Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chickens: Four Tips for Getting Ready for Winter

As the daylight grows shorter and the temperature drops, it's time to start thinking about preparing your flock for winter. Here are our top 4 tips for preparing your flock for winter.

Baby it's cold out there
  • Make Sure your Coop and Run are Secure - The winter months are lean times for many animals, particularly predators. Make sure you don't provide them with an easy meal. Check to make sure that the doors to your chicken coop and run are secure and that there are no places which are weak points where raccoons or other critters can borrow under. If there are any holes in chicken wire, patch these so that rats and mice can't get inside. Also make sure that any latches on your coop or next boxes are secure. We recommend using safety latches like the one shown below. These can't be jiggled open by unwanted visitors.
    A safety latch is a good way to keep predators out of your coop
    You should fix any damaged sections of chicken wire on your pen. If you find a hole, you can easily make a patch by creating a patch to cover it. Just cut a piece of chicken wire that is larger than the hole and then use some zip strips to attach the patch to the damaged section of chicken wire.
  • Provide Winter Foods - If you normally feed your chickens only pelleted food, you may want to supplement their diet with scratch or corn. The latter foods are higher in carbohydrates that provide your chickens with the energy they need to keep their bodies warm. Don't make scratch or corn more than 10% of your chicken's diet since they lack other nutrients that your chickens need to stay healthy.
    If you do provide scratch, remember that you will also need to provide grit to help your chickens properly digest their winter food supplements. For more information on grit, see our previous posting Do Your Chickens Need Grit
  • Keep the Water Flowing - Keeping water from freezing is a problem experienced by all chicken keepers in cold weather areas.  If you live in a place that only experiences freezing temperatures at night, the simplest solution is to move your waterer into your house or heated garage during the evening and return it to the coop in the morning. If your daytime temperatures are below freezing, the simplest option is to place your waterer inside your coop and then use an 40 or 60 watt incandescent light bulb to keep the temperature of the coop above 32o F. The light bulb generally throws off enough heat to keep the interior of the coop above freezing so the water in your chicken waterer will remain liquid. This is what we recommend to owners of our BriteTap poulry nipple waterer (see below) Using a light bulb as a heat source has an added benefit.... Chickens lay eggs in response to light levels. In the winter, daylight hours drop and so does egg production. When you run a light bulb in your coop, you increase light levels and so your chickens will respond by laying more eggs. If you decide to use the light bulb trick, it important that you run power to your coop in a way that is safe. Every town has it's own codes for electrical installations, so check with your local town government or have a licensed electrician do the work for you.
    Using a 40 watt light bulb to keep the temperature in your coop above freezing
    is a simple and inexpensive way to keep the water in your BriteTap chickenwaterer flowing freely.
  • Protect Their Feet & Combs - Chicken's can get frostbite during periods of extreme cold and their feet and are particularly susceptible if they come into contact with snow.  To provide protection, create an area where the chickens can roam where their feet are insulated from any snow on the ground. To do this, place a 2-3 inch layer of straw on the ground in an area in your run or pasture. To protect their combs, periodically apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly as this will help insulate them.



Posting sponsored by ChickenWaterer.com, makers of the BriteTap poultry nipple waterer. The BriteTap chicken waterer shields water from dirt and poop. The water stays clean and there are no messy pans for you to wash out. 

2 comments:

  1. I live in Connectiut and my coop is insulated, but even so, a light bulb will not be enough to keep the britetap from freezing. Any other suggestions for really cold climates?

    ReplyDelete
  2. A 60 watt lightbulb throws off lots of heat. I'd try that first. If this really is not enough heat use a heat lamp bulb. These are bulbs that are designed specifically to produce heat. Many chicken owners use them when incubating eggs or in the brooder. These certainly will produce enough heat and are fairly cheap. You can also plug the heat lamp or light bulb into a product called a Thermocube. This is really just a thermostat that will turn on the light when the temp falls below 32 degrees.

    ReplyDelete