Is your flock ready for winter?

Is your flock ready for winter?  If you live in a climate that freezes, you will want to prepare and now is the time to make sure you have the supplies you need.  For the purpose of this article, we will be discussing chickens that are bred to handle a colder climate.  

Firstly, chickens do NOT need heat.  Heating your coop is a major fire hazard and if you have any care for them, don't heat their coop.  They need a ventilated, but draft free environment.  Their feathers are layered and trap their body heat, keeping them comfortable in the cold temperatures.  Not that there won't be extenuating circumstances.  We have had -50 wind chills here in NWOH and then you might want to consider a radiant heater to help them deal with the extreme temperatures.  But unless you are getting extremely low wind chills, let them alone.  

How do you bed your coop?  The deep litter method is a good way to help insulate the floor.  With this method, you use a natural carbon based bedding such as pine shavings  The smaller the particles the easier it is to break down.  Start with 4" to 6" of shavings and as it shrinks, add more.  If your chickens are not keeping it stirred up, you need to do it so that it keeps breaking down.  This will generate some heat and will help keep your coop comfortable.  Be sure to have proper ventilation if you use this method.  

It is best to keep humidity levels down inside your coop.  High humidity contributes to frostbite.  If possible, keep their water in their run.  If it isn't possible, be sure there is adequate ventilation. (Be sure there is adequate ventilation anyway) 

Frozen waterers are the bane of any livestock owners existence.  If you don't want to deal with breaking ice, you can use a heated waterer or a heated base with a galvanized waterer.  Chickens need a consistent supply of clean water so if you do not use a heated waterer, be sure to remove ice several times a day.  

Do you have birds with large combs or wattles?  They are more prone to frostbite with extreme cold.  One thing that, while not fool proof, but does seem to help, is bag balm.  Liberally cover combs and wattles and it does offer a small amount of protection.  Petroleum jelly is often recommended in a lot of forums, but it doesn't work and may work against you.  Bag balm isn't a real solution but it has made a difference with our flock.  

Make sure your chickens have a perch that, when they sit down, their feathers can cover their feet.  Meaning, don't make it too wide.  A  2"x4" standing on end is plenty wide enough.  This will help your birds keep their feet warm and prevent frostbite on their feet.  

Do you have a run for your flock?  Be sure to keep the snow from getting built up inside the run.  Your chickens may not want to venture outside if it is difficult for them to walk.  

With a little extra time, your chickens will be quite comfy in the winter.  Make sure they have a constant supply of water.  Keep your coop ventilated but draft free.  Be mindful of the humidity of your coop so that your flock doesn't get frostbite.  Your chickens will thank you for the extra care.  




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