Chickens are pretty easy creatures to raise. That is, until the cold season comes. Jordan Walker, the lead content curator of Coops and Cages, shares tips to improve the survivability of chickens during winter.
Chicken owners who live in mild climate regions are a bit luckier than most. Those who live in harsh weather conditions have to keep their chickens closely monitored especially during winter season. Find out how to prepare for such circumstance beforehand to avoid any untoward incidens when the time comes.
Consistent Water Supply
Water is very important in a chicken’s diet. Water is key to all of a chicken’s bodily functions including growth, digestion, egg production and more importantly, temperature regulation.
The need for temperature regulation causes chickens to eat more during winter. Because of this added intake, there is also a proportional increase in the need for water because it helps to digest the food. The biggest problem with water during winter is that it gets frozen. There are several ways to deal with it though:
- Electric bowl – the easiest way to keep water unfrozen during the winter is to serve it on one of these nifty products.
- Light bulb beneath cinder block – the light bulb emanates heat which keeps the water thawed when placed on top. Some people like to lay stepping stones on top of the cinder block and set the water bowl there to keep it steady.
- Switch to rubber containers – in the event that no electricity is involved, simply replacing all metal containers with rubber ones will keep it from freezing easily. Metal gets cold quite easily and when it does, it conducts the temperature to the water just as fast.
- Ping pong balls – for those who live in cool, breezy places, adding ping pong balls in the water tub can work wonders. When the wind blows, the balls create ripples in the water which disrupts ice from forming.
- Nipple watering system – nipple drinkers or feeders are slowly gaining popularity and for good reason. It is a very convenient way to deliver water to the chickens without fear of getting their poop into the water tub. Plus, they are easily refillable from outside the coop and are somewhat resistant to temperature changes.
- Use the good old sun – some people who are lucky enough to be in areas with loads of sunshine like to create sunrooms or repurpose their coops to accommodate a sunroom area. This is a great way to cut on costs and also helps keep the chickens warm without them leaving the comforts of the coop.
- Manual labor – for those who can afford the effort, simply replacing the water every now and then also works
Aside from an unhampered water supply, chickens also need a good environment to stay in during winter, ergo a nice chicken coop. The first thing that needs to be kept in check is ventilation. The coop needs to be properly circulating the air in order for the chickens to avoid frostbite brought about by humidity and dampness. This means that there needs to be enough holes in the coop to allow air to freely flow in and out. If there isn’t, you may need to employ mechanical means such as installing electric fans or wind turbines on the roof.
Secondly, the coop should be well insulated. Any and all gaps in the wall or ceiling that aren’t used for ventilation should be sealed off immediately. Likewise, the roof should be stapled with cardboard, styrofoam or lengthy clothing like towels and blankets.
Third, it is also advised to use sand for their bedding. Using sand as litter within the coop is a good idea as it dries easier due to its moisture evaporating prowess. Sand also has properties that allows it to retain heat better. Think of the beach. It gets drenched in sun heat for a long time and can stay warm even if it has been cloudy for some time already.
Deep Litter Method
Deep litter is an ingenious method used by chicken owners to naturally gain leverage during the winter. It is accomplished by simply allowing chicken poop and bedding material to continually build up during the other seasons. This will inevitably give you a decent level of composting material piled up on the chicken coop floor. This bedding material has properties that allows it to naturally warm the coop. This method will also work great when used in conjunction with the sand bedding mentioned earlier.
To pull off the deep litter method properly, one needs to manage the litter carefully though. Some stirring and keeping track of the moisture content is needed on the owner’s part. If pulled off incorrectly, this method can be a serious health hazard for humans and chickens alike.
Sometimes, winterizing the chicken run is not so cost-effective for most people. If one is interested to do so, the best way to do it is by wrapping all the sides in clear plastic. If this is not doable, try to cover the two sides or the corner where the wind typically comes in. This helps block the icy wind which bothers chickens, in general.
Don’t be ashamed if you didn’t know of these facts beforehand. People commit all sorts of mistakes during their tenure as chicken farmers. The important thing is to continually progress the learning process so that in the end, you and your chickens grow to be successful partners.