The cold will be here before we know it.

ragschickens

In the Brooder
Jun 12, 2016
87
12
48
Mine appreciate some hay scattered on the ground to walk and stand on, as well as to forage through. If you have access to some I recommend getting a few bales. Make sure it's hay and not straw.

My large shed always has an open east facing door, so mine are never sealed up. Your chickens will want to be outside as much as possible during the winter, so provide a wind break as mentioned, sunshine, like in south facing Windows or a cosy corner with no wind.

Why not straw?
 

DreamsInPink

Songster
Feb 25, 2016
591
17
126
Salt Fork Lake Region, Ohio

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
74,599
81,354
1,607
SW Michigan
My Coop
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Quote: Straw can work fine too...especially in thin layers for 'snow and ice cover'.
I keep a bale of each...I tend to most often use the straw in wetter places(well, and as nest bedding) and the hay in drier places.
Straw will hold up longer in the damp..... good hay can have some 'chicken food' value, but breaks down quicker so not as good for 'bedding'.
I've gotten straw that still has plenty of grain heads in it.
The hollow stems of straw are often blamed for mite infestations.....
....and they can be a refuge for mites already in residence in coops, but I don't think mites are 'brought in' with straw, possible but not probable.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
74,599
81,354
1,607
SW Michigan
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I live in South Jersey so we tend to get a lot of snow during the winter months. I already know how to prepare my coop for winter to make sure the girls stay cozy and warm, but what about stretching their legs and wings? Their coop is a pretty good size (10x5x3.5) but they LOVE to roam the yard. Every morning when I go check on them before work, they practically push me out of the way to jump out and start their adventures.

I made sure to get all cold weather hardy breeds.. but when there is snow on the ground, can I let them out of the coop? If so, for how long? Would I be better off letting them roam around my basement? I dont mind following them around and cleaning up their doodoo if I have to. I just want to make sure they dont get depressed or sick.

Thanks!
I would not bring them into the basement for a walkabout, the changes in temp would be detrimental to them.

How many birds do you have?
Do you you have a run with a solid roof?

Most of mine do not care to walk on the snow...... at all. They do like to eat it tho, haha! They have a small space under the coop that stays clear to lounge in.
I have a mesh covered run that I keep partially shoveled out,
mostly for my access to the outside of pop door and to be able to knock and snow off mesh roof if necessary.
This also affords them some clearer ground to walk on, often sprinkled with straw, and can really help in spring when the snow melts.
 

donrae

Hopelessly Addicted
Premium member
9 Years
Jun 18, 2010
31,453
3,898
581
Southern Oregon
Straw vs hay....

Stray is bedding. It has no nutritional qualities. It's the thick stems of oats, wheat, whatever, after the seed heads are harvested. Long, thick stems, no seeds or "good stuff" for anyone to eat. It's dry and brown, usually very stiff and prickly.

Hay is food. It's grass, what kind will vary depending on your region. Alfalfa, timothy, orchard grass, regular grass, oat hay (with the seed heats intact), pea hay.....whatever grass or legume is harvested, with the seed heads or other "good stuff" intact. The stems are finer and softer, it should be green if grass, golden yellow if legumes, and not too prickly to handle.

Large animals eat hay, and they eat the whole thing. My chickens, given hay, scratch through and eat the seed heads and other good stuff, usually leaving the stems. Even the fine stems aren't too appealing to the chickens. Those stems work great for the garden, as Mrs K said, or they make bedding, can line a nest box, compost, or be fed to a large animal--horse, goat, cow, etc.

So, just for something to walk on, straw is fine. For additional forage/food, hay is the way to go.
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,518
13,004
707
Southeast Louisiana
Rachel, try using wheat straw as mulch in a garden, you’ll be surprised how much seeds are left after the threshing. I sometimes put a bale of wheat straw in the run and break it apart. Within a couple of days the chickens have scratched it all apart, looking for those seeds to eat. Their scratching threshes a lot more out that they don’t eat. I still have some seeds sprout when I use it as mulch but not nearly as many if I don’t let the chickens have a go.

While I’m serious (I pull a lot of wheat sprouts out of the garden) I am also partly teasing you. You are right, hay has a tremendous number of seeds and makes a real mess in the garden if you try to use it as mulch. There isn’t that many seeds left after wheat straw is threshed, nothing like hay. I don’t use either one to give the chickens something walk on in snow. I just open the pop door and let them decide if they want to come out or not. Usually, after a couple of days some do come out and go foraging in the snow looking for plants that stick up above the snow. When I get snow it’s usually not that deep.
 

SunHwaKwon

Crowing
Jul 19, 2015
5,605
2,630
407
Coastal Bend, TX
Good points are made here about straw v hay. This year when/if I do the straw I will do a thinner layer. The underneath really held onto the moisture so once the snow cleared I had a LOT of soggy straw to clear out and hail to the burn pile. I do buy hay for them to forage but only small quantities as they weren't that interested in it, and also so I could get a variety of types for them to pick through.
 

limited25

Songster
Mar 10, 2016
780
97
156
Oklahoma
Straw can work fine too...especially in thin layers for 'snow and ice cover'.
I keep a bale of each...I tend to most often use the straw in wetter places(well, and as nest bedding) and the hay in drier places.
Straw will hold up longer in the damp..... good hay can have some 'chicken food' value, but breaks down quicker so not as good for 'bedding'.
I've gotten straw that still has plenty of grain heads in it.
The hollow stems of straw are often blamed for mite infestations.....
....and they can be a refuge for mites already in residence in coops, but I don't think mites are 'brought in' with straw, possible but not probable.
I've always gotten straw that has plenty of grain heads in it (but I've only purchased straw from one source, and didn't know there was different kinds of straw). The chickens were eating from it. We also would flip it about once a month and there would be a lot of insects congregated there for them to eat. It entertained them for long periods of time, scratching it apart, jumping on it, and eventually spreading it around their run. It kept the run pretty clean and dry.

Straw vs hay....

Stray is bedding. It has no nutritional qualities. It's the thick stems of oats, wheat, whatever, after the seed heads are harvested. Long, thick stems, no seeds or "good stuff" for anyone to eat. It's dry and brown, usually very stiff and prickly.

Hay is food. It's grass, what kind will vary depending on your region. Alfalfa, timothy, orchard grass, regular grass, oat hay (with the seed heats intact), pea hay.....whatever grass or legume is harvested, with the seed heads or other "good stuff" intact. The stems are finer and softer, it should be green if grass, golden yellow if legumes, and not too prickly to handle.

Large animals eat hay, and they eat the whole thing. My chickens, given hay, scratch through and eat the seed heads and other good stuff, usually leaving the stems. Even the fine stems aren't too appealing to the chickens. Those stems work great for the garden, as Mrs K said, or they make bedding, can line a nest box, compost, or be fed to a large animal--horse, goat, cow, etc.

So, just for something to walk on, straw is fine. For additional forage/food, hay is the way to go.
I never knew there were so many different kinds of straw. I used mine as a mulch in my garden as I saw others advise on various forums ... it was a nightmare! It grew faster than any of my plants did and was so bright green and happy. It grew so fast I could no longer see my vegetables .... and it was a pain to pull out!

I have never purchased hay but the hay I see around here is huge round bundles. It would get wet here, and I wouldn't have a place to store it.

I prefer straw in my runs .... entertains chickens for months, and does have nutritional value (seed heads and bugs living under it when placed on ground). But I thought everyone's opinion was interesting and worthy of respect.

I also learned a few things!
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Great Horny Toads
Staff member
Premium member
Jul 16, 2015
38,582
60,852
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Wisconsin
The best hay for forage for chickens is second or third cutting of a mixed grass hay. First cutting will often be mostly stems unless cut early, the later cuttings are more blade, less stems. I always leave my hay in place in the spring as it adds to my deep litter system.
 

bobbi-j

Crossing the Road
10 Years
Mar 15, 2010
14,343
26,956
982
On the MN prairie.
One winter I had gotten ahold of a couple of alfalfa bales, so every week or so I'd throw a flake or so in. Oh, did the chickens love that! All those little leaves to scratch and peck! We grow wheat, so straw is our bedding of choice. They do love a fresh bale to scratch at and spread around. There are always some treasures to find.
 

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