The temps have really dropped around here. We live in an older house that just can’t keep back the cold and when the thermometer dips into the single and negative digits, everyone (even the dog) starts wearing shawls and fingerless gloves inside the house. (We call it the season of Bob Cratchit.)
If it’s this cold in the house, it must be brutal in the coop. Although the chickens know what to do, (they really do) when it’s this cold there are a few things you can check in order to make things as comfortable as possible for your chickens.
- Inspect the hen house for cracks or open areas. Make sure that the birds have a place to go where they are protected from the wind.
We use the deep litter method in the winter. This means, we don’t take out any bedding and just add to it every other week. The accumulated litter provides a little bit of insulation and any composting in the lower undisturbed layers generates a small amount of heat. Little things help in the bitter cold.
- Supplement your flocks’ diet. When it’s really cold, consider giving your flock suet blocks to eat. Trust me, they will go wild for it. You don’t have to give them much – the goal is to give them a little bit of extra fat to burn, not get them fat. For our flock of 27, I throw in 2 suet blocks about every other week.
Also, consider giving your chickens some meat as added protein. Never give them raw meat, but any leftover scraps will be much appreciated. Chickens are omnivores. They eat plants and meat (and if you doubt that, you haven’t see my chickens fight over a poor frog unlucky enough to get lost in our backyard.)
Added fat and protein makes a difference in the cold. We keep a “chicken bowl” in our kitchen and all chicken-worthy scraps go into it (including gravies which get soaked up by any bread or crackers.) Every morning, we take the bowl out to the coop and let the flock have at it. Not only does this give the birds extra nutrition, but it also breaks up the day when there’s not much more to do then huddle.
- Lastly, make sure your flock has water at all times. As we can know, cold weather can be very drying (if you doubt me, just look at your dry and scaly legs.) If we can lose body water in the cold, so can chickens. Make sure they always have enough melted water to drink at all times.
Final word on the matter for today – no matter what the temps, DO NOT put a heater in your coop, even when it’s ridiculously cold, it’s not worth the fire risk, it’s just not.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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