Chilly Chickens | Living the Country Life

Chilly Chickens

Feathers are insulating, but chickens know when winter comes around. Keep them cozy and healthy with these five tips
  • Winter feeding free range chickens

    As cold weather sets in, free range chickens might scratch under the snow and peck at garden refuse, but you will have to help with their dietary needs.

    Offer table scraps from salads so they can get some greenery. Cut open a pumpkin or squash, and let them peck at it. Squash-type plants are very rich in vitamin-A.

    Leafy-green alfalfa hay is also vitamin-rich. If you put a slice of hay in a net and hang it, the birds get exercise and stimulation from pecking it out.  Put down some cracked corn as scratch. Corn is high in carbohydrates, and it helps keep their body heat up.

    Here's how a Minnesota family takes care of their chickens in the winter.

    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018
  • Winterizing poultry pens

    Keep out chilly drafts by covering the north-facing windows of the coop. Feed sacks stapled to the building both inside and out offer an inexpensive barrier.

    It's also a challenge for birds to stay warm if there's a lot of moisture around them. When the litter on the floor gets wet, clean it out and replace it with several inches of dry, fresh bedding.

    Even if the chickens are cozy, their water can freeze. Hang a heat lamp about a-foot above the waterer. Just make sure there is a guard covering the bulb, and the cord disconnects if it falls.

    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018
  • Keep hens laying through winter

    As the days get shorter and cooler, many hens stop slow down egg production. It takes about 12-to-16 hours-or-so of daylight to stimulate the birds to lay eggs. Setting a timer on a light bulb might convince them to keep laying.

    The type of lighting used doesn't really matter, either incadescent or LED is fine, and it doesn't take much. One incandescent light bulb will keep 15-to-20-chickens happy to where they can see, walk around and eat, and be stimulated by the light.
    Be sure the chickens also have a diet balanced for protein and calcium. More feed may be required to give them the extra energy they need for maintaining body heat and egg production.  


    Find more information on lighting and how it affects winter egg laying

    There could be additional reasons why your hens aren't laying


    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018
  • Automatic chicken coop doors

    Install a door on the chicken coop that automatically opens in the morning and shuts in the evening. It adds protection from predators, keeps the weather out, and gives you peace of mind.

    Do your research online before buying one because there are many options to consider. You'll need a power source and a timer. There are doors that work on 6-volt or 12-volt direct current, 120-volt AC that you plug into the wall, or even solar power. It's a good idea to have two power sources as a backup in case of a power failure. Also be sure the door is sized right for your birds.  A good basic size that would cover about everything is about a 30"x10" door.

    Find instructions for building your own chicken coop door

    If construction isn't for you, here's a link to a chicken coop door manufacturer

    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018
  • Getting chickens in the fall

    Springtime is popular for buying chicks, but try buying older chickens in the fall.  You'll have immediate egg layers without the expense of raising chicks through summer.

    Pullets are about 18-weeks-old, can handle the cooler weather, and will start laying within a couple of weeks. Look for pullets at a reputable dealer such as your local feed store.

    The chicken coop should be set up as it would be any other time of year. Make sure the environment is clean and protective. If you suddenly find your new birds looking scruffy and the nest boxes are full of feathers instead of eggs, don't panic. Fall is when chickens naturally molt and grow a new set of feathers.

    As you get your new birds acclimated, learn how seasonal changes affect poultry


    Date Published: November 25, 2013
    Date Updated: November 16, 2018

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