Winter appetite & digestion

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by deacons, Dec 16, 2013.

  1. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 8, 2013
    New Hampshire
    We've had multiple weeks of temps staying below freezing morning and night, and this weekend added a foot of snow. My flock, which typically got 2-3 hours/day of free range time, is now sliding around icy snow tunnels that are taller than them, and are pretty much reduced to their run and my garage, which has been overtaken as a chicken playground.

    I have two questions:
    1. It seems like they are eating almost none of their layer pellets. It's been a few days since I've had to add any new pellets to either of their feeders. I see them pick a few pieces out, but it's not in any significant quantity. I'm wondering if the pellets, which are left outside overnight, can actually freeze and become unpalatable to them? Otherwise, I can't understand why they wouldn't be eating even more than usual in this cold weather.

    2. Over the past couple of days, I'm seeing some watery diarrhea- almost like what you'll see in the summer when they are very hot and drinking a ton of water. This started happening at the same time their ability to forage was cut off by the extreme snow. I'm wondering if maybe they were getting more out of free ranging than I though they were, and this is just a temporary shock to their digestive system?

    If helpful, this is their diet: They are fed free choice Vermont Organics layer pellets. They have free choice oyster shell and grit (I just upped the grit because of the lack of free ranging options). They get about 1 cup of scratch scattered in the run daily, about a cup of warm rice with probiotics in the morning, and usually some sort of leafy green. On these very cold days, I've been making a warm mash in the afternoons, pouring hot water over their layer pellets (this is about the only layer pellet I think they're getting), and adding oatmeal and maybe some corn, raisins or apple. They seem to be drinking well and always have access to unfrozen water.
  2. Stacyc

    Stacyc Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 27, 2013
    I hope someone can help you with information, this too is my first winter with chickens, my gals seem to hit the feeder maybe every 48 hours or so, I have only three so it's real easy to monitor their food intake. I am very concerned that they are not getting enough calories to deal with this very cold winter, I am in central Minnesota so I feel your pain. My gals haven't stepped foot outside in almost a month. They do however will chow down on cooked hamburger and bananas, not mixed. They seem okay though.
  3. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 8, 2013
    New Hampshire
    Stacy, I've always been told they eat when they're hungry, so I guess like almost every question I've posted on this site, I'm probably just worrying too much over nothing!!

    It does seem counter-intuitive to me that they're eating less in this weather, but that's why I figured I'd ask.

    If it matters to anyone else more experienced and reading this, they are all still laying at a normal clip- two days ago, I got 8/8 eggs; yesterday-6/8; today-7/8. So, it's not even just that their bodies are working less because it's the winter. I'm just perplexed.
  4. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 15, 2011
    SE Pa.
    You didn't say how much of thier feed you were turning into the warm mash for the afternoon feeding. If you are giving enough of that then with the other foods you give them, and eating. So it might just be that all they need to do is peck a little at the dry feed.
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    This is my thought, also. they're getting lots of supplemental feed and just don't need much layer. I've heard each bird only needs approx. 1/4-1/3 cup of feed a day. With the scratch and the rice you're at 2 cups total, which is 1/4 cup for each bird if your sig line is correct. Add in the moist pellets in the pm, and you're providing all they need to eat right there.

    Feed doesn't freeze, and if they have feed available a bird won't starve themselves. Sounds like your birds are right on track to me.
  6. deacons

    deacons Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 8, 2013
    New Hampshire
    Thanks, den and don. Helpful comments.

    The warm mash is something I've only done for about a week-it might be about 1/4 cup dry. I've really been thinking of it as a treat, but I guess you're right about the "supplemental feed."

    The ratio you provided was really useful-not something I've heard before.

    They certainly don't LOOK unthrifty ;)

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