We live in NC so the winter here can be mild, but can also be very snowy and cold. How do I prepare my chickens for the cold weather and possibility of snow/ice? Thanks!
Winter Care Tips?
First and foremost. The coop should be a DRY and well ventilated environment. In your quest for ventilation, try your best to avoid drafts and direct wind penetration that the chickens would be feeling. Provide fresh water, ( liquid, don't expect them to eat snow. even though they may. ) Feed them well and maybe opt to give them some extra scratch and grains.. Corn does provide calories that result in transformation to body heat. That is how I have been feeding my girls, and they live LONG LIVES. I also opt to give them supplemental light during winters short days. I use a timer and keep 12 hours of light on for them. Not all that necessary but I do it so they don't go nutty. The light will also aid in the egg production.
WISHING YOU BEST
We live at 7200ft in CO mountains, and have 4 large coops/yards. We have to have really aggressive fencing to keep out bears, so the chickens don't get to free range. We keep heat lamps in all 4 coops, at least 4 ft above the chickens, if temps get below freezing, and have screened vents as well as double man/chicken doors which we close at night. The hens lay all year. We supplement with extra grains, sunflower seeds, fresh spinach, and sometimes warm whey or milk. Wind is also a major problem, so we have added solid panel fencing in windward sides in winter. We also have poly panel roofing over all yards. The chickens play outside all year in roomy yards. We've found Wyandottes are great winter layers. Ditto Bantams. Tip: Keep vaseline or such/ olive oil, on combs to keep from freezing.
I give mine 12 hours of white light. Reason......... They are inside their winter housing which is a heated garage. The window there is not sufficient to provide sufficient daylight. When they are in their coop as soon as it gets above freezing outside, the days are somewhat longer already. I don't give them any additional light there. If chickens are in a coop over winter and there is a window there providing sufficient quantity of daylight, it is not necessary to provide added light. The added light does help with egg production, and here is how.. Chickens (most) lay eggs on a 25 hour cycle. That means that in theory a chicken will lay an egg 1 hour later each day. When it gets dark, the chicken will hold on to the egg until next morning. Sometimes that does not happen just that way. Some chickens will drop an egg after dark, simply because they were not able to hold it. Chickens are living things and not machines so things will vary. You can see how the longer day makes egg laying better before the cycle resets to the morning again. Egg factories have lights on in their chicken warehouses non stop. This does not mean that chickens do not sleep, It just means that there is no dark time for chickens to wait until daytime to lay.