Coping with the cold weather
Keep a good stock of bedding and feed (watch ‘use-by’ dates on feed), and remember the chickens
when Christmas shopping – they won’t mind if Santa doesn’t call, but will notice if there’s no food
because the store has closed for the holidays!
Food helps chickens keep warm, so feed
generously. Grain is digested slowly, so
scatter some in the afternoons and it will
provide the chickens with internal
heating during the long winter nights.
Be careful not to overdo treats, as the
chickens need to eat their nutritionally
balanced feeds. Mash mixed with warm
water will be appreciated for breakfast in
winter, but clear it away afterwards as it
quickly goes sour.
Vegetables, especially greens, are
valuable winter feeds. Hanging these in
bunches prevents them from being
trampled, and also provides some
Don’t feed frosted vegetables, however, and try to avoid icy water - a tepid drink will be welcomed
on chilly mornings. Bringing the drinker indoors at night saves defrosting it the next day. Plastic
drinkers can crack if frozen.
Make sure water doesn’t freeze during the day too, but don’t leave the drinker in the henhouse to
cause icy condensation. You can buy an electric pad to go under the drinker - keep any cables away
from the chickens!
Water and food attract unwanted visitors, so clear everything away at night and store feed carefully.
Watch out for any signs of chewing or tunnelling.
Frequently check the henhouse to ensure it remains weatherproof. As the chickens will be inside for
longer, you may need to clean them out more frequently - supply plenty of dry bedding to increase
insulation and help soggy chickens to dry off.
Very wet bedding could indicate a leak in the henhouse or condensation problems.
Condensation is a result of poor insulation or lack of ventilation – there must be sufficient air-flow,
even in cold weather. Apart from causing health issues, condensation increases the risk of frostbite
to large combs and wattles. Apply petroleum jelly to these areas to help avoid damage.
Adding extra heat
Even threadbare ex-battery hens re-feather more quickly without additional heat, although if the
weather is extremely cold and the hens very bald, a heat lamp could be used sparingly at night.
Remember to make sure there is plenty of shelter from the wind when they venture outside.
With a few sensible precautions most chickens can survive winter comfortably without need for
additional heat. Bringing chickens indoors to ‘warm up’ could actually do harm, as they will have
to readjust to the outside temperature again - and if they become too warm, they might even start
losing feathers!
Scatter some grain in the afternoon