How to Care for Chickens in the Winter?
Chickens are some of the toughest birds on the planet but need extra care during the biting winter months. Without extra care in winter, your flock won’t be happy and healthy all year round.
Furthermore, chickens won’t be reliable layers in the winter because this season affects egg production in hens. Caring for your flock in the winter is easy as long it has the essentials to combat the cold weather.
Caring for Chickens in Winter Months
Chickens don’t need special care to survive. However, these birds need extra care during wintertime because this season can be tough for chickens. You can help your chickens through winter by providing the flock with the best possible extra care. Below are a few insights into how to care for your flock in the winter.
– Make the Coop Winter Proof
Caring for your flock in the winter should start with making the coop winter-proof because chickens remain indoors during wintertime. Therefore, winterizing the coop is crucial for preparing your flock for the tough winter months ahead. Winterizing or making the coop winter-proof doesn’t have to sound intimidating.
One effective way to make the cage winter-proof is by placing a wind block around the enclosure. A wind block is essential because it helps block the cold winter winds from entering the coop, increasing the effects of the cold weather on your birds.
Moreover, a wind block will prevent winter precipitation from entering the cage and increase your flock’s risk of freezing in winter.
Ventilation also helps winter-proof your coop in winter. While your chicken coop needs proper ventilation year-round, good ventilation is essential during wintertime. Avoid closing up and insulating the coop to the extent of compromising ventilation within the coop.
Good ventilation is critical during wintertime because it helps reduce ammonia fumes in the coop. These fumes can lead to sinus and respiratory issues in your flock. Ventilation is essential in protecting your birds from frostbites because it enables moisture to escape the chicken coop seamlessly.
Moisture is the leading cause of frostbite, so good ventilation is vital for keeping it at bay. Good ventilation is also important during wintertime because it allows for air exchange inside the coop, making it easy for stale air to escape and fresh air to enter the coop.
One way to see that the coop has proper ventilation to make it winter-proof is to install windows you can easily open and close. That way, you can enhance good ventilation while keeping the coop warm for your flock. Kindly remember that the coop has to feel warm for your flock as much as you ensure proper coop ventilation.
The other way to winter-proof the coop for your flock is by insulating it with straw to keep it warm and to ensure heat doesn’t escape from the cage.
You can use straw in the coop to protect the floor against heat loss and prevent your flock’s feet and toes from the snow. As it continues decomposing with the birds’ dropping, the straw will generate heat that will help keep the coop warm, and your birds won’t freeze indoors.
Chicken keepers should also winter-proof their cages by keeping their flock’s water from freezing. It is perhaps the most challenging aspect of winterizing your coop, but it can help your chickens stay warm throughout the wintertime.
You need a water system to prevent your birds’ water from freezing so they can access unfrozen, clean water. Dehydration can be a real problem for your flock when the birds struggle to breathe in the cold air in winter.
You can try using heated water dishes to keep the water from freezing, or you can use heated water bases to keep those plastic water containers from freezing.
– Feed Your Chicken Good Winter Foods
It would help if you took some special considerations when feeding your chickens during wintertime. Chickens, particularly egg-laying hens, require more food during this cold-biting season.
For instance, your flock needs more protein-rich foods in winter than in summer or autumn. Here are some good winter foods to give your flock in winter.
- Scratch– Scratch is a mixture of several whole grains and cracked corn. It’s one of the best foods for chickens during wintertime. Scratch is good for your flock in winter because your birds require plenty of energy to digest this winter treat, helping the birds feel warmer. Toss some scratch in the coop to help the chickens exercise their foraging skills, giving them something to keep warm as they scramble for this treat.
- Greens-It’s pretty clear that fresh vegetables and greens are in short supply during wintertime. However, greens are some good foods for your flock in winter, especially for the hens. Without weeds, grass, and other greens, your hen’s eggs will start to pale and lose their taste. You can grow a wide array of cold-tolerant greens like chard, kale, and spinach for your flock. Greens will help boost your birds’ nutrition and ensure they get many nutrients and minerals that make them cold-hardy in winter.
- Mealworms– Chickens usually molt during wintertime, and they require an abundance of protein in their diet to support this process of re-growing feathers. The bad news about molting is that your flock will lose plenty of energy when molting, thus depleting their protein stores. Supplementing your birds’ diet with protein-rich foods is critical in winter to support molting. Mealworms are some top protein-rich foods for your flock in winter. Canned fish, fishmeal, and scrambled eggs are other good protein sources for your chickens in the winter.
- Oatmeal– Oatmeal is a super carb-rich treat for your flock during wintertime. Chickens also require a substantive amount of energy to digest carbs, stimulating your flock to generate heat during winter naturally. Corn is also good for chickens because of its carb-rich content, though too much of it can strain your birds’ guts. Other grains that are perfect for your flock in winter include rice and wheat. Nonetheless, the major problem with feeding your flock with too many carb-rich foods is that the birds can grow overweight, especially in winter when they are inactive. Thus, give carbs to your flock in moderation and mix the carb-rich foods with other nutritious food items.
– Stimulate Your Chickens
Your flock will likely experience boredom because it remains indoors and has nothing to keep it active. However, boredom during wintertime can be a real problem because it can subject your birds to behavioral issues.
Because of boredom, some birds may start pecking at each other, encouraging cannibalism in the long run. Treats alone won’t help your flock beat boredom in winter. Stimulating your birds is the surest solution to fighting boredom and making it possible for the birds to coexist peacefully without issues.
Most people use toys to stimulate their flocks during wintertime. Toys offer a great way of distracting your chickens when the weather is too cold for the birds to play and forage outside. The other exciting way of stimulating your flock to discourage boredom is by hanging cabbages and other fruits from the coop’s roof.
Some people hang pieces of pumpkins, which are some of the chickens’ favorite nutrient-rich treats. Or, install some mirrors in the coop to keep your chickens excited as they view themselves in the mirrors. Anything stimulating your birds in winter is good to keep the flock happy and help it overcome boredom.
– Let Your Chickens Outside When Possible
Chickens need exercise even during wintertime. However, your flock doesn’t have this luxury because the cold biting weather and freezing snow outside can be disastrous. Fortunately, some winter months aren’t that cold, especially the months coming before winter fall.
You can let your chickens outside during these months to help them taste freedom and get some exercise. However, ensure there is no snow outside lest your bird’s feet freeze from the snow. Let the flock in the coop when the temperatures start becoming cold.
– Watch Out for Winter Predators
Although your flock will remain in its cage throughout winter, it doesn’t imply your birds aren’t susceptible to an array of winter predators. For instance, possums, foxes, and raccoons are some of the notorious winter predators that prey on chickens in winter.
Make your coop secure to protect these nasty winter predators from your flock. Furthermore, a high fence makes it difficult for the predators to get to the flock.
– Shovel Away the Snow
Shovel away the snow, especially if you want to let your birds outside in the winter. Snow is the most serious threat for chickens in winter because it freezes their feet.
Chickens can withstand cold outdoors in winter because of their feathers, but they can’t overcome the freezing effects of snow. Shovel away the snow from your backyard and the coop’s roof.
Winter can be a challenging moment for your flock. After all, nothing can make your birds eager to play or forage outside in the snow. As challenging as this season is for chickens, it’s easy to care for your flock if you do the right things.
For instance, consider winter-proofing your coop, giving winter foods to your chickens, and protecting them from marauding winter predators.