Can Your Chickens Survive the Winter?
by Poultry farmer – Miriam Rolling| Last Updated– 09 January 2021
If you don’t do these two things, your chickens might not make it through the winter. They could die, or they could seriously struggle through the cold weather.
Number one is they have to have a weather proof, henhouse and number two, it’s very important. What you feed your chickens in the winter.
A weatherproof. Henhouse is the utmost importance. Your hen house has to be completely weatherproof and windproof that means no wind can blow through any cracks around the doors or anything like that. So if you need to get out the or you need to get in there and insulate that, that is just what you have to do. This is cold areas. I’m talking about cold areas of the world. I live in Florida. So this doesn’t really apply to me. So don’t take this chicken coop as your example, what you have to do is Cockle the cracks and insulate and make sure any cold wind that’s blowing cannot blow through any cracks. So it’s a completely wind proof. Also, you want a really good roof on it. So no rain and no snow can come into that henhouse. We want it dry as a bone in there.
That is the key dry as a bone with zero wind coming through. Okay. Step two is going to be the floor of the coop because when you live in a very cold climate, a lot of coldness comes from the ground. And even though the coop will be completely wind and weatherproof, the ground can still be very cold for the chickens. And most likely they’re going to spend the day in the henhouse when it’s bitter cold out. So what you have to do is you have to go to a feed store or somewhere like tractor supply. And what you do is you buy the horse bedding. They will have wood chips that are compressed into bags. And they’re very inexpensive. I want to say like five to $7 a bag, get two or three bags of them because you want the wood chips, six to eight inches deep.
You want a really deep number one, it’s going to be warm. But number two, as the winter goes on, they’re going to be pressed down and you know, all that. So you could even add another bag or two halfway through the winter, but to start out with six to eight inches thick is what you’re going to go for. I only have this very small bag cause I live in Florida. I don’t need to do this in the winter. I want to show you literally, just to give you an idea. So I’m going to just spread these out. These by no means are going to be thick enough, but the chicken still like to pick in these and you know, pick around just so you have an idea of how they come to in case you’ve never bought a bag of these. They’re like compressed like this.
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So what you have to do is you can use a rake and just kind of break them apart and it ends up being more than you think. So, you know, once you break them up, but you want them good and thick, thick, thick, thick, thick. So the chickens are not standing on the ground. They have, this is installation and that’ll be really warm for them. They won’t have cold feet. Okay. So it’s just, so it gives you a, this is how thick you want them though. You want them like that thick all over the whole floor of the coat. And then the second thing you can do, which adds even more insulation to the floor. So the cold can’t come up from the floor as you get at bale of alfalfa here. And this was in Florida, it’s more expensive because we don’t grow much hay around here.
So we can’t grow any alfalfa actually. So this was like $23. It’s a very heavy bale though. It’s probably 80 pounds. You want to get the alfalfa in the coop? Okay. So here’s the cake. Now, if this was my coop and I lived in a cold, cold place, I would open this bale of hay and I would spread it on top of the wood chips. Number one, it makes it even thicker and warmer. And number two, they can get at all the little leaves and the chickens eating alfalfa is really good for them. It will just give them a lot of calcium and it will just really keep them going through the winter when the grass is dead and there was nothing great for them to eat. So the bale of alfalfa is a brilliant idea. Some people don’t open it, then want to just leave it like this.
I find if you do that, you’ll always get the dumb chicken that’ll like live on top of this and just Pope on it. I’ll just be a big pilot Pope. I know if you open it and scatter, it they’ll poop too, but it won’t be as condensed in one area. Just so you know that. So make sure you get the bale of alfalfa that is really going to help your chickens make it through the winter.
Okay. So now that you have your coop, all settled, taken care of it’s dry and weatherproof, you’ve got your batting in there. The next thing we need to talk about is what we’re going to feed them in the winter. We need to add animal protein to our chickens diet. What that really means in just simple languages, meat. We have to add meat to their diet in the cold weather.
They need fats and protein to make it through the cold winter and the easiest way to do that. To add meat to their diet, chickens are meat eaters. They will eat toads lizards, snakes, mice, baby birds. If they fall out of the nest, along with all the bugs and worms they can get and dig for. So just so you know, that chickens are definitely 100% meat eaters. Okay. So what we need to do in the winter is add some of the meat back to their diet because you know, the bugs are gone and everything’s hibernating and you know, it’s just not out there. So we’re going to add that to their diet, the easiest way to do that.
I’m going to tell you a few ideas, cheap tuna, you know, you can get really cheap, inexpensive 200 just while you’re shopping, just throw it in the car, you know, write it on your list.
Also, sardines sardines are really inexpensive and you can just buy cans of those as well. The nice thing about it is they keep in the house easy and every day you can just open a can or two, depending on how many birds you have and then just go throw it in the coat. They’ll just pick through that and love it. So you can do that with the, um, tuna, the sardines, also cat food and dog food, canned canned meat, cat food, and dog food. I will try to buy organic if I can swing it. But if not, I’ll just make sure I read the ingredients and I will just make sure there’s not junk in there. You know, as long as it’s pretty decent, I will just go ahead and feed that again. That’s a very inexpensive way to add meat to your chicken’s diet.
Another thing that’s really important, that is just an absolute staple around here at my farm is whole corn. The reason the whole corn is awesome is because there’s a lot of oil in this corn. So there’s a lot of fat in whole corn. The germ that has the wheat germ, I mean the wheat germ, the germ and the oil is still present in whole corn. So that adds a lot of fat to their diet. And during the winter, while they’re burning extra calories to stay warm, that is what they need is fat and protein along with whole corn, which I don’t have here are black oil, sunflower seeds. You don’t peel them. You just throw the whole thing in there, get a bag of those. And that is another way to add some fat to your chicken’s diet in the winter. And they love all this.
They’ll be like follow you around looking for more. That’s the funny part. Okay. Another way you can do it is with the kibble. Now this is cat kibble. These are very, very, I’m going to hold one up tiny little pieces. So if your chickens, you know, are sissy chickens or they’re young or whatever, you can add the cat kibble, which is very small. And how I’ll do this is very convenient, is I’ll have my barrel in there and I’ll just have a variety of stuff. I kind of make my own. I’ll have oats, some whole corn I’ll dump in some cat kibble. Sometimes the dog kibble is bigger. They can swallow it very easily though. And I’ll just mix all that in a big tub. And then I can just feed it out easy with my scope every day. So I just wanted to mention those few ways to add the extra protein to your chickens diet in the cold winter time.
The next thing that you have to make sure you give to your chickens when you’re feeding all that food that I just mentioned, actually they need this at all times all year is crushed oyster shells that they will use for grit. Not only will they use this to grind up their food, cause it goes in their kids are heard and helps them digest and get all the nutrients out of the food you’re giving them. It also adds calcium to their diet to keep those egg-laying muscles working back there on the hens, because we don’t want any egg bound hands in our flock. So make sure that you always have the crushed oyster shells. And this is how I do it because they can just get it yourself. You might be able to see some in my, um, run anyway, but I literally just throw it in there and they’ll get what they need.
It just has to be available to them. Another really nice thing you can do for your chickens in the winter. When you live in a cold climate is make sure the nighttime sleeping roost is wide that way when they sit on it, and then they squat down their feathers and their body will cover their toes and their feet. So they won’t have cold toes at night. And that, you know, it’s a very nice thing you can do for them. So they have nice warm toes. Now, like I said, I live in Florida, so we don’t have that problem, but this isn’t here just in case I do have a couple that want to sleep that way. And then this is a pretty wide roost, but you can see their hand is like my fingers. If they sat up there, their toes would curl around it.
And when their body laid down, their toes would be sticking out. So the little toes could get cold and this is actually a pretty fat roost. Some people have even thinner ones. So I like to give them something comfortable to balance on. And then in the cold weather, you want a flat one so they could lay down on their feet and their toes and keep them warm. All right. One final thing I do want to mention is if during the cold cold winter, you notice there was one of your chickens in there. That’s very lethargic. It just looks like it’s not doing well, keep a very close eye on it. And if it doesn’t get better quickly, like within a matter of hours, I would say after the sunny part of the day, it’s still not looking well, I would go ahead and pull it out and keep it in a cage like this, about this size, make sure you fill the bottom with the wood chips.
And then I would put this in your garage or, you know, somewhere like a shed that has electricity. And what you can do is just give that chicken a chance to warm up a little bit. Maybe have a heat lamp, but here’s tricky part that’s very important. You don’t want to have the heat lamp, just warm that thing up. So warm and toasty and keep it that way. And the reason is later after a couple of days, it perks back up. It’s going to be very hard to keep that, take that warm, toasty chicken out of this cage. And go, here you go back in the coop where it’s freezing cold. It’s going to have shock and it’s not going to do well. So you want to keep it warm, but you don’t want to keep it too warm, like just enough. So it can pull itself together and start to feel better, eat and drink.
Then what you’re going to do is you’re going to wait until the sunny part of the day when everything’s warmed up. Even if there are three feet of snow on the ground, nevermind that just in the sunny part of the day, when everything’s warmed up, that is the time you take the chicken out of this cage and you go put it back in the hen house. And then, like I said, again, keep a close watch on it and see how it goes. It could be not feeling well from something other than the cold. There could just be something wrong with it. So that just remembers that. Don’t keep it too warm and don’t take a nice hot warm chicken and just go throw it in the coop. So I think I’ve got everything covered for you.
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