Winter is right around the corner, and what does this mean for your chickens?
For me, in the mild Pacific Nortwest climate, only 40 miles from the ocean, winter is not that big a deal, all things considered. The waterers freeze sometimes, and we get snow once or twice a year, but weather that actually bothers the hens? Doesn’t happen.
The rule of thumb is that chickens that can keep dry will keep producing and be in fine health so long as the daytime highs are mostly above freezing, and will stay healthy down to twenty below if they can stay dry and out of the wind. In both cases, of course, they need plenty of feed to keep warm. So for many of us, winter is not an “OMG!” moment, just another thing to deal with.
I’ve written a Winter Chicken Care FAQ page.
I’ve also written a page on keeping your chickens’ water from freezing, which for me is the biggest wintertime nuisance.
The needs of winter housing are different from the summer, though probably not as different as you think! I’ve republished Dr. Woods’ Fresh-Air Poultry Houses, and if you follow the link you can read the sample chapter to realize that this is an intriguing book! (and one of my perennial best-sellers).
This winter I won’t be using lights on my hens, who I think are too exposed to the weather to benefit from them. I think lights are a good idea for most flocks if you need more winter eggs. And a lot of chicken coops are awfully dark in the winter without them!