Chicken Keeping in Winter - Cold Weather Top Tips
- Most chickens have natural cold hardiness and sufficient feather coverage to provide protection over the winter months to stay warm, however, rehomed battery hens may need some help.
- Ex Battery hens may need physically picking them up and putting under the shelter for the first few days and taking themselves off to bed is all new to them, so you'll now need to lift them into their chicken coop until they get the hang of it. If the weather is bad, your newly rehomed hen can easily catch a cold if they stand out in the cold and wet.
- If the weather conditions are extreme and you have an outbuilding with a supply of electricity, heat lamps or oil-filled radiators can be used to provide extra warmth, but only do this for feather bare birds and do not make the environment ‘warm’ and turn it into a spa break for them, just lessen the chill and remember they need fresh air.
- You can cover the coop overnight with an old carpet, blankets, bubble wrap or flattened cardboard to give extra insulation.
- The deep litter method (10cm+) dry bedding of chopped straw or wood shavings on the floor will help keep chickens warm.
- If you have just a few girls in a large coop/stable or converted shed, put a large cardboard box on its side, half-fill the box with chopped straw or wood shavings and place it in a draft-free area of the coop or stable, it will give the hens additional warmth. Our girls love this during the colder months, and after dark, they are all huddling together in the box.
- Smearing combs & wattles with petroleum jelly/Vaseline will help prevent them from getting horrible frostbite, especially if they have large, floppy combs.
- Access to fresh water is vital. Drinkers will freeze if left out overnight and may split if you try to defrost them in the morning, especially if you attempt it with boiling water (do not use a kettle of boiling water on frozen plastic).
- You can splash out on a heated waterer, however, bringing drinkers in at night and refilling them in the morning with warm water, which hens enjoy, topping up with more warm water during the day, and remember to add some apple cider vinegar, it has great health benefits. 20ml for every liter.
- Give your hens extra corn in the afternoon as this will heat them up internally as they digest it overnight.
- Give them a warm meal using crumble or pellets mixed with hot water. Just feed enough to ensure it all gets eaten within 30 minutes and repeat the process as necessary
- Ensure the hens have shelter in their outside run, they dislike the wind chill and driving rain as much as we do. Erecting wooden boards/plastic sheets/tarpaulin/straw bales against the windward side of their run will help, as will providing some cover above to keep them dry.
- Egg production will naturally drop off in the winter, the number of eggs your hens lay is dependant on daylight, let her enjoy a break and look forward to the longer days coming back...
- Also, remember cold weather and snow means other animals are hungry too; make sure food is stored safely away from rats and mice, especially at night, and regularly check fences and coop security; hungry foxes are more daring and determined in winter.
As always, there is always a positive, if it’s freezing, at least it’s not muddy!! WHOOP!