Today I have a special guest post by Gabrielle Yoder from ChickenCoopGuides.com.
Chickens can experience many different health problems in the winter if their keeper does not keep a close eye on their behavior and habitat. You can keep healthy winter chickens by taking a few simple steps before cold weather sets in and then following through on different strategies as the season progresses.
This is a guest post by Gabrielle Yonder from ChickenCoopGuides.com. Gabrielle lives in central Kentucky with her husband and 4 children. Gabrielle joined ChickenCoopGuides.com in 2013, and is John’s right hand. She looks after everything that gets published on the blog, site, or on the podcast.
Photo credit: Lonny Garris via Shutterstock
Be Aware of the Wintertime Health Needs of Your Chickens
In the wintertime, chickens are going to slow down their egg laying cycle and may stop laying altogether. This is because their reproductive systems are resting. A chicken’s whole body is likely to go through a series of changes, including a molt. All these changes mean that nutrition is going to be a primary concern for caretakers; your chicken’s winter health is going to depend in large part on their nutrition.
Activity Changes in Winter; So Should Diet
At the same time that your chickens are going to need the right combination of nutrients in their food, their activity levels are going to be decreasing as the temperature drops. Wintertime inactivity goes hand in hand with boredom, feather picking, egg eating, and a host of other behavioral problems. This decreasing activity also contributes to unhealthy winter weight gain. Fat chickens are not healthy, and so the type of food given in this season will have to be carefully selected. A handful of dried corn certainly stimulates lots of chicken activity, but this foodstuff is not necessarily the most nutritionally sound selection. There are many different greens that can be easily purchased from a supermarket, including:
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
- Red and green cabbage
Use nutrient-rich greens such as cabbage as a motivating activity. Chickens will enjoy working to reach a cabbage tied just above beak height and be rewarded with a nice treat. Iceberg lettuce should be avoided since it is not a good source of necessary nutrients.
Reach for Protein-Rich Bales
Alfalfa is one of the best sources of chicken-friendly protein you can get in the wintertime. Small bales of alfalfa can be purchased at farm supply stores, though you may have more luck finding the standard large bales. If you cannot find bales of alfalfa sold in your area, alfalfa pellets designed for rabbits are a good substitute. You can find these sold at any pet shop.
Chickens will happily scratch at a single bale of alfalfa for several weeks, though if a bale starts to look a little sad, replace it with a fresh one. Protein is a very important wintertime nutrient because it is required for healthy feather production. Insects are another very good source of protein. As spring rains arrive, let your chickens loose to pasture as the water soaks into the ground. Worms and other insects will be easily accessible at this time. Freeze-dried grubs can be substituted if your winter has been dry. These can be purchased from some pet shops or online.
Planning ahead for winter will make seeing to your chickens’ well-being much simpler. Pick up a few basic supplies and keep your girls happy and healthy.
If you would like to see how to use these veggies in the coop to bust boredom take a look at my latest YouTube video. If you like it please hit the like button or share this video, don’t forget to subscribe to the Misfit Gardening YouTube Channel:
To find out more about keeping chickens and head over to ChickenCoopGuides.com for lots of information from coops to general care.
Do you have any special tips to share for other urban homesteaders? Please share them in the comments or at the Misfit Gardening Community Forum, we would love to hear your ideas and tips.