Although chickens are
very adaptable, they’re really tropical birds, so it’s worth giving
them a little TLC when cold weather comes calling. Here are the
steps I take to ensure our flock does well in the winter.
in the heated waterer. In an uninsulated
coop, waterers start freezing when outside temperatures drop into the
high to mid twenties. Smaller waterers freeze sooner, while coops
with lots of chickens packed inside might keep those chicken nipples
thawed for a long time. We use heat
tape sandwiched between two buckets, with a layer of reflectix
wrapped around the outside for extra insulation, the combination of
which keeps the water thawed down into the teens.
Turn on the light in the chicken coop. You should have done
this several weeks ago, actually, to maintain the day length at
fourteen hours for optimal lay. This is an optional step, but can
keep some heirloom birds producing eggs when they’d otherwise stop for
the flock to winter pasture. Last year, I posted
about a few different options for preventing the chicken run
from turning into an icy mudhole in the winter. Deep
bedding in a greenhouse is one option, but we like to let our girls
go out and play
in the woods.
protein during molt. If your chickens look
scruffy (like the hen above) and are off their lay, chances are they’re
going through their annual feather-replacement stint. Giving the
flock fresh greens and high protein scraps (especially animal or insect
meat) can help them grow feathers faster so they’re back to laying eggs
sooner. (You might want to check out some of Harvey
Ussery’s winter tonics
grain as warmth-giving carbs. Many chicken-keepers
like to add a separate feeder full of whole or cracked corn or wheat
during the winter. Chickens eat the high carbohydrate grains as a
supplement to their balanced feed, giving them extra carbohydrates to
burn producing warm during cold weather.
What do you do to keep
your flock healthy during the winter months?
instructions for building several different kinds of heated waterers.