How to Prepare Chickens for Cold Weather
Did you know that chickens can handle cold weather better than extreme heat? Regardless, they do appreciate some help from their owners in the wintertime. Here are a few things to consider that help your flock deal with colder weather.
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How Chickens Keep Warm
To stay comfortable, chickens have a few built-in behaviors to stay warmer in colder temperatures. Here are three of them.
- They create air pockets to trap warm air near their bodies by puffing up their feathers.
- They also stand on one foot and keep the other nestled in their plumage.
- To protect their combs from frostbite, they tuck their heads beneath their wing.
Since chickens have these built-in mechanisms for staving off cold, heating the coop is usually not necessary. Heat sources are more dangerous than the cold because they can create fires.
1. Offer Extra Food
Chickens need extra food in the winter to keep their natural defenses in top shape. This especially applies to birds that free-range in normal weather conditions, but have to stay in a coop when it’s cold.
- Make the food available all day long, but put it away at night to keep unwanted critters away.
- Offer extra fat as part of a high-protein diet.
- It’s a good idea to supplement the feed with dried insects because they offer these nutrients.
If you follow the deep-litter method, add some scratch grains into the bedding about half an hour before bedtime. These carbohydrates will help the chickens stay warm. Since the chickens scratch around to find these grains, they will also turn over their bedding.
2. Provide Edible Amusement
Everyone gets bored when cooped up, and chickens are no exception. To keep them entertained, hang up edible garlands that include chicken-friendly vegetables and fruit.
These include berries, radishes, carrots, squash, beets, and cabbage. Not only do these encourage exercise they also make a fresh addition to their winter diet.
Check out this fun video on entertaining your chicken with a cabbage on a string!
3. Keep Water from Freezing
While chickens consume more water in the summer than they do in the winter, they require it all year long. That’s why you need to ensure that fresh water is available at all times and that it doesn’t freeze.
Chickens need water to generate heat, maintain their functions and grow feathers. If you don’t have electricity in the coops, check the water sources throughout the day and replace them as needed.
4. Use Proper Ventilation
Since chickens don’t sweat, they exhale lots of vapors when breathing. The resulting ammonia and humidity collect as condensation in enclosed spaces.
In cold temperatures, this can cause respiratory
Ideally, vents should be situated high above the roosting platform. Cover the open parts with hardware cloth so that pests and predators can’t get in.
5. Provide Suitable Roosts
Since chickens huddle together for warmth, they need a large enough roosting area that can hold them. It needs to be big enough to allow all the chickens to sit together. Snuggling together lets them use the body heat from each other.
Once you understand how chickens deal with cold weather, you can easily help them stay comfortable. All it takes is proper coop management.