After going through two winters with my girls I’ve learnt some aren’t phased by a dusting of snow, where as others puff their feathers like a beach ball to keep themselves warm. I sometimes wonder whether 17 months in a heated tin shed (ex battery hens) has made them more susceptible to the cold? Anyway ,here are my tips I’ve learnt to keep them in tip top condition even in the snow!
1 – Location
My girls are on my allotment so it’s a big open space with no warm south facing walls to position their coop against. Instead their coop has been moved to the sunniest spot and near to my shed which gives them a bit of protection from the wind. In late spring I’ll move their Eglu back to it’s summer position which gets afternoon shade. They also have a little wind protect from a lavender hedge and strategically placed plant pots!
2 – Food
We all know that corn is a chickens favourite (aside from mealworms of course), but a handful of corn just before bed will keep a hen warm during the night as their body builds up heat digesting it. They also gobble a few mealworms to keep their fat stocks up!
In 0 degree temps I will change their frozen water for luke warm water as an extra morning boost. A yummy treat for my girls is a bowl of porridge! Simply mix plain porridge with some boiling water and they love it, plus it warms their bellies. If you don’t have porridge to hand, mixing their pellets or crumb with hot water is welcomed! I sometimes combine the two so they get the best of both worlds!
3 – Coop
I have an Omlet Eglu which is twin walled insulated and is perfect all year round. When it gets to minus temps I also attach the extreme temperature jacket to the coop to make sure they are extra cosy. Any material can be added externally to create an extra layer of insulation, just make sure to weigh it down and keep ventilation holes clear. Likewise make sure any unnecessary gaps or holes are covered to stop drafts.
4 – Run
For some reason on really cold days, my girls refuse to sit in the sheltered coop. I mean, I don’t blame them as I wouldn’t want to sit in the dark either. Instead I’ve had to make their run a sheltered place where they can keep warm. I have Omlet’s run covers which clip to the wire run and stop any drafts blowing through. Keeping the floor dry is also a must as the surface will freeze, which won’t be pleasant for your hens and they won’t be able to dustbath. I have covers to stop the rain getting in as well as a woodchip floor which soaks up any moisture. The wood chips get dig out and replaced when needed and this makes a great mulch for your garden!
5 – Bedding
Some people use the deep litter method although I haven’t tried this. In summer I have as little bedding as possible, where as during the winter, it is packed into their coop. I use a layer of sawdust to soak up any moisture, followed by a thick layer of straw. This is changed regularly so there is no damp material left for a period of time. Last winter when we had a couple of weeks of snow I put a thick layer of straw in the run too.
6 – Chicken Jackets
There’s some conflicting advice about jackets and it is not recommended if your hen is growing feathers for a couple of reasons. However my recent experience with Aggie has meant a jacket was needed. With Aggie being poorly she lost a lot of weight. She also hates the cold! To aid her recovery I kept her indoors and slowly reintroduced her to the outdoor conditions. Just as she was ready to go back in the flock a cold spell hit. This is when the jacket has come in really handy! Left on for just a couple of hours in the morning, has given her an extra bit of protection while the temps get above freezing.
7 – Eggtracurricular Activities
My girls have a good run around every day. They love to forage for insects and worms which becomes impossible when the ground freezes over. You can give a helping hand by digging a small area (the wild birds will love you too). Or I open my greenhouse where they run in for a bit of shelter and a dig in the raised beds. It’s a nice place for me and Olive to sit, that’s when they aren’t eating my salad!
Olives Favourite Seat
If you have any other ideas please comment below and share your wisdom with everyone!
Find what keeps your girls happy and warm during the winter months and they will repay with you lots of eggs come spring! If you want to upgrade your coop this January, Omlet are offering £50 off all Eglu’s by using code EGLU2019!