Winter and chickens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by scooter147, Dec 27, 2012.

  1. scooter147

    scooter147 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2008
    Since a lot of us raise chickens in cold weather and in the snow here are some of the things I do and have learned over my 40+ years. Hope it helps.

    1. I switch from pellets to crumble feed. It takes the hens longer to eat their fill with the crumbles thus giving them less time to get into trouble when confined to the coop.
    2. I throw scratch feed or BOSS around on the inside of the coop. This keeps the hens active which helps keep them warm, relieves boredom, keeps the litter stirred up and it increases internal temp of the bird.
    3. I leave one of the south side windows open half way almost all winter long. I do have vents at either end of my coop but I think the window open really helps in keeping the moisture out of the coop. This window is on the opposite side of the coop as it relates to where the hens roost and is about 3.5 feet above the floor.
    4. Most chickens will not venture out into the snow. I do shovel a portion of their run so that on sunny and windless days they will venture out and can enjoy a sun bathe.
    5. If you feed your chickens kitchen scraps do not put this on the floor of the coop. I recommend not even doing this in a bowl inside the coop. Chances are, if your hens are like mine when they see me coming with "the bucket" they get very excited some of it will get thrown around the coop and buried in the litter. See number 4 for solution.
    6. If possible find a cheap or free source of greens. I buddied up to the produce manager at the local grocery store and he told me when the "outdated" cabbage and lettuce are thrown out and I go and get it out of the dumpster. He is not allowed to give it to me, health laws.
    7. I have a dropping board under my roosts and I scrape it twice a week in the winter. This really helps in keeping the moisture and amonia level in check.
    8. A couple years ago I finally invested in a heated water bowl. Well actually I asked for it for Christmas. I got a trough that I believe was intended for the use with pigs but I've found it to be perfect. It is about 2 feet long and about 10 inches wide. I generaly have 26 hens and 2 roosters and it works great. I dont' recommend if you house ducks or geese with your chickens, the water will be thrown about the coop in no time.
    9. If you want good egg production through winter artificial light will be necessary. Add the extra light in the morning. Keep in mind that hens generally lay early to mid morning so if no one is around to collect the eggs chances are they will be frozen by the time they are collected at 5 or 6, Therefore it's just a waste of electricity and the hens energy. Now my way of fixing this is to make sure that I have a few breeds in my flock that love going broody. When I get home my eggs are toatsty warm.
    10. Relax, your chickens will weather the cold just fine. The heat is much harder on them. I honestly can't remember losing a hen to cold weather but will almost always lose one to high temps. I've had roosters and hens get frost bite on their wattles and combs but that's almost unavoidable if temps are well below freezing for an extended period of time.
    1 person likes this.
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Good, sensible practices.
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    What about using edible hay like alfalfa? My birds seem particularly interested in such and it does not add additional moisture to litter.

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