Preparing Poultry for Winter
The first essential step for preparing chickens and their living area for winter is to make sure their coop has no cracks or other imperfections so that the coop is as wind tight as it can be, said Carrie Hargrove, farm manager for the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture.
“Birds can withstand some pretty low temperatures but they hate the wind,” Hargrove said.
Susan Watkins, University of Arkansas extension poultry specialist, said that chickens definitely need shelter from the elements and a well-insulated chicken coop that faces south and/or east will help to protect them from the winter winds.
“Most backyard flocks that are mature should be fine if they are provided shelter that protects from the elements,” Watkins said. “There is no reason why they can’t still range outside during the day. They will enjoy and benefit from the fresh air and the sunshine.
“However, be careful that the barn isn’t too sealed causing the birds to breathe stuffy, stale air all night,” she added.
Chickens tend to drink less when the water temperature is colder. Watkins recommends having an electric water trough heater to keep the water from freezing as well as from being too cold to drink.
“Birds also don’t like hot water, a temperature in the 50-60 degree Fahrenheit range is ideal,” she added. “Also just because it is cold doesn’t necessarily mean that drinkers don’t still need to be cleaned and fresh water provided. There are some forms of bacteria that can thrive in stale, cold water.”
Watkins recommends adding organic iodine in the drinking water if birds develop a snick or rattle, similar to a cough. The iodine will serve as an expectorant and help prevent birds from developing a respiratory infection.
“Organic iodine can be purchased at feed stores and it is typically a salt-based product with 1.7 to 3.5 percent EDDI,” Watkins said. “I mix a dry ounce of the iodine into a quart of water then add an ounce of this stock solution to every gallon of water given to the birds.”
Watkins reminds producers that it is always much better to prevent diseases, so keep the coop area clean and dry.
“This will help greatly,” she added. “Birds should still be dewormed on your deworming schedule and they may need a little vitamin D in the water once a week, but providing additional foodstuffs that are good sources of vitamin D is also a good idea.”
“As far as their waddles go, if I notice that they are chapped because of the cold, dry weather, I catch them and apply bag balm to the chapped skin, repeating as often as necessary,” Hargrove added.