It’s sad to see the summer come and go, but we do love the Autumn and all the beauty it brings. Foliage, Halloween, football season and of course Thanksgiving! Writing this blog has made me realize that I’ve not created any Fall focused blogs and I’m about to jump right into winter, so I’ll be sure to come back to Fall in some future posts! I did want to cover how to prepare for the long winter months. Especially for all of our northern BYC farmer friends and their girls.
During the winter months, it’s most important to know that the cold temperature isn’t the most important thing to deal with. Moisture is the biggest culprit and can cause the most issues for your flock, so please do make sure the coop is well ventilated, their hen house is up off the ground and there is great air circulation.
We like a setup with the open side of the coop facing the sun and the sides of the coop that get hit with wind are covered up so the birds don’t have to deal with cold and wind, which is a combination nobody likes. Having the side facing the sun will allow for great circulation and prevent ammonia gas from the droppings from building up. If you're in a super cold location (-20 degrees Fahrenheit avg) we suggest covering up all the sides of the coop with plastic strips but leaving a few inches of open space around the top of the cage. You can also put down some hay bales, but please be very careful not to block circulation. If you reduce airflow and the coop gets hot, the humidity will come into play and then you will need to worry about frostbite. The idea is to block the wind, reduce all moisture and keep your birds up off the cold ground (chickens hate having cold feet). Manure contains a lot of moisture, so be sure to keep your girls up and away from that.
You will need to make sure the water stays fresh and doesn’t freeze. There are a few ways to do this. The obvious one is to change the water daily to keep it fresh. To keep it from freezing, you could bring it in at night and bring out freshwater in the mornings. Another way would be to use an electric water heater. This will mean your coop will need electrical outlets or you will need to run extension cords from your electricity source.
After the fall molt, your girls will likely be back to their normal laying schedule yet the daylight hours will be reduced considerably depending on where you live. Your ladies normally get about 10 hours of sunlight so if you want to encourage egg production one way to do so will be to put a light in the coop. We suggest a 40-watt incandescent bulb with a reflector for every 200 square feet of your coop. We also suggest putting it on a timer (as to not over stimulate) and setting it up 7 - 8 feet above the floor.
You will want to encourage your girls to go out and roam around even if there is snow on the ground. To make sure your girl's feet don’t get cold you should cover the ground with a considerable about of untreated hay and place their food outside the coop and in their walk or in your yard depending on your set up. We first lay out the hay and move their chicken feed to the outside of the coop when we want to coax them out. FLYGRUBS always do the trick too, so spreading a handful on the hay will spark your girl's interest. Don’t be shy with the hay as it allows them to huddle and feel warm all the while getting some exercise. Wood chips are good options for farmers who don’t have to deal with snow yet still have some cold winters.
So there you have it. A quick read for all you that should inspire you to get ahead of the coming cold weather months! Don’t forget...YOU’RE ALL AWESOME!