If you live in the north like me, the nights are getting chilly, the leaves are changing and there has even been some frost on the pumpkins in the mornings. All this means…winter is coming! Whether we want it to or not, it will soon be upon us. So instead of scrambling with frozen fingers when it’s really cold and snowy, prepare your coop now for a healthy flock through winter.
Check the health of your birds. Any health issues will be exacerbated by the cold weather. Treat any ailments, keep waterers and feeders topped off so their immune systems are at their peak.
Things to do:
Clean and disinfect feeders, waterers and perches
- Healthy birds require a clean environment. Wash away any microorganisms that have grown happy in the warm weather.
- Perches and laying boxes are often forgotten during cleaning. Birds spend a lot of time in these places and bacteria are plentiful! Don’t forget these spots.
Muck out and deep-bed your coop
- Remove the bedding you use in your coop and replace with a thick layer of pine shavings, sawdust or straw.
- Pile the bedding up against the walls or leave a few bales of straw in your coop so if you need to remove some bedding during the winter during cleaning, you don’t have to haul fresh bedding in.
- Piles of straw provide a warm place for chickens to cuddle through the coldest weather.
- Don’t forget to place straw or other bedding in the nesting boxes. Soft, dried grass makes a great (free!) nest that protects eggs from cracking.
Feed and supplement your birds correctly
- Chickens need a source of calcium all year, so don’t neglect providing oyster shells in winter.
- To stimulate the scratching instinct and keep birds entertained, provide scratch grains periodically.
- To beat boredom, consider adding a Scratch Block to the coop for a healthy distraction!
Check for drafts
- Drafts can cause respiratory problems and sickness in your flock.
- Check for drafts where your chickens roost and spend most of their time when in the coop.
- Make any repairs to your chickens’ house while the weather is still fair.
Set up any heat lamps and water heaters
- Develop a plan so your chickens have access to fresh, unfrozen water 24 hours a day.
- Frozen water isn’t any fun. Set up your heating devices early so you’re prepared and safe.
- If you use a heat lamp, make sure you have a spare bulb on hand.
Hopefully this got you thinking and adding to your winter-prep to-do list. I know I have a big list for my husband and I to work on in the coming weeks!