Page 55 - British Hen Welfare Trust - Chicken & Egg Issue 3

Newly released ex-bats don’t understand changing weather conditions and easily catch
cold if allowed to stand out in the cold and wet. Physically pick up and put any new hens in a
sheltered position for the first few days if the weather is bad, and lift them into their coop at
If you have an outbuilding with an electricity supply, heat lamps or oil - filled radiators can
be used to provide extra warmth, but only do this for feather bare birds and do not make the
environment ‘warm’.
In extreme cold, cover the coop overnight with an old carpet, blankets, bubble wrap or
flattened cardboard to give extra insulation. Deep (10cm+) dry bedding of chopped straw or
wood shavings on the floor will help keep birds warm.
If you have just a few girls in a large hen house, putting a big cardboard box on its side,
half filled with cosy bedding in a corner within the house will help conserve body heat. Check
after dark that they are all sleeping together in the box.
Smearing hens’ combs with Vaseline will help prevent them getting frostbite, especially if
they have large, floppy combs.
Access to fresh water is vital. Drinkers will freeze if left out overnight and may split when
you try to defrost them in the morning, and don’t use a kettle of boiling water on frozen
plastic. Bring drinkers in at night and refill in the morning with warm water which hens enjoy,
topping up with more warm water during the day.
Give your hens extra corn in the afternoon as this will heat them up internally as they
digest it overnight.
You can also give them a warm meal using Smallholder Ex-bat crumb mixed with hot
water. Just feed enough to ensure it all gets eaten within 30 minutes and repeat the process
as necessary.
Ensure the hens have shelter in their outside run, they dislike the wind chill and driving rain
as much as we do. Erecting wooden boards/plastic sheets/tarpaulin/straw bales against the
windward side of their run will help, as will providing some cover above to keep them dry.
Cold weather and snow means other animals are hungry too; make sure food is stored
safely away from rats and mice, especially at night, and regularly check fences and coop
security; hungry foxes are more daring and determined in winter.
Finally, look on the bright side, if it’s freezing, at least it’s
not muddy!
With winter on its way, here are our top tips to ensure your birds are comfortable