On a homestead, you learn very quickly that there is a season for everything. There is a time of abundance, usually spring, summer, and fall. Winter is different. Winter is a time for rest not only for humans but animals too. Chickens provide an abundance of eggs in spring and throughout the summer.
Once fall comes the days begin to shorten which means the chickens molt and slow down on egg production. During winter you will be lucky to get any eggs at all. Winter is a time for chickens to rest from laying eggs, regrow the feathers lost from molting, and use their energy to keep warm. Follow these 4 tips for keeping chickens in the winter.
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4 Tips for Keeping Chickens in the Winter
1. It’s all about the protein
You would think that because the chickens are taking a break from laying that they don’t need as much protein. But this is not the case, they actually need more protein. Their bodies use more energy during winter trying to keep their body temperature up in the cold weather.
Continue feeding them high quality feed throughout winter (just like you did during the summer). To up their protein intake give your chickens high protein treats. None of the following in this list should ever become their main feed. Treats should only go up to 10% of daily intake and that is all that is needed.
- pumpkin seeds
- sunflower seeds
- cracked corn
- cultured yogurt
Most of the items on this list can be grown in your garden or made from your farm or you can buy them in bulk from the store or your local mill for an inexpensive price. You do not need to do everything on this list at once. You can choose what is available and fits in your budget.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote gut health. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, with the mother, in the chicken’s water will aid in the chicken’s digestive health. I buy mine from Azure standard in a five-gallon bucket. You can also find it in most grocery stores in smaller containers like Braggs. Put 1Tbs. of vinegar per 1 gallon of water.
3. Calcium and Grit
Make sure to have a ready supply of calcium and grit for the chickens. The hens need calcium for egg laying and grit for digestion. I buy these in bulk at my local feed mill, or you can buy them at stores such as tractor supply.
4. Boredom busters
Because the ground is frozen and there is not much for the chickens to peck at, sometimes they begin to peck at each other and bullying habits form. To avoid this, give your chickens something to do. Hang a head of cabbage for the chickens to peck at. Another idea is to freeze some grain in water. Throw the ice blocks out to the chickens and they will peck at the ice to get the grain.