The best hen housing tips to see you through winter
A good hen housing set up is vital throughout the year. Even as we come to the end of a cold snap and face a volley of storms, you may be wondering if your hen house will withstand the cold, wet conditions. The good news is, our feathered friends are really rather hardy and with just a few sensible tweaks to your coop and run, they’ll be snug as the proverbial bug all winter.
Cosy coops in an instant
As the temperature drops, there are a few simple steps that you can take to ensure that your girls are warm and toasty overnight. A little bit of insulation will make all the difference – and is easier to do than you might think. Simply cover your hen housing overnight with flattened cardboard, a bit of old carpet, blankets or bubble wrap and your hens will be happy as Larry. Be sure not to cover any ventilation holes with your insulation to ensure a good air flow throughout.
It may seem obvious but providing adequate shelter in your hen housing set up, will go a long way towards keeping your chickens cosy. During the winter months, you may find it useful to cover part of your run with clear plastic sheeting or Perspex, so your hens have somewhere to shelter should they need to. If you’re considering upgrading your hen housing, we love the Chicken House Company Metal Chicken Run . This spacious, practical, outdoor safe run comes in a variety of sizes to suit all outdoor spaces and flocks. It includes a handy shade that will not only act as a shelter during the winter months but also doubles as a sunshade during the summer – making it the perfect all round run! Please note that during periods of very high winds, it is recommended to remove the cover to prevent it blowing off and damaging the structure of the run.
If you are the proud keeper of newly rehomed hens, it’s worth keeping an eye on them as they won’t instinctively know to seek shelter. If necessary, pick them up and pop them under your shelter – they’ll soon get the idea.
Room to roost
Providing a perch or space for your chickens to roost in your hen housing set up will allow them to keep warm and comfortable during lower temperatures. Hens have a natural instinct to perch and research shows that it reduces frustration in birds. The perfect perch will be between 3-5cm wide and at a height to suit the size of your birds. It should have enough space for comfort – as a rough guideline 20cm –25cm per chicken. This allows them space to huddle together for extra cosiness, without causing overcrowding. Finally, your hens should be able to easily get up or down from the perch without any issues.
If possible, provide your girls with a smaller space to congregate at floor levels too. Cutting an opening in a cardboard box and placing it on the hen house floor will serve as a space within their space which is perfect for huddling together and conserving body heat. As with sheltering, if you have newly rehomed hens, you may need to pick them up and put them in the box initially.
The winter weather can play havoc with even the most robust housing set ups, so a little bit of regular hen house keeping can go a long way to warding off the worst of it. Chickens are hardy souls who aren’t too concerned by the cold, but rain is a different story altogether. Typically British wet winters can cause a build-up of excess moisture in the run and we all know that wet, muddy ground can lead to myriad problems with your girls’ feet. To combat this, try adding a layer of hardwood chips to your run. This will act as a barrier and help to lift your hens off the ground, keeping them nice and dry.
It’s easy for your chickens to track water into the coop in winter, so a daily spruce up will help keep things in order. Be sure to remove any wet bedding from around the pop hole, otherwise it can accumulate and go mouldy. Use a good sanitiser such as Nettex Ground and Bedding Sanitiser will help keep your coop free of pesky bacteria.
Finally, don’t forget to check your fence posts. Winter weather and sludgy ground can loosen fence posts, making it easier for predators to find a way in.