Preparing your chickens for winter

Cold weather is here! Are you and your birds ready?

As winter is quickly approaching poultry owners need to implement the proper management techniques to ensure that their animal’s environments are safe and healthy in order to survive the cold winter months. According to Michigan State University Extension, fall is the best time to get prepared.  When preparing your chickens for winter there are a few specific areas to keep in mind:

  • Lighting
  • Heating
  • Air flow
  • Water
  • Feedings 

First, light intensity is one consideration that can make a huge difference for your flock.  A 40-watt bulb with a reflector located seven feet above the floor will provide adequate light for an area of 200 square feet.  Add more lights at the same rate if you have a larger barn.  Make sure that all light fixtures are in proper working order to avoid potential fire hazards.

Second, heating and air flow are two areas that can have a large impact in your flock’s health.  A commonly made mistake is to insulate coops to the point that limit air circulation.  This causes humidity to build up, which can lead to frost bite.  Additionally, poor ventilation also causes a buildup of ammonia gas from manure which can damage the animals’ lungs.  The overhang of your coop, where the walls meet the roof, is a great area to put ventilation windows.  This allows the coop to be vented during the day when the windows are open and closed at night to keep the heat in.

If you are altering your coop, it is important to ensure that the floor and the roof of the coop are waterproofed.  One of the keys for animals to stay warm is for them to stay dry.  Providing deep, clean bedding can also help keep your animals dry.  Chickens will huddle together to keep warm, but it if is very cold you may want to add a heater or heat-producing bulb that is safe for a coop environment.

Third, providing a high-density, vitamin filled feed is important.  It is common for birds to experience their annual molt, the time when the shedding and growth of new feathers occurs, at the end of the fall.  Adding vitamins will help provide the additional nutrients that birds need during molting and falling temperatures.

Lastly, ensuring that birds have full access to fresh, clean water at all times is important to their health.  This may require a change in your daily management routine, but is very important.

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