Keeping Chickens In Winter
Keeping Chickens In Winter – for good egg production
There are a couple of good reasons why keeping chickens in winter or at least over the winter months, differs from keeping them over the summer or more moderate months of the year. The main consideration for most people though, is just how much keeping chickens over the winter will affect the chickens egg producing capability.
Keeping chickens in winter – A short story!
My father first started keeping chickens for their eggs in the early 1950’s, just after the war in fact. Food at this time was still rationed in the UK, and a government man used to come every day to collect the eggs from his small-holding. When I say collect the eggs – that was the theory at least, however in the small croft that they stayed known as ‘The Herrick’s’ in Keith, Northern Scotland, the Glen suffered very bad winters. Egg production was virtually non-existent, and so one day my father – who was still new to chicken rearing – decided that he’d have to do something about it.
Fact was that the Hens were standing around the yard on one leg simply freezing and obviously unhappy, when he enquired to some of the older hands in the Glen the answer was always the same “hens do not lay up here in the winter son “. However he was desperate enough not to take this ‘good advice’ and decided that he had nothing to lose by clearing out an old barn that he had on his croft, and putting the chickens inside for the winter. Result ? After only a couple of weeks his chickens started to lay ‘Big Time’ and he was the only man in the Glen producing any eggs in numbers; this was according to the government agent. Next winter they all had their chickens inside for the winter !
Keeping Chickens in Winter – here’s how..
Ok, to keep chickens in the winter and still produce eggs, is not rocket science! Here it is in simple steps.
1. Clear out or adapt an old barn if you have one, if not you will need to build a shed allowing for the number of hens you want to keep. If you stick to around 5 sq yards per bird you will not go far wrong. If possible keep one side open to the elements but able to close up if the weather comes from that direction. If the doors are closed be sure that you have adequate ventilation or airflow, this will help keep the shed fresh and free from disease.
2. Cover the floor with either wood shavings or straw. I have found that they are both very effective and essential for keepi9ng chickens in winter. This will help keep the birds dry and off the cold floor.
3. Build a suitable amount of nest boxes for the birds, it’s not an exact science but I’ve found that 1 nest box between 5 or so chickens is adequate for the task.
4. You want to keep the chickens busy because this in turn keeps them warm and there-fore productive. To do this I used to scatter a few handfuls of corn amongst the straw (only a few mind) as this would keep them scratching away for ages. Another trick is to hang up a few cabbages or turnips so that they are dangling within reach of the chickens.
This is to keep them pecking and busy, if there is nothing to peck at then they are liable to peck each other until the blood flows. Never allow this to go on, and if a chicken is getting bullied in this way then you must take it apart to recover.
Keeping Chickens in winter or throughout the colder weather does indeed entail a little extra work. For instance the area under the perches particularly, has to be regularly cleaned out, as there will be a lot more poop to clean up.
The feed trays and water dishes also require regular cleaning out and topping up as part of the on-going routine. Failure to apply this will result in a dirty environment which in turn will result in diseased and unhappy chickens which in turn leads to poor egg-laying chickens.
However I am confident that if you apply the preceding methods then you can indeed look forward to a good egg production over the winter months. Just remember the golden rule – if the chickens aren’t happy…. They won’t lay ! If you are well organized and do not mind a little extra work then Keeping chickens in winter can be well worth your while.