If you are new to raising chickens, you’ll need to know the basics to keep your hens healthy and safe through the cold days of winter. From whether to heat your coop or not, to how to keep your hens from feeling cooped up, Nutrena Poultry Expert Twain Lockhart has advice on winter care that will help you keep your birds safe, happy, and healthy.
Winter Is Coming
The temps are dropping, and for some of you, even the snow is starting to fly. It’s that time of year where we are busy preparing for the upcoming holidays, but there are additional preparations that need to be made – to your chicken coop!
Weatherization of your coop is vital in ensuring your feathered ladies survive and thrive the cold winter months. A quick checklist for sealing the coop up can make the task easy and achievable.
Consider the following:
Clean and disinfect
- Healthy birds require a clean environment. Wash away any microorganisms that have grown happy in the warm weather.
- Perches and laying boxes are often forgotten during cleaning. Birds spend a lot of time in these places and bacteria are plentiful! Don’t forget these spots.
Pitch out and deep-bed your coop
- Remove the bedding you use in your coop and replace with a thick layer of pine shavings, sawdust, or straw.
- Pile the bedding up against the walls or leave a few bales of straw in your coop so if you need to remove some bedding during the winter during cleaning, you don’t have to haul fresh bedding in.
- Piles of straw provide a warm place for chickens to cuddle through the coldest weather.
- Don’t forget to place straw or other bedding in the nesting boxes. Soft, dried grass makes a great (free!) nest that protects eggs from cracking.
Feed and supplement your birds correctly
- Chickens need a source of calcium all year, so don’t neglect providing oyster shells in winter.
- To stimulate the scratching instinct and keep birds entertained, provide scratch grains periodically.
Check for drafts
- Drafts can cause respiratory problems and sickness in your flock.
- Check for drafts where your chickens roost and spend most of their time when in the coop.
- Make any repairs to your chickens’ house while the weather is still fair.
Set up any heat lamps and water heaters
- Develop a plan so your chickens have access to fresh, unfrozen water 24 hours a day.
- Frozen water isn’t any fun. Set up your heating devices early so you’re prepared and safe.
- If you use a heat lamp, make sure you have a spare bulb on hand and have safely located the lamp.