Winter chickens need a little extra care to remain healthy and happy. Hopefully they laid lots of lovely eggs earlier in the year and so can now be allowed to rest up. Concentrating their energy on beating the cold.
The moult is over and your hens will have started laying again but expect fewer eggs. Care for your chickens over the winter months and they’ll reward you with plenty of eggs in spring.
Chickens will snuggle up to keep warm so ensuring that you have the right number for the size of the house is important. The birds will generate their own heat but will struggle if they are too few for the house.
The short days and long nights mean in winter chickens spend much longer in their house so will need cleaning out more frequently. Shavings are the best winter bedding, straw can sweat when damp and so is best avoided.
You’ll want to keep your hens snug but tempting as it may seem do not block off ventilation. Adequate ventilation will keep the inside nice and dry, preventing any respiratory problems. So ventilation is good although draughts are bad.
If possible, add a cold frame or simple plastic covered tunnel to your run. The chickens will enjoy this covered area and will be encouraged to leave their house.
Positioning four or more straw bales in a cross pattern will also provide some additional shelter from cold winds, coming from any direction.
Scatter straw by the entrance to reduce the amount of snow and mud carried into the house as this will help to keep it warm and dry.
Feed and Water
As the days are shorter allow your chickens free access to layers pellets or mash. They will be spending longer shut up in their house and so need to have spent the day eating and drinking. A scoop of mixed corn about an hour before they go to bed will heat them up internally as they digest it overnight.
Ready access to fresh water remains essential. Taking the drinker in at night will hopefully stop the water freezing. In very cold spells the water can of course freeze during the day so check it regularly and remove any ice that forms.
In winter chickens won’t graze so easily so vegetables will be welcomed. Remember that vermin will also be hungry so remove anything uneaten.
Coping with Snow
Unlike small children chickens really don’t like snow. Use a shovel to clear it from their entrance and to create an area where they can access food and water. Scatter some hay or straw on the ground to keep the chicken’s feet as dry as possible.
Combs and Wattles
In extreme weather smear large floppy combs and wattles with Vaseline. This will prevent frostbite. If, however they do get frosted then treat with antiseptic spray, followed by more Vaseline.
In short, look after your winter chickens well, spring ones are just around the corner.