Feeding your flock during cold winters

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
Sep 19, 2009
26,253
16,978
786
Holts Summit, Missouri
I feed an all flock almost year round. Where I deviate from most is during the winter months. My birds must deal with cold more than most, even when compared to those kept much further north, and artificial light is not enough to keep them in lay during the first 2/3's of winter. Their need for feed varies markedly with weather. When wind chill increases (increasing wind and decreasing temperature) the need for energy increases. Before the winter really kicks in I get a good idea about how much flock raiser they eat when conditions are thermally neutral. When temperatures drop, they will consume more, and the intake rates can easily double. That increase in energy demand does NOT have to be met with the nutritionally complete flock raiser. What I do then is provide a limited ration equal to that they consume when temperature is in the mid 50's F and in the evening provide them a scratch grain mixture to provide the additional energy. The amount provided is such that the birds have a full crop going into night with all flock raiser and scratch grains consumed.

My approach requires frequent checking of birds and I do not expect egg production from hens when cold stress is high. This allows me to save a modest amount on feed bill without compromising health of birds. It forces more diligence making sure feed allotments are appropriate, supplemental calcium (crushed oyster shell) is always present, feed feed storage containers, and especially more labor. A major upside is less feed is left out overnight for rodents.

Note edit. I am having major internet connectivity issues.
 
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Folly's place

Enabler
Sep 13, 2011
21,502
32,810
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southern Michigan
@centrarchid has lots of experience, and it's a much more labor intensive method, including planning for nearly no egg production over winter.
Do you have your birds in different age groups, separated by breed, and sex? I can't see it working in a mixed age, breed, and sex flock like mine. And here there's a light on 4am to 8am daily to encourage winter laying, so these hens and pullets need more of their base diet, not more scratch.
It sounds like a good plan for @centrarchid , but not so much for lazier folks like me, or for people with less experience.
Mary
 

TARDIS37379

Songster
Apr 20, 2019
200
731
166
Mowbray Mountain, Tennessee 37379
My Coop
I have a waterer with a warmer that keeps the water about 40 F.
I have two peckomatics hanging in the coop and one outside for food. The girls eat what they want and need.
im in the mid south in Tennessee so we don’t get that cold. If we do get a polar blast it usually only last 1-3 days and then it’s 55 again.
The low this morning was 44 and the girls were out the moment the doors opened.
 

Folly's place

Enabler
Sep 13, 2011
21,502
32,810
1,036
southern Michigan
It does get colder here, although not usually below zero F. for very long, and with frozen ground, there's not much to eat besides their feed, so lots more is consumed over winter. The spring chicks are slowing their early growth, so don't eat as much as they did, but egg laying and staying warm consumes more calories too.
And I'm not really managing a spread sheet over this, so just keep the feeders full.
And yesterday got the rotten groundhog who was eating that chicken feed in the coop during free range time!!! Yahoo!
Mary
 

NatJ

Crowing
Mar 20, 2017
3,540
5,550
366
USA
If I add water to crumbles, how much would you give per 8 chickens?
Try a small amount the first day, so they can try it and decide they like it. Maybe 1/4 cup of dry crumbles plus water on the first day.

After that, increase it each day until you find the largest amount they will clean up in a timely fashion. I'm guessing the final amount might be 1-2 cups of dry crumbles plus however much water makes a good consistency.

You don't have to be too precise, because they can be fine with 100% wet food or 100% dry food or anything in between. You just don't want it to sit around long enough to freeze (winter) or spoil (summer.)
 

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
Sep 19, 2009
26,253
16,978
786
Holts Summit, Missouri
It does get colder here, although not usually below zero F. for very long, and with frozen ground, there's not much to eat besides their feed, so lots more is consumed over winter. The spring chicks are slowing their early growth, so don't eat as much as they did, but egg laying and staying warm consumes more calories too.
And I'm not really managing a spread sheet over this, so just keep the feeders full.
And yesterday got the rotten groundhog who was eating that chicken feed in the coop during free range time!!! Yahoo!
Mary
Groundhog is a rodent.
 

JacinLarkwell

Crowing
Mar 19, 2020
4,436
5,709
341
South-Eastern Montana
Try a small amount the first day, so they can try it and decide they like it. Maybe 1/4 cup of dry crumbles plus water on the first day.

After that, increase it each day until you find the largest amount they will clean up in a timely fashion. I'm guessing the final amount might be 1-2 cups of dry crumbles plus however much water makes a good consistency.

You don't have to be too precise, because they can be fine with 100% wet food or 100% dry food or anything in between. You just don't want it to sit around long enough to freeze (winter) or spoil (summer.)
Personally in my flock, a few prefer it to be soupy and most prefer for it to feel like a mud consistency
 

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