The weather has changed again in North Wales. The wet and windy season is again upon us, thankfully the chooks seem oblivious! Usually my flock have hidden away in the coop in bad weather and avoided the downpours. These three are either very daft or very brave and they are strutting their stuff around the garden whatever the weather. It does mean come bedtime they are rather bedraggled and looking in need of a blow dry and electric blanket to keep them warm.
Thankfully chickens dry off fast once in the coop, and their combined body heat keeps them warm on cold nights. The most important thing with the coop for the winter is to make sure it is draft and drip free. As long as they are draft free and dry they will stay warm together even in the coldest of weather in the UK. If you do decide to add a cover (if you have exbats who aren’t full feathered or an elderly flock for example) make sure that the ventilation holes are not blocked.
We’ve a great thread over on the forums on how to keep your flock happy and healthy in the winter months – http://chat.allotment-garden.org/index.php?topic=26974.0
If your coop is in need of a coat of paint do it now before the cold weather sets in, not only to help keep the flock dry, but also to make sure your coop lasts another season.
In winter the key is to do small jobs daily. If you have a wood chipped run I would recommend having some spare and when an area starts to get muddy to dig some fresh chippings in preventatively and that way hopefully the area wont get too bad with rain and snow.
Check the water daily to make sure it hasn’t frozen. Some people swear by popping a couple of pingpong balls in the drinker to keep the water moving and help stop it from freezing.
Make sure the feed hopper either has a good lid/rain cover or is placed in a sheltered part of the run or garden. It is easy to waste food in the wet weather and if anything like our girls they get awfully fussy if their feed isn’t as it should be! I do like to make them a hot mash from their pellets on really cold days, and they too seem to appreciate this little morning gesture if there is snow or frost on the ground.
In the coop itself I put an extra thick layer of shavings and straw, although all three now are happy on perches, I have in the past had girls who have never perched – usually exbats – and they enjoy the extra snuggle and warmth of a deep bed of straw.
Adding to the Flock
Now is the time of year to plan for the following Spring. Decide if you have space to add more to the flock and if you need an extra coop get building or buying so come Spring everything is set up. We won’t be adding anymore (bar illness or injury) as our small flock provides more than enough eggs for us all, and is also very easy to manage. Although I have enjoyed having a larger flock in the past, it is quite nice to only need ten minutes to do a full clean out each week!
Finally, as we approach Winter we are more likely to see predator attacks. As wild food sources become more scarce Mr Fox is more likely to pay a visit. Make sure the run and coop are secure, and that lock ups and let outs are done in daylight hours. Dusk and dawn are the most common time for attacks, and although they will sometimes happen in the day this is a rare occurrence. It is also important to remember that if Mr Fox visits once he will be back, so double up security!