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Winter weather advice.  

Winter weather advice.

Post Sat Jan 09, 2010 8:05 pm

Some basic suggestions for caring for your hens in winter weather that you might find helpful, especially if you are new to hen keeping.

Drinking water.

Ideally this should be freely accessible at all times. In the winter this may mean you will have to break the ice and replenish the water a couple of times a day. However some may only be able to manage this once a day because of work and other commitments, in which case, replacing all the water with warm will mean that it will take a little longer to refreeze.

If going away during a very cold snap, it is advisable to ask someone to pop in and see to this task for you.

Some people have had success in preventing the water from freezing by adding tennis or ping pong balls to the water. The idea being that the hens will peck at them and cause the crust of ice to break. This won't work in very severe conditions.

You can get electric drinker heaters from poultry equipment suppliers. Google will help you find them. Please read the more specific information provided by them.**

If you don’t have electricity in or near the hen house, you can use a **SnuggleSafe**. This will need to be reheated a couple of times a day in the microwave and then the drinker placed on it.

Another method that people have found helpful is to place the drinker on a large tin filled with sand. Lighted tea lights placed in depressions in the sand will help to keep the drinkers thawed. Holes need to be drilled in the lid of the tin. A barrier should be placed around the base so that the hens don’t burn themselves.

Do not use glycerine as it is harmful to hens in the quantities that would be required to prevent freezing.

** When using electricity or naked flames, please be sure that you follow the appropriate guidelines. No responsibility will be accepted if you fail to do so.

Feeding.

No need to do anything other than feed normal rations of layers pellets/mash, but many owners like to give a hot porridge made with pellets/mash and water, with additions such as poultry spice, sultanas, sweetcorn and a mealworm garnish.

Other items of hot food that your hens might enjoy are a jacket potato ....without salt or butter, and ordinary (oat) porridge.

A handful of corn just before they retire for the night can be given as this is a heating type of food that may be beneficial in very cold weather. It is not, however, particularly nutritious.

High protein extras such as mealworms can be useful at this time too, as hens often choose this time of year to undergo a heavy moult. The extra protein will help them to re-feather quickly. Other high protein sources of food include breeders pellets, unmedicated chick crumbs, tuna (rinsed and dolphin friendly) and scrambled egg.


Boredom busting.

During periods of very cold weather, the hens will necessarily be confined to their run for prolonged periods. It is a good idea to provide them with greens to peck at and seeded items such as a **Pecka Block**. These will help prevent them pecking at each other through boredom.


Poo

During the longer winter nights, the hens roost for longer and so fill up the poo tray a lot quicker than during the summer. It is a good idea to empty the poo tray more often in winter, as the poo may freeze and add an extra chilling factor into the hen house. It will not generate heat. It will cause dampness. See below.

Hen house and run.

During the winter, keep it as dry as possible. Damp and draughts are the two factors that cause hens the most problems in bad weather.

If the weather is exceptionally cold, you can surround the Eglu with straw bales and cover the run with corrugated plastic or tarpaulins to keep the draught out.

You might also like to partially cover the Eglu, leaving ventilation holes free, with an insulating blanket, although the Eglu has twin walled insulation which will keep hens warm and underwent testing to a temperature of -10 degrees C. A carpet offcut over the door handle & eggport will stop them freezing, for easy access.

Some like to heat the hen house. Electric lamps and heaters can be obtained from farm suppliers, which are appropriate for the task. As ever, please use caution when using electricity.

Some have found **SnuggleSafe** heat pads useful for this too. They can be put under the roosting bars.

Because of the risk of fire and burns to the hens, the use of paraffin heaters is not advised.

Combs and wattles.

In extreme weather conditions, the combs and wattles may become frostbitten.
This is generally not a problem in the UK as temperatures rarely drop below -10 degrees C. However, during the present cold spell (Jan 2010) it may be.
The main cause of the frostbite is damp and cold not just the cold itself, so making sure that the living accommodation is as dry as possible goes a long way towards preventing it.
Applying Vaseline to the combs and wattles is often recommended. There are also various lotions and potions available online for this.

Predators and vermin

It is a good idea to be doubly cautious when the weather is very cold. Predators and vermin will find it more difficult to find food, so will be attracted to the chickens and their food. Scrupulous tidiness where food is concerned, and storage in a robust bin with a tight fitting lid are sensible precautions to take.

Making sure that the hens are securely locked up at night and supervising free ranging are always a good idea, and are particularly so at this time of year.
(green eglu) (yellow eglu) (red eglu) (pink eglu) (cube purple)
More hens than enough.

Please check your bonfire for sleeping hedgehogs before lighting it.

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