Cold Weather Tips
Throughout the year we rehome hens come rain or shine, even in the coldest of weathers. In our experience, the vast majority of newly saved hens from slaughter cope with the environmental change with no trouble at all, however, it is always important to plan for sudden temperature changes and adverse weather warnings.
In order to give your newly adopted hens the best care during the winter months, here are our top 10 tips to make sure your new hens are comfortable.
*Established hens should have sufficient feather coverage to provide ample protection
Make sure to put hens under shelter
Ex-commercial hens may need physically picked up and put under shelter for the first day or two if the weather is bad. You will also need to lift them into their hen house when it is bedtime. Newly released ex-commercial hens can easily get cold if they stand out in the cold and wet.
Use heat lamps or oil-filled radiators
If the weather conditions are extreme and 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’, just lessen the chill.
Cover your hen house for insulation
You can cover the hen house 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 your hens warm.
Create places for hens to sleep together
If you have just a few girls in a large coop/stable or converted shed, putting a large cardboard box on its side, half-filled with chopped straw/wood shavings in a corner within the coop/stable will help conserve body heat. Check after dark that they are all sleeping together in the box.
Prevent chill with Vaseline
Try smearing your hens’ combs with Vaseline to help prevent them from getting frostbite, especially if they have large, floppy combs like most hens do when they come out of the farm.
Prevent water from freezing
Access to fresh water is vital for all hens. Drinkers will freeze if left out overnight and may split when you try to defrost them in the morning, (do not 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.
Corn goes down a treat!
Give your hens extra corn in the afternoon as this will heat them internally as they digest it overnight.
Warm meals go a long way
Cold meals can be hard to swallow on an extremely cold day. Give your hens a warm meal using Allen & Page’s Smallholder Range crumble or pellets mixed with hot water. Just feed enough to ensure it all gets eaten within 30 minutes and repeat the process as necessary.
Make sure hens are sheltered from the weather
Ensure your hens have shelter in their outside run as they dislike the wind chill and driving rain as much as we do. To do this, you can erect wooden boards/plastic sheets/tarpaulin/straw bales against the windward side of their run which will help shut out the weather, as well as providing some cover from above to keep them dry.
Store your food away
Cold weather and snow mean other animals are hungry too; make sure food is stored safely away from rats and mice, especially at night, and regularly check fences and hen house security; hungry foxes are more daring and determined in winter.
Finally, look on the bright side, if it’s freezing cold, at least it’s not muddy!
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