In the coming days, the United States is going to experience some of the coldest weather in almost 40 years. A polar cyclone with the pressure of a category 3 hurricane will descend on the middle and eastern half of the country. Numerous advisers and warnings are in place in anticipation of the polar airmass.
For backyard chicken keepers, this presents unprecedented challenges. Throughout the past decade of owning chickens, I have never encountered temperatures that are forecasted for the coming days. Like many backyard chicken keepers, I am making preparations to weather the worst of old man winter. Below I have some tips to help you prepare your flock for severe winter weather.
Wrap to buffer the winter winds.
Help your flock buffer the worst of the winter winds by wrapping your coop in construction-grade plastic or feed bags. Supplying your flock with a windbreaker will aid them in the ability to keep warm. Chickens are well adapted to living outdoors and keeping warm by generating body heat and trapping it with their feathers. If a cold blast of wind lifts their feathers, they will lose all the heat that worked hard to achieve. Installing a windbreak around the coop will have the added purpose of keeping the elements out of the coop and pen. During times of frigid weather, keep your flock confined to the coop and pen. Chickens can freeze to death if they are subject to cold bitter winds for sustained periods.
Provide plenty of feed.
To keep warm in cold weather, chickens will consume extra calories to help them generate necessary body heat. In times of severe winter weather, it is important to make sure that your flock has access to plenty of food. To ensure that all members have access to calories needed provide several feeders. Offer them high-calorie treats such as a scratch or cracked corn. While I don’t treat my flock too often because it dilutes the nutrition they need from their feed, in times of severe winter weather I make an exception.
Offer bordom busters
While winter weather rages, confining flocks to the safety of the coop and pen, they can get bored. To prevent boredom related behavior issues, provide essentials to keep your backyard flock mentally engaged. Place a sandbox in the pen and fill it with play sand, in a plastic bottle poke small holes and fill them with scratch, scatter mealworms on the pen floor, and provide hours of pecking fun with a flock block.
Liquid water is essential.
When temperatures plummet, water is necessary. In addition to increased calorie consumption, water aids chickens in regulating their body temperature. Take steps to make sure that your flock has drinkable water. Employ a heated waterer, make a tin-heated water base or haul fresh unfrozen water out to your flock several times a day.
A note on heat lamps.
Although it may be tempting to supply a heating source in your coop, refrain from doing so. Heat lamps are dangerous, and responsible for many tragic coop, house, and barn fires. Your flock comes factory installed with down coats, the same coats that we put on in cold weather, they are wearing. Chickens do not need heat, rather assist their efforts in keeping warm by implementing the steps aforementioned in this post.
Providing your flock with a wind-free environment, plenty of food, and clean drinkable water is all they require; they can do the rest.
I hope these tips help as your make preparations for the coldest temperatures in decades. You are not alone, backyard chicken keepers all over the nation share the same concerns, I am here to offer a little direction. If you have any questions, please post in the comments, I will check often and get back to you promptly.
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As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!
~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~