Tag Archives: suet for chickens

Lesson 1185 – Extreme cold weather precautions for the flock

thermometer

We’ve entered into a dangerously low cold snap in New Hampshire.

Just a reminder that if you have chickens, when it gets very cold like this, there are a few precautions you can take to ensure their welfare.

  • Make sure your flock has an area that is windproof. If they can roost together and are free of the wind they should be fine.
  • Speaking of roosts, make sure that you have enough space on your bars for all flock members to take a perch. Sitting on the floor of the coop will not serve the birds well as they will lose too much body heat. Wooden roosts are what they need, never metal ones.
  • Consider giving the flock a bit of extra fat (not tons, we want healthy birds – not birds that need to go on a diet.) Put a seed block (on top of a concrete block so that it doesn’t absorb water from below) in the coop yard and/or throw in a few blocks of chopped up suet. I regularly give my flock some suet every other week in the winter, but when it is bitterly cold, I give them some extra. The reason for the fat is that in the extreme cold, these chickens are burning up extra calories, a bit of fat (which is high in calories) gives them a bit of an energy bump (this is the same reason we crave heavier and heartier foods in the winter, our bodies are telling us we need more fat.)
  • Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink. When the temps dip, water freezes. Although chickens peck at snow, they don’t “eat” snow (certainly not enough to satisfy their water requirements.) Make sure the flock has access to melted water (it doesn’t have to be warm, just melted) at all times. For us, who don’t have electricity in our coop, this means we run a heavy-duty extension cord through our backyard and have it hooked up to the water heater in the coop.
  • I know it’s tempting but please refrain from using a heater in the coop. Honestly, if you’ve done the above, your flock won’t need any additional support and I’ve heard of too many hen house fires to ever justify a heater in a backyard coop.

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Lesson 422 – Winter num-nums for the chickens – gag

I am starting to rethink the winter care for our chickens.

Until now, I’ve been telling people to include a little bit of suet in the chickens’ feed a few times each winter. My reasoning for this is that, even though it’s an animal product, the fat would do the birds good during the cold winter when they are burning more calories. (I suppose you could use peanut butter but the fear of having their beats glued shut from the paste frightens me.)

No one wants a fat chicken (unless you are going to slaughter it) but no one also wants a chicken that has starved during the cold months when the good fat and protein from insects is virtually non-existent.

I had always felt bad about this though. I had been taught to NOT give your chickens any meat at all (along with no onions or garlic), but I figured if we leave suet out for the outdoor birds that come to our feeder, we could give some of it to our chickens. It was sort of one of those “yeah, but…” decisions.

And then in one of my recent chicken workshops, some chicken owners told me that their chickens LOVE ham.

Well that’s a little weird. Didn’t that make them carnivores? A little cannibalistic? Continue reading

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Filed under All things chickens, All things local, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicken fun, New Hampshire, Personal, Project Chickens before the Eggs