There’s a definite chill in the air and we’re all slowly (very slowly!) starting to turn the heating on. That’s all well and good for us humans, but what about caring for chickens in winter?
While our cats and dogs can snuggle up on our laps or put coats on if really needed, it’s not quite as simple to keep your hens warm.
However, thankfully, these feathery little creatures are pretty resilient and have an amazing way of regulating their own temperatures during even the harshest of winter weather (meaning there’s absolutely no need for hen jumpers).
With that in mind, there are a few extra things we can do to keep the chill off their toes, so here are our top tops for caring for chickens in winter.
Ensure your birds have shelter
It may sound obvious, but make sure your birds have somewhere to go when it rains or snows (which is never much of an issue in the UK!). Newly rehomed hens especially won’t know to seek shelter so may end up standing in the rain getting soaked – just gently guide them in the right direction and they’ll soon get the hang of things.
Insulate your hen house
No, we’re not talking about getting a builder round, but there are simple steps you can take to better protect your hens from the elements at night. Covering your hen house with old carpet, blankets, bubble wrap or flattened cardboard will offer extra insulation, as will putting down an extra layer of bedding (we love Dengie Fresh Bed for Chickens).
It’s also worth checking your hen house for draughts as your hens certainly won’t appreciate a brisk breeze blowing through their bloomers at 2am. Simply stuff holes with straw or a bit of paper to block them, but make sure you do not block the ventilation holes.
Create smaller areas to conserve body heat
If you have a larger hen house, pop a cardboard box on its side in the coop for your hens to sleep in. The area around them will be much smaller so they’ll be able to conserve their body heat much better. Once the hens have settled, peek inside to make sure they’re all in the box and, if not, pop the lingering hens inside.
Heating in extreme weather
If your hens are in an outbuilding with a power supply and the weather is extremely cold, you can use oil filled radiators or heat lamps to take the chill off the air. However, do not ‘warm’ the environment and only do this for feather bare hens.
Vaseline can keep the frost at bay
Again, if the weather gets extreme and a very harsh frost is predicted, you can smear your hens’ combs with Vaseline to prevent frostbite, especially if they are newly rehomed and have particularly large, floppy combs.
Absorbing moisture in the run
Hens really don’t like the wet and the mud. If the rain has been particularly torrential you may want to put something down to lift your hens off the wet and mud, such as hardwood chips which double up as great scratching material for them.
Daily coop clean
Your hens will track water into their house during the wet winter months, so a daily coop spruce up may be necessary. Make sure you remove any wet bedding from around the pop hole, which can go mouldy and make the coop even colder if left.
Use ground sanitiser
The area where your hens come out of their house and meet the floor can become very boggy and messy, so regular use of a ground sanitiser prevents it becoming unhygienic.
Beware of predators
Ensure you are as predator safe as possible by checking run boundaries regularly. Fence posts may become loose in wet weather, giving foxes or badgers an easy target to dig at.
Check water regularly
If a hen stops drinking she will stop eating as well so, to make sure your birds keep up their water intake, put drinkers undercover at night so they don’t freeze; you can then simply get them back out again in the morning to save time if you’re rushing off for work. Use tepid to warm water when you refill them.
Keep up your hen healthcare routine
Like any pet, hens should have a regular worming routine so keep on top of this during the winter, as well as watching out for any external parasites such as lice.
Warm meals are much appreciated
Just like we enjoy a warm bowl of porridge on a chilly day, our hens will love a bit of heat with their breakfast too. To do this, simply mix Allen & Page Layers Crumble with some hot water and pop it down for your birds to enjoy. Just make sure it’s all eaten within 30 minutes.
The bottom line on caring for chickens in winter
As we’ve already mentioned hens are incredibly resilient and will cope with a bit of cold weather just fine. However, in extreme conditions there are some simple steps you can take to keep the cold at bay.
As always, if you ever become concerned about caring for chickens in winter, our Hen Helpline is available on 01884 860084.