Get the Shelter in Working Order
Start with the housing while securing your flock’s living quarters. The “spring cleaning” craze is well-known, but in the chicken coop, it’s more likely to be the “autumn cleaning” frenzy.
When the hens’ laying slows and molts begin, you can tell the season has changed and it’s time to clean everything thoroughly. Water fonts, feeders, various dishes, and snack baskets should all be scrubbed. Remove any old bedding from the nest boxes, especially any that has become soiled over the course of the season. Scrub roosts and remove trash, especially if you use an electric bulb to heat the coop or part of the building.
Are there any cracks in the fence? Wire mesh or low, loose fencing? 1 inch or bigger diameter holes in the coop? Mice, rats, and weasels can squeeze through a hole about an inch wide, causing significant damage to stored feed and the chickens themselves. Anything that size or larger should be addressed and repaired immediately away.
Chickens are omnivores, which means they eat a wide variety of foods, including greens, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, small insects, and even small animals like rodents and snakes. Chickens, like us, thrive on a wide variety of food sources. If you allow them, summer chickens can free-range and forage for a variety of growing things on grassland. Even free-range winter chickens, though, are at a loss. Even if it’s simply leftovers or peelings from your kitchen, any flock can benefit from some extra vitamins in the winter.
Winter is an excellent time to begin feeding your birds kitchen scraps. I understand that it’s freezing outside, and the last thing you want to do after dinner is go outside in the snow and ice. Your chickens, on the other hand, will thank you—perhaps not with a charming card, but with a few clucks and the rare much-anticipated weekly winter egg.
Greens, fresh fruit and vegetables, kitchen scraps, and leftovers are all fair game for chickens, as long as there are no avocados (the pits exude a toxin poisonous to all birds), raw potatoes, or anything overly oily or greasy in the mix (such as old takeout). It’s alright to serve fresh food that’s a few days past its best, but don’t serve anything rotting or moldy. It’s preferable if you leave that to the compost pile.
And, if there was ever a time to lavish treats on your birds, it would be now. Scratch is a fantastic winter treat since it not only adds diversity to an otherwise monotonous meal, but it also elevates body temperatures and keeps the chicken warm while it digests it. For chickens caged up during winter snowstorms, mealworms and sunflower seed treats are an excellent source of protein and a pleasant exercise.
Oh, it’s so cold! H2-Oh, it’s so cold!
In the winter, it’s easy to forget about water because no one is sweating. While it may appear that we can all do without as much water in the winter, our flocks require it just as much, if not more, than in the summer.
The trick is to maintain water available in freezing temperatures.
You have two options when water freezes: keep an extra set of waterers and swap them out daily for thawed water, or heat the water font so that water is always available. Both options have clear disadvantages: It’s not much fun lugging water back and forth from a warm house, especially in the cold, and heating a water font is a fire hazard.
The Heat Is On
Ah, we’ve arrived at the most contentious part of winterizing the chicken coop: heating it. Proponents of coop heating argue that it is in the flock’s best interests to keep them comfortable and nurtured. Extreme cold, frostbite, and even death are concerns for some. While it’s true that some chicken breeds, like as the Silkie, require milder temperatures to not only thrive but to live, I don’t believe anyone should need to heat the coop if they pay careful attention and care to their chicken-keeping adventure.
Have a few extras
It’s never a bad idea to have a few extras on hand. In the event of an emergency, experts recommend having at least two to three weeks’ worth of food, medical supplies, and medicine on hand. In the winter, a wise chicken keeper will do the same with his or her flock.
Rolling In the Deep
Some call the deep-litter method of coop care lazy, while others think it’s brilliant. What if both of them are correct?
The deep-litter method keeps the coop’s bedding in good shape without wasting the raw materials – bedding and chicken dung – that go into it. Bedding is put several inches thick in the coop’s floor in the traditional technique. The droppings degrade with the bedding material as the flock lives amid it, roosting over it for weeks or months at a time. The deep-litter approach is good for naturally warming winter coops and keeping temperatures inside the structure stable because the decomposition process provides heat.
Why is this method seen to be inefficient? For starters, you don’t remove the bedding throughout the year. The chicken caretaker mixes the bedding and adds more as needed as the droppings continue to pile up. It’s not an exact science to know how much to add and when to add it; it depends on the size of your coop, the quantity of your flock, the sort of bedding you use, and how often you clean it. In general, most chicken keepers can get away with changing the litter only once a year. It’s up to you when it happens, but it’s usually done in the spring or autumn.