Matt brings back Gretchen Anderson to talk about winterizing your chickens. Gretchen provides great tips to make sure you are prepared to keep you chickens safe and healthy throughout the cold winter season.
Did you know that chickens fair better in the winter than our hot summer days. Winter is also an opportunity to let the egg laying rest. If you would like your chickens to still lays in the winter you will need to provide them with more light. In order for the pituitary glands to allow ovulation you will need to provide the chicken with 14 hours of light. The problem is that our day light hours are less than that in the winter. What your solution will have to be is to provide light in their coop that activates earlier in the morning than when the sun rises. Using a rope light with a timer to turn on at 5:30am to 9am is ideal. Gretchen suggests using a white light.
The important thing in the winter is to prevent your chickens from getting frostbite, keep them out of cold winds, and make sure their coop is ventilated (not insulated). If you insulate your chickens, the coop will experience higher humidity. The humidity will attach to parts of the chicken causing frostbite when it gets into the single digits outside. Fresh air needs to be able to get into the coop.
To also prevent frostbite, make sure your coop has a 2X4 for the chickens to roost on. Other options don’t prevent frostbite. Roosting properly requires the feet to be able to spread their toes and the 2X4 fulfills that need.
In the winter, you should be feeding 20% protein food pellets. Supplemented with cracked corn can also keep your chickens warmer. Cracked corn increases the body temperature of a chicken and will increase their ability to lay eggs. Please note that feeding corn in the summer is a bad idea because it will heat the chickens up when they are already hot. A good time to start feeding cracked corn is when you notice the egg production has fallen off.