When I was younger, my Great Aunt kept enough chickens to supply the school with eggs, and all of the extended family with fresh chicken. I, of course, got the task of cleaning the long and extremely low roofed chicken house a couple of times a year. Finally, my Aunt grudgingly gave up her hens. I was glad to be rid of them, my Mom was glad she didn't have to butcher them, and my Dad was glad he didn't have to provide feed for them.
My wife had never been around chickens and was a little taken aback by them. With home grown food becoming all the rage again, I decided it was time my wife had some chickens! Like some of the less experienced folks, I decided it couldn't be that hard to keep a few hens around. This last Spring, I built this nice chicken coop, and within a few months, we had 5 hens laying eggs behind the house. Sounds romantically simple doesn't it? That's because, like those who tout the ease of raising backyard poultry, I skipped a few lines in the story.
I didn't tell you that young fowl can develop a sort of illness that makes chicken poop cling to their little fuzzy bottoms. I guess I left out the part about soaking and rubbing the dried poop off so they can poop some more. I am pretty sure I didn't talk about covering the pen to block out the sun, only to have the whole thing blow away befuddling our birds. Did you know roosters crow before daylight? They also crow until the sun goes down! (then they move to a quiet place out in the country where they can happily live out there lives)
I am only telling you these things because winter is upon us. Those fair weather friends can become quite a burden on those freezing wintry days. It is time to winterize that chicken coop. Here are a few things to remember about poultry in the winter.
- Chickens don't like drafts. Plug up any low lying holes, but remember ventilation is needed to keep gasses down. Let some air through at the top.
- Clean out the litter and replace with some clean shavings or straw. The chickens will spend more time inside in the winter.
- Outside feeders will need to be moved inside, or at least covered in a way to keep snow from blowing in and spoiling feed.
- A light is suggested to help keep up egg production.
- Waterers will either need to be heated, or moved where it is warm. If you have just the right coop, you may be able to keep the water thawed, provide light, and heat for the birds from a heat lamp. If you have metal waterers, a heated base can be purchased at farm stores.
You can expect egg production to fall when the days grow shorter. Using the tips above, you will still get some eggs through the winter, and the hens will be healthy enough to get back into full swing when warmer weather comes.