Within the last few weeks, you can tell that Winter is on its way. It felt like snow this morning. If you haven’t already, now is the time to make sure that your chickens are ready for the winter. There are several places you can search online to find out recommendations and what others who have years with chickens do each winter. The extension offices also have great ideas to help you with your winter prep.
Very recently University of Maryland Extension office put out an article with their Winter 2020 Maryland Beginner Farmer Success Newsletter. I thought I would summarize that article, but you can read it here.
Now’s a great time to make sure your coops will stand up through winter. Fix anything that needs fixin’. Top to bottom, make sure any leaks, and fence breaks are all fixed up. Make sure your coop is predator proof and fix or change anything that might not be. Much better to do it now than in a snowstorm.
Unless your chickens are very young, I mean like not fully feathered, they should acclimate to the weather just like cows, goats, horse, etc. do. Our cardinals and chickadees are able to withstand cold temperatures, as should our chickens. With that said, heating a coop is a very hot topic. It also can be quite controversial. Some backyard farmers do heat, and some don’t. YOU have to make that decision. Keep in mind, most coops have a lot of items in them that are quite combustible. Straw, wooden perches, wooden boxes, pine savings, mulch, etc. Most heat sources generate and could catch fire. Just keep that in mind and check on it frequently. I personally do not heat.
They have access to their coop to get out of the elements and they have a run that they can eat and scratch. On very cold days or when we have freezing rain, I keep them in the coop.
Make sure too that your coop isn’t completely closed up that you don’t have any ventilation. You have to have some air movement including some fresh air, you just don’t want it to directly blow on them. Vents at the top of the coop allow for the necessary airflow.
A coop is a way that your flock can get out of the elements if it’s not good for them. It’s a way they can sleep at night away from the wind and snow. Just because it’s winter does not mean they shouldn’t be in their run or free-range, if you have that option. They still need to do what chickens need to do.
Feeding and water are also something to think about. Water can freeze, and your chickens should never be without water. They do have devices that you can use to connect a warmer to the water. I do it the old fashion way and check on it throughout the day. I also try and keep the waterer in the sun. I just purchased some black rubber tubs and we shall see if that works better.
Add a bag of scratch as a way they can keep active when bug sources are out. Add a special treat (mine LOVE mealworms). You can also find a ton of great ideas to keep your chickens entertained. Cabbage on a string. Apples hanging from above. My favorite is to make them some warm oatmeal, mix in some oregano, mealworms and add corn or maybe some pepper scraps. They seem to love it.
I hope this help and of course, I’m always available to help if you need any.