As winter approaches, it’s essential to ensure your backyard chicken flock is well-prepared to face the challenges of colder temperatures. With proper care and attention, you can provide your sweet flock with a comfortable and healthy environment throughout the winter months. In this blog, we’ll explore key steps to help you prepare your backyard chickens for winter, focusing on nutrition, coop retrofitting, and the often over looked importance of soil health.
a. Adjusting the Diet: During winter, your chickens will need extra energy to stay warm. You can achieve this by adjusting their diet. Provide them with a high-quality layer feed that is specifically formulated for cold weather. These feeds typically contain more calories to help them maintain body heat.
b. Fresh Water: Ensure that your chickens have access to fresh, unfrozen water at all times. Use heated waterers if you live in areas that freeze easily or check the water source frequently to prevent freezing.
c. Supplemental Feeding: Consider offering supplemental treats like mealworms, protein rich table scraps, scratch grains, or warm oatmeal as occasional treats. These can provide extra calories and help keep the birds active.
2. Coop Retrofitting:
a. Insulation: Insulating your coop is crucial to maintaining a warm environment. You can insulate the walls and ceiling with materials like foam boards or fiberglass insulation that is properly sealed away from the birds if space allows. Ensure that ventilation is still adequate to prevent moisture buildup.
b. Draft Prevention: Seal any gaps or cracks in the coop to prevent drafts. Use weatherstripping and caulk to seal openings around doors and windows. However, maintain proper cross ventilation to prevent moisture accumulation. Sweet windows covered with gopher wire to prevent critters from coming in will do the trick here.
c. Adequate Roosting Space: Chickens roost to keep warm. Provide enough roosting space for all your chickens, allowing them to huddle together for warmth.
d. Deep Litter Method: Consider using the deep litter method in your coop. This involves adding a layer of fresh bedding (such as straw or wood shavings) regularly. The bedding generates heat as it decomposes, providing extra warmth to the coop. This is best done in colder extreme environments.
3. Soil Health:
a. Outdoor Access: While it’s essential to keep your chickens warm in the coop, they also need outdoor access. Make sure they have a dry, snow-free area to roam during the day. Use straw or wood chips to create a path in the run to prevent mud and moisture buildup.
b. Soil Preparation: Before winter, assess the condition of your chicken run. Remove any debris, manure, or wet bedding that could promote disease. Ensure good drainage to prevent puddles and mud. Standing water and mud can promote parasitic worms in the soil to hatch and the birds can eat them causing a host of health issues.
c. Composting: Use the manure and bedding from the coop to create compost. Composting not only reduces waste but also generates heat as it breaks down. You can then use the compost to improve soil health in the spring.
Preparing your backyard chicken flock for winter during this fall season is a rewarding practice that ensures your flocks comfort and health during the colder months. Remember to provide fresh water, adjust their diet, retrofit the coop for warmth, and maintain a healthy outdoor environment. With these measures in place, your chickens will stay happy and healthy all season long!