Chickens are a very easy animal to keep and tend to, especially for those looking to try their hand at hobby farming. The basic needs of chickens are a fresh supply of water, food, and shelter. Those needs don’t change much for winter, but here are some things you’ll want to be thinking about in the fall:
1. Food — Their food doesn’t need to change from what you feed them in the summer, but some folks like to give their chickens hot mash (warm water mixed with layer crumble food) as a treat or to help warm them up. If you want some simple instructions on how to make your own feeder, go here: http://flannelacres.com/2013/05/21/chicken-feeder-diy/
2. Water — You will need to keep an eye on their waterer to make sure it isn’t freezing during the winter. If you live in a cold climate, check the water daily and thaw/refill as needed. Another handy option is to use a water warmer that sits under the watering jug. We have ours on the outside of the coop (so the chickens don’t get the water quite so dirty), and the actual plug is fastened inside the coop so it doesn’t get wet. The water warmer will keep the water from freezing, so you won’t have to refill it every day.
3. Shelter — In Michigan, we have quite a bit of snow and cold wind, so it’s important to have sturdy shelter for the chickens to get out of the elements. We have two small coops, and each has blue foam board inside the walls to help insulate. If you use insulation in your coop, make sure the chickens can’t get to it or they’ll eat it.
4. Light — Putting a light in your coop is optional, but it can have a couple advantages. The first is warmth, which I suspect the chickens appreciate. The second is daylight supplement. The main reason hens will stop laying eggs in the winter is because of lack of daylight. By supplementing their daylight with a light in their coop, they’re more likely to continue laying eggs in the winter. We have ours plugged into a lamp timer so the chickens get a couple extra hours of light in the morning and evening. If you wish to let your chickens go through their natural cycle of laying eggs in summer and taking a break in winter, that’s fine too.
Do you have other tips for keeping chickens and preparing them for winter? If you have advice or questions, please comment below. And don’t forget to subscribe so you can stay up to date on what we’re up to at Flannel Acres!