves quicky and horizontally through the coop. Ventilation is the air that moves slowly and vertically in the coop.
Without enough ventilation, there will be an accumulation of ammonia in the coop, which will adversely affect your chickens.
Collect eggs more frequently in winter.
If eggs are left on the coop for long, they will freeze and crack. They will not be good for human consumption. Collect eggs more often than you do during other seasons. Some backyard poultry keepers recommend collecting eggs every 3 hours during winter.
Prevent Leaks and Drafts in the Coop
Drafts and dampness are bad for the coop and chickens.
Snow will collect on the roof the coop and as it melts it water might leak into the coop. Dampness in the coop will encourage the growth of mold and other pathogens. This will, in turn, make your chickens sick.
Cold drafts during winter will make the coop cold for the chicken, making them eat more to keep warm. Some might get sick and die.
Heat is not required during winter
Additional heat is not required in the coop during winter. Chicken have insulation in terms of thick feathers and other bodily functions to regulate heat in the body.
Providing heat may interfere with their ability to regulate their body temperature for example if you provide heat at 70 degrees Fahrenheit inside the coop, and the chickens step outside where the temperatures are at 0 degrees, they will not be able to regulate their body temperatures.
If you must provide heat, make sure the difference from the outside is just a few degrees.
Provide enough grit for the chickens during winter
With the snow covering the chicken run, chickens will not be able to get enough grit, which is instrumental for their digestion.
Make sure you provide for the good quality grit during winter.
Provide for a dust bath for the chickens during winter
The cold hard snow-covered ground during winter will prevent the chickens from making their own dust baths. Make sure you provide a dust box inside the coop or shelter the dust points outside the coop from the snow.
Secure your chicken coop and chicken run during winter.
During winter, predators and vermin have less food available. Your chicken and their feed will be a target during winter.
Make sure you secure your chicken run and coop against predators and vermin.