Do you live in the countryside and have you set up a chicken coop inhabited by hens in the garden? With the coming of the cold weather, they too need a protected shelter and some extra care and attention. Here are our tips to allow your egg-laying hens get through the winter successfully!
1. INCREASE THEIR FOOD
To help the hens overcome the low temperatures, it is necessary to slightly modify their diet: they need a more energising diet. To do this, you can integrate the mixture of grains with some chopped corn and oats, which will allow the birds to increase their level of body fat. To prevent the hens from suffering due to a lack of vitamins and mineral salts, which they recover in the green pastures in spring and summer, it is also a good idea to add some seasonal fruit and vegetables to their diet.
2. CHECK THEIR WATER
Water is very important and hens must have access to it at all times. In this period of the year, it could easily freeze and, therefore, it is important to check the drinking troughs frequently. If you use open tanks, let a ball or an empty plastic bottle float on the surface, so that it will be easier to break the layer of ice on the surface if it forms. A second alternative is to fill the container with hot water and then drop a large quantity of ice cubes into the water, so that it will cool slowly over several hours.
3. PROTECT CRESTS, WATTLES AND FEET
In the case of temperatures below 0°C, it is important to prevent the hens’ crests, wattles and feet from freezing. The first two parts of the body are bare, while the feet are always in contact with the ground, so they are very exposed areas and consequently subject to getting cold. To protect a hen, you can use petroleum jelly or olive oil and apply it on the sensitive areas at night, after the hens have gone to sleep.
4. HEAT THE CHICKEN COOP
If you have the possibility to use a heater or a lamp, you also need to take safety risks into consideration. What we recommend is to gradually acclimatise the hens to the coldest climate without artificial heat sources and intervene manually, by creating a thick layer with clean, dry straw, to eliminate draughts, but without eliminating ventilation. Since heat tends to rise, lower the ceiling of the chicken coop with plywood boards, and then the hens will perch and fall asleep closer to each other, to keep one other warm.
5. COLLECT THE EGGS MORE FREQUENTLY
Chicken eggs are, in fact, made up of almost 75% water, so they can freeze and crack in the cold weather, thus becoming unusable in the kitchen and for hatching. The secret is, therefore, to collect the eggs every evening and mid-morning to limit frost damage.
With these tips, you will be able to manage the chicken coop better and protect the egg-laying hens in winter!