What Do My Chickens Need in the Winter?

chicken running in the snow
By Jillian D'Aquino
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What Do My Chickens Need in the Winter?

Cold weather conditions change how we manage our animals. While the basic needs remain the same, how they are achieved can take more time and effort. For example, water must be kept warm enough to not freeze, feed composition may need to change to provide more energy, and it becomes more important to have a tidy, warm environment for your chickens to roost. We are here to help! Here’s what your chickens will need this winter:

1. Water

The #1 forgotten nutrient in any livestock operation is water. Livestock need access to plenty of fresh, clean, unfrozen water. While trudging water buckets up to the barn or out to the hen house may be tedious, this step should never be overlooked. For those in areas with harsh winter weather, this may mean more frequent water changes and/or the utilization of water bucket heaters.

Poultry and other livestock are less likely to drink water if the ice has simply been broken.

2. Feed

Good nutrition is one of the best ways to keep your flock warm. Providing a complete feed such as our Classic Grind Poultry Layer feed will produce heat of digestion as the feed is broken down. This heat of digestion can be further supplemented by the addition of our Scratch Feed, which is a mixture of wheat, corn, and oats. Some flock owners keep greenhouses in order to provide fresh greens for their birds throughout the winter when fresh forage is scarce. Some of our customers prefer to soak, sprout, or ferment our Unmilled Classic Layer feed to offer this variety. Treats such as Chicken Dance Grubs, which are dried black soldier fly larvae, can also be provided as an additional energy source.

3. Heat

There are a variety of opinions regarding heat sources for chickens. Our general recommendation is to avoid using heat lamps, as going from the warm coop to the frigid outdoors can cause temperature shock and lead to health problems. Chicken sweaters, while adorable, are also generally not recommended, as they restrict a bird's natural movement and can get caught on fencing or other potentially sharp materials and lead to other risks. Poultry are better-off if allowed to gradually adjust to temperature changes throughout the season.

4. Bedding

Plenty of hemp bedding, straw, pine shavings, or other bedding should be used in the coop and nest boxes to provide a warm environment for your flock. Bedding should be checked and/or cleaned and replenished every few days to prevent ammonia build up, as poultry are much more susceptible to respiratory infections during winter months. Need help managing the freshness of your coop? Try Bedding Buddy, which is an all natural odor neutralizer for animal living areas.

5. Outdoor Areas

Frostbite is a concern for areas with snow and cold, wet conditions. One way to prevent frostbite is to provide multiple roosts, dry run-in shelters, and straw or mulch pathways to keep the birds' feet dry. Roosts can be as simple as running tree limbs through the corners of fencing or providing tree stumps throughout the area. Exercise is another great way to prevent frostbite and chilly chickens. By putting the soiled bedding in the outdoor area for the chickens to scratch and break down, not only will your chickens stay warm but you will also have great compost.

For more detailed questions or concerns, please call our Customer Care team at 888-699-7088 or drop us a line and they would be glad to assist you! 

November 17, 2020