Busting Wintertime Flock Boredom

Discussion in 'Sponsored Content, Contests, and Giveaways' started by JenniO11, Oct 21, 2014.

  1. JenniO11

    JenniO11 Chirping

    Jan 11, 2012
    by Tiffany Towne, Nutrena[​IMG] Poultry Expert
    This post is brought to us by Nutrena.

    Warm months delight chickens that are fortunate enough to have the run of a yard. There are bugs to chase and devour tasty earthworms to scratch up under fallen leaves, tender grass to snack on, and interesting places to explore. That changes with winter’s frigid confinement.

    Chickens shun snow while enduring the cold months indoors. Rather than dining on summer’s diverse outdoor banquet, their winter diet is limited to nutritious but unexciting commercial crumbles or pelletized feed. They have no wondrous places to explore while being cooped up with their peers.

    Use Diversity and Distractions
    In the winter, your girls will spend most, if not all their time in the coop. This can become very boring, and they might start egg eating or feather picking. Once started, both of these habits are hard to break. Your girls will respond with gusto when you add diversity to their winter lives and give them a distraction from the cold weather. That usually means treats and snacks to vary the diet. The main goal with keeping your girls occupied when they are confined for long periods of time is to distract them with toys or food, so they can peck at them, rather than each other!
    Easy on the Treats
    Although commercial feed is an important mainstay for winter chickens, ambitious owners sprout grain to give their flock a winter treat of greenery. Table scraps also add diet variety, but be careful. Wet, soggy foods can dampen the coop litter and create odor. Among the best table scraps for indoor feeding are small amounts of salad greens, pumpkin and squash seeds, and bits of vegetables, popcorn, and almost any other food that’s relatively dry. Only put in as much as the birds can clean up in about 10 to 15 minutes.
    Chickens love a snack of scratch grain or cracked corn, but limit to only a few handfuls daily. Just like too many treats for humans cause us to be obese, too much grain can cause chicken obesity! In addition, too much grain can dilute the protein, vitamins and minerals provided by your commercial feed. A NatureWise® Scratch Block of compressed grain sold at feed stores and left in the coop helps to provide exercise and diversion as the birds gradually peck the blocks apart.

    Room to Roam
    Perhaps the most important help a flock owner can give birds is space. Cramming hens together in winter guarantees squabbling, pecking, and other social problems. Four square feet of floor space per birds is an absolute minimum. The more room the better, and a coop that has an array of perches and roosts at different heights and angles gives the hens a place to exercise, while adding three dimensions to a coop.
    The best way to provide more space of course, is to encourage your ladies to venture outside. This can prove difficult with snow on the ground. While chickens may not be bothered by cold, they don’t like snow! A comical activity is to open the coop door after the season’s first snow and watch birds zoom outside, stand befuddled in the strange cold white fluff, and then rush back indoors! Most people raising backyard flocks like their birds to have access to fresh air and room for outdoor exercise year round. Snow poses a problem, since few birds will venture out into a snowy run.
    Fortunately there are several temporary and permanent ways to keep the run snow free, allowing the birds outdoor access no matter what the weather is. A permanent solution is to cover the run with a roof. Corrugated metal or fiberglass is relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Temporary roofs also keep snow off the ground and can be as easy as positioning a picnic table outside the pop hole. Other simple temporary roofs can include spanning a sheet of plywood across two sawhorses positioned near the run’s door.

    If your birds are all cooped up this winter (pun intended), consider giving them a distraction from winter boredom in the form of a special treat. Think about how to give them a snow-free outdoor space to enjoy – and make sure there is enough room in the coop to help combat cabin fever!
    To find a Nutrena® dealer near you, visit www.NutrenaPoultryFeed.com. Subscribe to the Nutrena® poultry blog at ScoopFromTheCoop.com or its
    4 people like this.
  2. Phew! Cover the run?! LOL
    I live in the country on my run is bit over an acre. It would cost me over $15,000.00.
    Well, I guess I better make a bigger coop, again. Or reduce the size of my flock to 20.
    Do-able but not wanting to. Not much choice though.

    This article has given me the kick I needed to construct a hoop coop on the south side of my wood coop.
    Willows, tarps and (housing vapour barrier) plastic for sun.
    Yes, distractions, protein, exercise. Rabbitcicles on a string, fishcicles on a string, stout trees. Works for me.

    ...."watch birds zoom outside, stand befuddled in the strange cold white fluff, and then rush back indoors! ...."
    LOL. Seen this a lot.

    Thank you. I enjoyed this article
  3. Auroradream26

    Auroradream26 Smothered in Feathers

    May 14, 2013
    Central, PA
    Great advice! I will be making sure to have plenty of healthy treats and distractions. This will be our first winter with chickens (and of course we also have 10 new babies who will be growing up in it). I'm thankful that we built our coop and run together with the roof extending over the run. Of course, chicken math has taken its toll and we already need to extend both coop and run lol. I can't wait to see their reaction to snow! I can already see the confused faces :)
  4. Julia62

    Julia62 Songster

    Jun 18, 2014
    Reno, NV
    Our run is a 10 x 10 dog kennel (they have a large section of our yard fenced off for free ranging as well) and we covered it after a hard rain/hail storm when the shade cloth just crumbled under the weight of the hail. Now it has a pitched heavy duty tarp cover so snow/rain should slide off. We also have tarps we can fasten to the sides if it blows into the run. This will be our first winter with chickens and right now we're at 36 degrees at night/early morning. It can get to single digits at the coldest and we haven't had big snow the last few years. But I am a little nervous on what's too cold for them. We keep the coop door open at all times now so they can freely go in and out as the run is very safe and secure, no predator issues.
    1 person likes this.
  5. zeis

    zeis In the Brooder

    Aug 9, 2014
    Mount Vernon, Ohio
    I have four golden comet hens and 4 roos, (the roos, I didn't plan on) so culling 3 of them soon. This is my first winter for my small flock, that are now 13 weeks old. Thinking of adding some metal roofing material over part of the 12 x 30 foot yard area near to door, so they can go out during the winter to an area, free of snow. I'm using a temperature controlled base heater for their indoor water supply. Should I keep the high soffit and side wall vents open to help keep humidity levels down all winter? I've added a timer controlled ceiling light to add couple hours of light from 6am to 8am each morning. Hopeful this will aid in future egg production. Any thoughts on this appreciated.
  6. chicmom

    chicmom Dances with Chickens

    Feb 24, 2009
    Strasburg Ohio
    I love this article. Just to share, I put tarps around my enclosed chicken run (which does have a roof). So that seems to double the indoor space for them in the winter. I also have lighting in both the coop and the run, so it's not constantly dark in there. I like to give them a flake of straw to peck at and scratch at. And I put some natural branches in there as roosts. Then I can throw the scratch grains down in the run, and they have to scratch around the straw to find it. Also, I like to bring a head of cabbage for them to peck, or some kale.....And sit and watch them have fun. And I do let them out as long as it's not raining, or super windy and cold.
    2 people like this.
  7. Kluk-Kluk

    Kluk-Kluk Songster

    Apr 11, 2014
    upstate New York
    Thanks for the informative article. I sure hope this coming winter isn't as brutally cold as the previous one. My hens did not get much opportunity to go outside. I have some pullets; looking forward to seeing their shock at the first snow. I'll try to remember to have my camera with me. Video might be even better.
  8. Americano Blue

    Americano Blue Make everyday count

    Sweet! This will be my first winter with chickens!
  9. City-Chickee

    City-Chickee Chirping

    Sep 28, 2014
    Des Moines, IA
    Thank you for this article! Although we won't be getting our chicks until Spring, this gives me some ideas on what we need to do when constucting our coop and run. Here in Iowa our winters are as unpredictable as our other seasons, some years we get tons of snow and I remember at least one Christmas where there was no snow on the ground at all.

    Think when we build the run I would like to create some kind of removable sheeting to apply to the sides so the snow doesn't come in, maybe attached to latice and leaving a gap at the top for venting.
    Glad I have some time to continue my research and read additional articles such as this one. Again, thank you!
  10. Sherryalaska

    Sherryalaska Hatching

    Feb 6, 2013
    We have a covered run, but we have deep snowfalls. We screwed clear corrugated plastic around the base of the run to blow flurries and blowing rain (around two feet high). I dump a couple of bales of hay in the corners - keeps the girls busy and warm. They make their borrows in it. It mostly stops blowing snow, and we can see our hens keeping busy. This is sub-arctic and although people say the chickens can take the cold, I find that a heat lamp in the main coop, and lots of bedding, keeps their egg production on par with summer. Plus, I just like to know they're cozy.
    1 person likes this.

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