Monday 22 October 2012

Getting Ready for Winter

Getting ready for Winter is important when you have chickens.  They don't need much really ....

... simply a house that's large enough but cosy enough so they can all benefit from each others body heat at night time 
I have deep cleaned one of their houses and put in an extra thick layer of bedding, they will be moving into this tomorrow and then the other house will be deep cleaned and left to dry out completely before filling with bedding and being on standby in case they need to swap over again.
Until a month ago they lived in both houses, lots of room and no arguments over perches and nice and cool for Summer. The houses that we have are designed for 24 full sized hens.  Free Range rules (which we abide to as we have a UK producer number) state that the houses are actually suitable for 22.5 full sized chickens, as we currently have 14 Bantams (half sized birds) and 15 full sized birds then they fit very comfortably and legally into one house.  There is plenty of room on the four long perches and two of the girls, one Lavender Pekin, and Mother Goose sleep in nesting boxes.
Then I closed the first house off and they had to sort themselves into one 'dormitory', birds at the top of the pecking order sleep on the top perches, and the two 'top' perches from the two houses had to merge but they sorted themselves out very quickly and not too many feathers were lost.

Weather proof feeders and drinkers. 
Our large black food hoppers have a drainage ridge running round the edge that, provided you get the tilt right, means any rain water runs off onto the ground and doesn't wet the Layers Pellets.  So their food stays dry and tasty, although they do actually like wet food, but they can usually find enough pellets that have fallen on the ground and gone mushy ion the damp grass to satisfy this craving.
We use a mixture of plastic and galvanised drinkers.  Chickens actually associate the colour red with food and water and mine have proved this to be correct and prefer this style of drinker.  The main thing is to make sure that falling leaves etc can't get into your chickens drinking water so anything with a top is perfect.
Shelter from the wind and rain.
The chickens favourite place to shelter together is actually under the hen houses, but we have also given them the option of the Eglu corridor, now with it's wet weather cover on .....

.... and our old patio table weighed down with slices of tree trunk and with an extra bit of wood underneath to make two perching areas.  As well as giving them protection from the rain overhead it also means that four areas of their enclosure stay dry under foot for them.
They are all fed a regular diet of Layers Pellets, with a treat of a bowlful of corn between them each afternoon.  I regularly add a seaweed tonic or simply some Cider Vinegar to their water, and at this time of year especially I tend to add Mint and Garlic granules to their food on a more regular basis. As an extra special treat on a miserable wet day, and we have had plenty of thosoe recently, they get a couple of handfuls of Meal Worms thrown onto the drier areas of the run, to encourage them to get out of the rain.
Looking after your birds well is the best way to nip any problems in the bud and at this time of year I think we all need a little bit of looking after.
Someone agrees completely!!
Sue xx


  1. our girls prefer not to roost on the bar in their house at night, but all pile into the little nesting boxes and sleep "double decker".
    I'm not sure if the higher pecking order are the mattresses or the duvets!

    I've started using layers mash instead of pellets which would be a faff for you with so many, but I found there was less waste and it allows me to mix in some leftovers.

    Wishing you a good week ahead Sue

  2. 'matresses or duvets' ..... I love it!!

    I had to buy a couple of bags of Layers Mash once, when the farm shop had no pellets, but it doesn't work so well in our big hoppers. It tends to get damp much quicker, although the birds thought it was great.

    Sue xx

  3. Good grief. It's a full time job keeping chickens. And keeping the peace!

  4. It makes sense to look after them - happy chickens mean yummy eggs and happy you!
    You certainly do look after yours. I am still waiting to become a chook owner. We have the chook house, we just need a weekend to set it up and get the chooks etc. Time!

    Cheers - Joolz

  5. I've been warming mine up on the really wet cold days with a bit of porridge and their run is all covered to keep them cosy on the wet days.
    Your winter preparations sound wonderful - spoilt happy hens! :)

  6. there is more to keeping chickens than I first thought.


  7. That must have been interesting seeing them sort themselves out in one house together ! Your hens are so well cared for & have a wonderful home.


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