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Winterizing your chicken coop and other winter care for your backyard chickens

November 15, 2010

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It’s that time of year. The fall is leaving and winter is starting to bring forth an onslaught of wind, freezing rain and snow is just around the bend. If you live in Kansastan, you will have already seen the first snow a couple days ago. Now, whether you are first time chicken owners or eggsperienced chicken raisers, the cold can create some issues. What do you do first? The first step is to create a checklist of things you will need. I have provided one below:

  • Heavy tarp for the roof if you do not have a sloped roof and only have plywood like meHeat lamps with 250watt bulbs – I have one for outside above their dirt pit and one infrared light for inside the coopStraw or pine shavings or both (I use both. Staw for the bottom and pine shavings for cushion) The straw will heat up because of the lamp so make sure the lamp IS NOT TOUCHING THE STRAW OR EVEN TOO CLOSE!
  • A water trough that you can plug in to keep the water from freezing
  • Heavy duty extension cord if you don’t have electricity outside
  • A dirt pit so they can keep clean
  • Staple gun

Here is what we did:

Roof and Run Covers:

First, we took the roof off the coop to make sure it wasn’t warped. After the roof was placed back on, we covered it with a heavy duty tarp from Home Depot, making sure it covered the entire roof and hung down some. Next, we took another heavy duty tarp and covered the longest side of the run, as to protect them from wind. Depending on where your coop is located, you may need to wrap all the side. I recommend just stapling the top and anchoring the bottom down with something like bricks, so you can roll it up on nice days.

Lamps and Electricity:

After the run was covered, we ran an extension cord from the outside outlet to the run. Once we had the electricity in place, we buried the cord in the ground so no one would trip over it. Inside the coop, we put two hangers on the ceiling for the lamp to attach to. One in the center and one in a corner. The reason for the placement is for when the chickens are laying, I put it in the center, and when they go to bed, and I lock them up for the night, I move it to the corner so they won’t get burned. You need to use an infrared (red) bulb inside the coop. This keeps stress down and puts out more heat. I do not leave the lamp on all night, but leave it on until they go to bed. Chickens need 12 to 14 hours of light per day, and the lamps have really helped! They love staying up late and play in their dirt pit.

Dirt Pit:

Its important for chickens to take dirt baths. This helps clean them (oxymoron) and rid them of mites, ticks and other harmful parasites. We took an old tire, placed it in a dry, protected area, and filled it with dirt from the mounds they made in the yard. Above the dirt pit, we placed a 250watt heat lamp.

Bedding for the Run and Coop:

In the run, we laid down pine shavings about 6 inches deep. This will help them stay warm and dry. In the coop, we laid down straw first, then pine shavings on top. This way, we can leave the straw and take up the pine shavings when it gets dirty.

Other Odds and Ends:

Our coop has windows, so we screwed them shut. Also, chickens will require more protein and munchies to keep them busy. Make sure they have enough food and treats. I give them a warm mash in the mornings, recipe below, frozen corn (thawed with hot water), and dried meal worms. Hiding treats around their run not only keeps them busy, but reduces the stress of being “cooped up”. They will get grumpy and start picking on each other. If this happens, try throwing down scratch more often.

If it snows, you can clear off a patch of grass for them to be able to scratch and peck around.

IMPORTANT CARE:

Chickens waddles and combs can freeze. To prevent this from happening, put Vaseline on them, and their legs. Be careful not to get it in their eyes.

Recipe for Mash:

1 cup wheat bran

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup oats

1 tsp coarsely ground salt

Combine dry ingredients in a microwavable bowl. Mix in water until the dry ingredient are wet but not sloppy. Microwave until warm to your touch, but not hot.

That is pretty much it for now. If I think of anything else, I will post it. If anyone has any questions or concerns, please email me at reply.therottenegg@gmail.com

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