Chickens are much tougher than they appear and they only need a little extra care during the winter months. Chickens who are healthy and happy will continue to lay eggs all year long. Here are a few essential tips to consider when caring for your chickens throughout the winter.
Chickens don't mind the cold. They fluff up their feathers to trap in the heat and stay warm. While they don't need a heated house, they do need shelter that is dry and free from cold drafts. As the weather turns cold, make sure your chicken house is ready. Inspect the condition of your housing and make any needed repairs to cover any holes. This will keep moisture out as well as small predators.
Good ventilation in the chicken house is a must. Chickens naturally create a lot of moisture in their breath and droppings. Poor ventilation inside their house creates an ammonia build-up which will affect their respiratory system and make them sick. They need plenty of fresh air circulating around the hen house. Straw is good to put in the chicken coop. It will keep the chickens' feet insulated from the frozen ground during the day while they scratch around. Be sure to keep the straw clean and dry and replace it often when it becomes soiled or wet.
Egg production has a tendency to slow down in the winter because of the reduced hours of natural light. Since hens need 14 or more hours of daylight each day to lay well, consider hanging a light bulb in the nesting area to extend the 'daylight' hours to fourteen. This will encourage the hens to lay more eggs.
Fresh water is necessary to keeping your chickens healthy. Chickens need fresh, clean water all year long, but this becomes more challenging with daily freezing temperatures. If you have electricity in the barn, invest in a heated water bowl. Be careful installing electrical items in the chicken house. If you don't have electricity, you will need to provide fresh water several times a day. During freezing temperatures, check the water source often because it will freeze quickly and the chickens may not be able to break it and get any water. Staying warm requires more energy, so your chickens will need more poultry feed in the winter to keep their body heat up. Feeding the chickens later in the evening will also help keep them warmer throughout the night as their bodies digest the food.
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