Thursday, October 28, 2010
Cold Weather Tips For Poultry
Chickens actually can do very well in cold weather. Egg production usually will slow down with colder weather. The first instinct people have is to lock their chickens in the hen house or outbuilding. This can cause more trouble than the cold. Chickens should be provided shelter in the winter, but be sure to provide plenty of ventilation. Ventilation should allow air exchange but not allow wind through the house.
If you allow your hens outside in the summer, offer them the choice in the winter. Exercise is important for the health of the birds. To help keep hens warm keep adequate feed for the birds.
The idea of adding heat to the chicken house to increase winter production has been tried and usually doesn’t pay off. To help keep the birds warm add a layer of straw or hay to the floor of the house. Feeding scratch in the evening helps keep chickens busy and keeps their crop full before going to roost.
One of the most important things in the winter is a constant supply of water. It is challenging in the winter to keep non-frozen water supplied to your birds. Many of the traditional waterers are hard to open when frozen, and plastic waterers will freeze and crack. Galvanized waterers work better but still can be damaged if the water is allowed to freeze solid. The best practice is to fill waterers half full in early morning and again in the afternoon. When temperatures are below 15˚ it is best to take the waterers in at night.
In the winter it is best to gather eggs twice a day, especially in freezing conditions. Chickens will naturally lose their feathers, which is called molting. During the molt, egg production will decrease, and the birds will eat less. Production will increase next spring as daylight increases.
The winter is the time of year that you should be on the lookout for predators. Raccoons, skunks and often neighborhood pets will get into chickens this time of year. The best way to avoid predator losses is to prevent them from occurring. Make your hen house and run predator “proof”. Some predators can fit into small openings, while others prefer to dig their way in. Examine your pen to eliminate holes, weak places in the fence, and remove brush and weeds from around the chicken house.
A few simple steps now can help maintain your chicken flock, keeping it productive.