A Few Notes on Raising Chickens in the Winter
With each passing week as we shift from the fall into the dreaded winter, those new to keeping birds out back can be a little frantic as to how they can keep them safe through the dropping temperatures. Urban and suburban farming has become incredibly popular, especially keeping chickens for the most directly organic and “free range” eggs you can get. As the winter air begins to chill, even dropping below freezing, it can be difficult on our tiny friends. Since most people aren’t going to bring their chickens into their bedroom at night, they have to have some options for what to do to keep them safe in their pen. Here are a few key ways to keep your chickens healthy and happy through February.
Large Indoor Area
The primary thing that any serious chicken “wrangler” is going to need is to have a safe place to keep your chickens. Moderately priced chicken coops are available for flocks of almost every size, and those that have deluxe inside spaces can give them housing that is perfectly their own. The best combination you can have is to have a chicken coop that will have a sufficient open fenced space for when the weather allows it and then a substantial indoor option that they can bunker into at night. This is going to make it accommodating for all seasons, and even have an attractive yard piece to avoid the cluttered look. Try a larger model that has a finished wood grain that can match your own home’s décor.
Heat the Outdoor Area
The second step here is going to be to create a space of artificial warmth that they can enter into at all times. This is best when placed in the outside area of the pen so as to not create a fire hazard with the internal bedding. A stand-up electric heater with a weather safe chord is going to be important for the fenced area, especially when you are dealing with freezing weather. This will allow a general “permatemperature” to occur here and keep things safe so that their general body temperature does not have a chance to drop below safe levels.
You need to then head inside the chicken coop and make sure that the trays that are below the floor fencing is going to have extra stuffing and that it is emptied half as much. This ends up acting as a bit of insulation for the chicken coops themselves. You can do this based on the amount of space you have, but the larger chicken coops present more opportunities for this. You can use standard stuffing for this, but if you want any additional insulation you could use pillow stuffing or even shredded newspaper.
Put Extra Bedding in the Indoor Area
If streams of biting cold are going through your coop then you are going to want to prevent against frostbite. To do this you will want to put petroleum jelly on the waddles, feet, and feathers of your chickens. The best way to do this on the feathers is to cake it on a comb and comb it through the feathers, and then to hand rub them on the non-feathered areas. This does not have to be incredibly thick, but it needs to have a noticeable surface of protection.
Switch your feedings to corn at night. This is going to allow them to be warmer at night during the corn digestion process, plus it tends to be a healthier and more hearty feed to let them gain weight. This may already be the pattern for feeding that you have.
The final thing you need to remember is that chickens can stand the rough weather much better than you would expect. They have multiple layers of coating during the winter months and can withstand changes in temperature as well as additional rain and wind, up to a point. You want to provide them with the resources you can, centered on the chicken coop, but then also trust that they will be fine.
Check Out Some of Our Deluxe Chicken Coops for the Winter!!