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How do you get ready for winter?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by RodNTN, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. RodNTN

    RodNTN Hatchaolic 5 Years

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    Hi everyone! I was really curious as to what all of you chicken keepers do to get prepared for winter.
    I do a number of things to get ready for winter, as we usually see bitter cold weather.

    My top priority is making sure that my chickens never run out of water, preventing frostbite, and making sure that my coop has plenty ventilation.

    First off, I'll list the things that I do in my preparations for winter:

    1. Heated Waterer: I know that there is a big vs situation about purchasing a heated waterer or not, but I am happy that I bought a heated waterer. Last winter, the temps were almost at 0 degrees; but my heated waterer kept my chickens' waterer fresh and unfrozen.
    Of course, it is up to you if you choose to purchase a heated waterer, or to keep an extra waterer on hand. But a heated waterer is my preference.

    2. Plenty of ventilation: As I said before, I have 2 screen windows in my coop. I have over 30 chickens, and all of that moisture from breathing and droppings, my two windows play a significant part in keeping my flock healthy.

    Fresh bedding: I use either pine shavings or hay for my bedding. My chickens absolutely love it when I decide to use hay for their bedding, it keeps them so entertained; and when boredom is present (and usually is in winter) scattering my chickens' favorite treats through the hay keeps them entertained for hours on end.
    And even though most chicken keepers I know don't see this as important, keeping bedding dry around waterers is extremely important! And if a waterer gets spilled, or some other accident happens; simply remove the wet spot and replace with fresh bedding.

    Heaters: This is also something that can be used in the coop, or not. I do occasionally use my heat lamps in winter. Only because I have some breeds that are not winter tolerant in the least, and I'm not going to let them freeze to death. There are some safe heaters on the market though that are completely safe to use, if you are afraid of a coop fire.

    Nutrition: Staying warm takes a great deal of energy, so it's important that chickens are kept well fed both before and during the winter. You can expect their caloric needs to increase by 10 percent or more in cold weather. As with the rest of the year, make sure your chickens have constant access to a quality chicken feed. To help keep them laying and help make them more able to handle the stresses of dropping temperatures, you can also add some extras to their diet. Feeding a little extra corn is recommended, I feed my chickens some cracked corn before I close them up for the night, as is high-quality treats like treat flocks, etc... To help the birds bulk up a bit, you can also occasionally feed warm oatmeal. Many chicken owners also provide greens such as alfalfa, wheat grass, and lettuce at times to help keep the chickens happy and nourished until spring arrives and the birds can forage again. Hanging a head of cabbage will keep them well nourished when greens are not present, and keep them entertained as well!

    Dealing with boredom: Every chicken keeper knows that when winter comes, chickens are faced with boredom. Chicken toys filled with different sorts of treats will keep chickens happy! As will a head of cabbage hung from the coop ceiling; scattering treats in bedding; setting treat blocks out; feeding greens, and adding different things to your coop and run (hay, straw, tree limbs, dead leaves; etc.)

    Artificial dust baths: Since the ground is frozen in winter, and birds are desperately needing a dust bath; simply putting a box of sand in their coop will take care of pesky bugs!

    So, what do you all do to keep your flock happy and healthy in the winter? :)
     
  2. biodarwin

    biodarwin In the Brooder

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    Isn't hay really bad for winter and/or possibly all of the time? Their crop can be impacted by eating it, it doesn't absorb moisture very well and generally molds instead of drying out?
     
  3. RodNTN

    RodNTN Hatchaolic 5 Years

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    I know some people have that problem, but I have been using it and it does fine with me :) I also use pine shavings when hay doesn't do its job :)
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

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    I give my poultry hay all the time. I haven't had a single problem from it. Hay keeps them busy, gives them winter forage and give them something to stand on instead of frozen ground. Chickens will eat the leaves, and not the stems in general. I highly recommend a good grass hay for winter. It has so many uses.
     
  5. Bridger Davis

    Bridger Davis Songster

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    Thanks for the info! A lot of this could be used for ducks! I'll tag someone who will like this.. @LauraBrown
     
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  6. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

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    We get brutally cold here most winters. I don't use a heated watered because my muscovy ducks dirty up the water. I also don't use any extra heat, they do okay.

    I give fresh warm water 2x a day. I will feed a warm mash of oatmeal and ration on those really cold days, -20's. They get hay as needed.

    Scratch in the morning and afternoon to get them moving and to feed them some extra fats and carbs, and any house food scraps are heated up before sharing.
     
    RodNTN and chickens really like this.
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing 8 Years

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    I just have never had any luck feeding cornmeal mush, or oatmeal, it freezes solid in the cold weather, making it totally unaccessible. However, I have fed left over corn bread, or added dry cornmeal to the feed.

    I will second the dry bedding. I use old waste grass hay. I have in inside my coop and in the run. Frequently I will rake it up into mini hay stacks, and flip it on top of fresh snow out in the run.

    I do have a huddle box in the run, and I face it south and add an old window for a little solar warmth. Amazingly warmer in there, vs the outside on a sunny day.

    I don't do the heated water, mine get warm water in the morning. I don't have electricity to the coop, and when I get home, they are roosted up. I do soak scratch in water so that it absorbs the moisture and swells. Even if it does freeze, the birds can peck at it and eat it, and it adds moisture to their body.

    My pullets are still laying, I was getting 3 eggs a day from 3 pullets a week ago, now, they are about two a day, but shortly the days will be getting longer. Generally, my older birds will start back up in late January so I will have good eggs then.

    Keep them dry, and out of the wind, and they can take some pretty brutal weather, negative 20 is not uncommon here for days at a time, but generally not more than a week. We have seen -33 last year, and mine did fine. I do not have heat in the coop either.

    Mrs K
     
  8. VeggieGoneEggie

    VeggieGoneEggie Songster

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    Curious about this huddle box you mention. What does it look like? Do you have a picture you don't mind sharing?
     
  9. RodNTN

    RodNTN Hatchaolic 5 Years

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    You're welcome :) Yes, I meant to mention that this could apply for all poultry! :D
     
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  10. RodNTN

    RodNTN Hatchaolic 5 Years

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    I love using hay for my coop, and my chickens also love it! You basically said everything I was going to say about hay :)
     
    Elmochook and oldhenlikesdogs like this.

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