Monday, August 2, 2010

Worried about winter?

This seems to be the most questioned topic at the Farmer's Market in downtown Salt Lake City.  How do the chickens do in the winter?  Can they even survive?  Do they still lay eggs?  

We, at Chickoopy, have heard many different stories/instruction on how chickens survive Utah winters.  Some, that raise chickens, say that the chickens need a warmer of some sort or at least some kind of insulation to stay warm.  Others, particularly farmers, have told us that there is no need for special treatment- the chickens, given a proper shelter, warm themselves.  

Contrary to a rather popular belief, chickens do not need light to stay warm in the winter, they need light if you want them to continue to produce eggs at the same rate as when the days were longer, i.e. there was more sunlight in a 24-hour period.  

Chickoopy operations come with coops that are designed to provide adequate, basic shelter for your chickens.  All of the roofs overhang the main living quarters.  The hen house contains plenty of room for the chickens to all bunch up together to stay warm.  The hen house also comes equipped with a ventilation system that can be manually opened or closed according to your assessment of the weather.  

We have personally seen a build-up of snow up to 12 inches surrounding the Chickoopy coop.  The rectangular shape of the coop was left, not only snow-free, but also extremely dry.  The chickens bounced around as usual.

Below are some remarks from the website, written by C.D. Miller:

"You will need to still provide plenty of ventilation for your chickens during the winter. Having proper ventilation is not only important for your chickens' health, but it also helps to lower the humidity inside the coop. If your chicken coop has an adjustable window to provide some fresh air, you should do fine. Be careful to not let the coop get too drafty, however.

I usually place plenty of extra hay bedding in the coop during the winter months. As the bedding condenses, I add more. Hay is high in carbon which helps to control the smell inside the coop. As the bedding decomposes, it also provides extra warmth in the coop for the chickens. Another benefit of this is that the manure mixed with the hay bedding provides excellent fertilizer for your garden.

You will need to make sure your chickens have plenty of fresh, unfrozen water during the winter months. You can either change their water out frequently, or purchase warmers to keep the water from freezing. Our winters aren't terribly harsh, so I usually don't have to heat the water pans for the chickens, although I do have to break the ice some mornings during the winter.

The good news is, mature chickens are very resilient and can withstand low temperatures well. In fact, you are probably more in danger of losing chickens due to extreme heat than you are cold, as long as you provide them with basic shelter. Their feathers and body heat will often be sufficient to keep them warm and toasty throughout the cold winter months."


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