Poultry is usually defined as domesticated birds bred small enough so that they can be raised in homes or backyards. However, there are many other poultry animals, such as horseshoe crabs which are not classified as poultry.
Poultry Animals who are healthy and happy will continue to lay eggs all year long. Raising poultry animals in winter can be a lot of fun. Some poultry animals love wandering around the yard, and their first snow sighting is a sight to see.
Winter is coming (in case you haven’t noticed), and soon the temperatures will be below freezing. How do you protect your poultry animals when winter comes?
I know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night because your horse is limping or to find your pig shivering. You just want to help, but your limited knowledge leaves you feeling helpless.
How do I know if my poultry animals are healthy enough to lay eggs? How do I keep rodents out of my bird’s coop when I’m away for the weekend? There are so many questions like these that run through farmers’ minds when they begin raising farm animals.
The following article will provide helpful hints on how you can protect your poultry animals in winter.
Chickens in Winter
Chickens are much tougher than they appear, and they only need a little extra care during the winter months. Also, Chickens who are healthy and happy will continue to lay eggs all year long.
Raising chickens in winter can be a lot of fun. Some hens love wandering around the yard, and their first snow sighting can be quite entertaining. A bird’s thick feathers are a natural protective coat, therefore, most breeds are well-equipped for winter.
While it’s true that chickens are hardy birds, if they aren’t kept warm enough, laying hens will stop producing eggs, while weaker members of the flock will become sick.
The following information, compiled by poultry experts, is perfect to help you protect your flock throughout the winter months.
Shelters for Poultry Birds
Ideally, your bird’s coop should be built in a spot that gets the most winter sun, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Especially, Chickens can harden themselves to cold temperatures with short exposures combined with their natural insulation.
The number of birds you have determines how much space will be needed per bird, with less being required for more birds. This guide recommends no more than 4-5 square feet per bird.
In colder climates, place the coop close to your house so you can provide extra warmth with a light or space heater if necessary.
In order to maintain comfort and good health during the winter months, keep your coop at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit during regular hours.
Bedding for Poultry Birds
In order to keep your birds from getting sick, you should always offer clean bedding material in the coop. How much do you need? How big is your coop? Only you can answer these questions.
If a wood floor isn’t for you, then there are many alternatives to traditional straw or hay, depending on how much money you have to spend and what type of fowl will be using it.
1) Straw – This is the cheapest option and works well because your birds can feel warm and cozy. However, because straw accumulates moisture quickly, an air vent should also be incorporated into the design to allow fresh air inside without forcing too much cold air out.
2) Shredded Paper – Also a cheap option, shredded paper works well in small spaces because it doesn’t hold too much moisture. It will last a long time before needing replacement.
3) Hay – This is a good option because it is absorbent, warm, and easy to make. How big of an opening do you need? How many birds will be inside? Also, How big is your coop? and How often should the bedding be changed out, and how much hay will it take for that to happen? These are questions only you can answer.
There are many options for winter heating systems depending on your budget, knowledge of construction, and space requirements (i.e., How much room do you have in the coop?).
If possible, try building the coop yourself while incorporating these temperature control ideas into your design or by using them as guidelines after you’ve finished construction.
1) Light Bulb
Note: Use ONLY incandescent light bulbs (NOT fluorescent). These bulbs should be left on day and night until the temperature has gone up about ten degrees Fahrenheit over what it gets once fall rolls around.
2) Wood-burning Stove
This option is great for heating a single room and can be made to look nice in the house. Because of the size of this heater, it’s best if placed outside and run through an exterior wall or metal pipe.
How do you know what size to get? You should purchase extra-large firewood and use bricks instead of small fire logs, so there is enough space for air circulation.
3) Hot Water Heater
A little more complicated than other options, but certainly worth looking into since it can heat your coop without drying out the moisture content in the air as oil heaters would.
You also gain bonus points if your hot water heater is broken. Don’t want to spend money on those pesky repairs? How about looking into making your own chicken waterer and heater?
4) Traditional Oil Heater
Traditional Oil heaters dry the air and should only be used if you have a humidifier. You can set these heaters up outside or near an exterior wall so that the moisture is sucked out of the room.
If you choose this option, make sure that there are safety features attached to it, like an automatic shut-off in case it starts to overheat.
5) Electric Space Heaters
These units emit small amounts of humidity, but because they work by moving hot air around your coop rather than burning oil for warmth, they are not as effective as oil heaters. How many units do you need? How big is your coop? These are questions only you can answer.
Birds need more heat during the winter because their metabolic rate remains high compared with other species, so they burn up more calories every day– even though they don’t fly or migrate as often as mammals or reptiles do. Poultry may require supplemental help in the form of biofuels, water bottles containing hot water, etc.
If you have a reliable source of food for them, they will find a way to stay warm. Electrically heated fountains and large bowls/baths are also a safe and natural options for your birds. Using thick layers of straw/clay walls shielded from drafts can also work.