Chicken Keeping: 10 tips for winter

Winter for any animal can present its challenges and it’s no different for chickens and the keepers of chickens. Providing the optimum conditions for your flock is essential and whilst they may not be laying at this point of the year effort still needs to be invested in their upkeep so they can start the new laying period in prime condition. Here’s 10 tips to help when you are out and about with your flock

1.         Ventilation in the house is essential for your poultry throughout the year so don’t be tempted to block up every hole in the house in the belief it will keep the birds warm when the wild weather comes along.

2.         Bedding and litter should be of an adequate depth to provide a level of insulation but don’t be tempted to stuff the house full of straw thinking it will create a cosy house.

3.         Mucking out should be at least a weekly task but during the winter due to the birds spending longer in the house (and therefore fouling the litter more). To help try a quick spot of ‘poo picking’ each morning or place a sheet of newspaper under the perch that can be removed when you let the birds out each day.

4.         Try to keep the entrance to the house dry or free from standing water or mud. A couple of old pallets in front of the pop hole might look unsightly but they will help.

5.         Dampness can occur on the floor of the chicken houses despite your best efforts so winter is a good time to invest in a powder type disinfectant such as Stalosan F.

6.         Disinfecting the feeders and drinkers on a weekly basis is advisable now as they will be getting dirtier due to the wetter weather.

7.         It’s worth considering giving your chickens free access to feed during the day as opposed to measuring out a specific amount. This is because their consumption rate will vary depending on how cold the weather is, they will manage this accordingly.

8.         A handful of corn or other ‘slow burn’ grain per bird given as a scratch feed an hour or so before they go into roost will provide some extra energy to keep the birds warm during the night.

9.         Bring drinkers indoors at night or empty them completely. Its far easier to fill an empty drinker in the morning than wander around with a kettle of boiling water trying to defrost a solid drinker

10.       Check the drinkers regularly during the day or keep them in a frost free place. Chickens will drink a significant amount of water even in cold weather.

 

They might have built in snow shoes but winter can present its challenges for Sabelpoots

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12 thoughts on “Chicken Keeping: 10 tips for winter

    • Thank you! Great Tips. My coop structure (where they roost/perch at night and where they lay their eggs) is located within an old building. I converted 1/2 of the building for the flock to hang out during inclement weather — like today, which is very high winds and just at freezing temps.

      My question is this: how cold can they endure during the daylight hours?

      At night, I have a small space heater placed outside the coop and it heats the inside up pretty nicely. The heater though, cannot warm up the entire space of their part of the building (about 250 sq ft) and it would be expensive to run the heater 24/7 as the place is old and most definitely ventilated! Drafts abound without a bit of effort.

      There seems to be two schools of thought:
      1. No supplemental heating at all for several reasons such as they have feathers to keep them warm and they won’t get acclimated to the cold, if there is a power outage, thereby putting them at high risk of hypothermia in the event supplemental heating is not available.

      2. Keep them warm or at least add as much supplemental heating as you can afford to keep the living spaces above freezing.

      THANK YOU in advance for your thought on this.

      P.S. By the way, I have Barred Rocks which is a cold-hardy bird, but they have not experienced their first molt yet. Next year when they are 1 year old, I suppose. I just bought them as pullets this past August.

      • They can survive quite low daytime temperatures and in my experience cope with below freezing conditions (upto -5c)

        I don’t provide heating overnight and haven’t suffered any fatalities even at -12c but alot depends on the size of house. If its too large or draughty then they may have a problem generating sufficient heat. Hope that helps and thanks for reading 🙂

      • Thanks! Our temps in January can get to around -25C down to -40C — a real cold snap! Those are the temps I worry about here in the Upper Midwest. We’ve already experienced several morning temps even lower than -12C and it’s been a very mild December. My coop (where they sleep and lay) is located in an old outbuilding (where they hang out during inclement weather and/or before bed), so it does help cut the drafts and the cold. I invite you to check out my blog and hope you follow!

  1. I am also wondering about how much extra work it is to look after chooks in cold temps. My previous chicken keeping experiences were in East Africa and in Whangarei, North of NZ (probably not far from sleeping horse?)

    But now we are settled in Norway with -25 not unusual overnight temp and -10 almost constantly. People assure me that the birds will cope, so it should just be a matter of figuring out how to keep the feed and water from freezing. And there is always the problem of letting them out for a while each day as there is soon 2-4 feet of snow in the garden.

    I plan to build a movable coop that can wander the garden throughout the summer and then ‘park’ it for the winter under the large balcony we have to keep the snow off the coop itself.

    Have to admit I am not looking for more work to do outside during this time of year! I guess that’s just because I am still mourning the ‘loss’ of the summer months right now! Come the spring I’ll be in a better frame of mind to tackle this.

    Found you though the Guardian, and liked the cut of your jib!
    Cheers
    Ian

    • Cheers Ian!

      I think you are right, the main challenges will be keeping the water defrosted (can be done by sitting the metal drinker on an upturned plant pot with a tealight beneath that but whether that would work with -25c you will have to let me know. Worst I’ve had here is -12c.

      Regarding their hardiness, obviously some breeds manage better than others but the Icelandic Fowl ( Íslenka landnámshænan ) is a good example of a breed that manages in such temperatures. They are a rare breed so difficult to source however it does illustrate that chickens have evolved to cope with different climates as they have travelled with humans.

      Hope the winter isn’t too harsh and the spring is quick to arrive.

      • Thanks! Yes I was thinking of making up something with a small electric light bulb, experimenting with wattage until it works just right.

        I guess that all the other birds in the garden (and there are many different types from Siskins to Woodpeckers) manage just fine with nothing, that’s my inspiration.

        It is a funny place to live, almost like living in two places. Long warm summers spent in the garden, or in the forest or down at the beach a few minutes away and then come Christmas everything changes as the temp plunges well below zero and pretty much stays there for 4 months. Then its incredibly clear blue skies and walks (or skis for the ‘locals’) in the mountains or visiting the cozy log cabins of friends.

        Spring arrives with a real buzz, you can feel it, everything coiled up ready for the magic word and once it starts everything goes crazy, you can see the pollen on the fjord as a yellow haze and stuff grows like mad!

        It’s not without its difficulties but so far I am loving the clear definition between the seasons here, I just wish some stuff wasn’t so incredibly expensive! The high salaries here are somewhat exaggerated, sure the ‘professions’ earns heaps (don’t they always) but for us practical folk there are simply too many ‘work for chips’ foreigners available for us to charge any decent amount.

        Still, you can forgive a mighty amount for a clear blue sky can’t you 🙂
        Cheers

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