Brrrrrr the mornings are getting chilly, there’s frost on the windscreen and a real nip in the air. We have had a few calls already asking for advice on how to keep our lovely chooks cosy in the colder weather.
Here are some top tips:
- 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. However only do this for feather bare birds and do not make the environment ‘warm’, just lessen the chill.
- Covering a coop overnight with an old carpet, blankets, bubble wrap or flattened cardboard will 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 coop/stable or converted shed, putting a 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.
- Smearing combs with Vaseline will help prevent a hen 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, (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. Top up with more warm water during the day.
- Giving your hens extra corn in the afternoon will heat them up internally as they digest it overnight – a lovely tea time treat.
- We all like a hot breakfast, and so do our hens. Give them a warm meal using 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. A handful of oats mixed in will also be appreciated.
- 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. Store food 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.
- Ensure you have feed in stock during extreme weather in case travel to your local country store proves difficult.