As the day light hours start to decrease from autumn onwards, the signal to a laying hen that it is time to reduce or even cease egg production. Your girls will shed feathers that need replacing, most commonly around their tail or neck. Winter is therefore a period that allows your hens to have a rest and rejuvenate for the next laying season.
Chickens need somewhere to roost that is safe and warm so they can escape from the cold, rain, or strong winds, all of which are becoming prevalent during the autumn months. In fact, don’t be surprised if your chickens choose to stay inside on wet and windy days.
If you haven’t done so already, build roosts within the coop. Roosts provide another natural way to keep your chickens warm, by getting them away from the ground where colder and moist air will accumulate.
Feathers typically contain 80-85% protein (Keratin). Nutritionally we can help our birds by providing a high-quality feed, in particular high in protein, such as Barastoc Champion Layer, Grains & Greens or Top Layer Mash. By providing a feed high in protein you can help your bird have the energy and protein reserves required for feather rejuvenation and help them prepare for the cold of winter. By focussing on her nutritional needs this in turn aids healthy skin and growth of strong new feathers, assisting with her overall well-being.
View Barastoc poultry range at AIRR.
Feathers are by far the best asset to the bird during winter. They are great insulators and they contain an oily coating which acts as a waterproofing layer. Chickens are able to puff out their feathers to trap air which they heat with their body heat to provide a layer that buffers them from the colder outside temperatures. However, in the weeks following their annual Autumn moult this ability is compromised so it is important that we step in to help them out.
Another important housekeeping task to do in preparation for winter is to check that the bedding in nesting boxes is kept fresh and is replaced regularly. Fresh bedding is a great insulator and will also help keep mites and other parasites away, who in turn are looking for a warm haven over winter.
If a chicken’s body temperature is not maintained, they can get sick and go downhill very quickly. It is critical that their coop is dry, clean and free of draughts. This needs to be balanced with good ventilation to reduce ammonia build up. Remember to check the coop weekly for any new draughts.
Feed them well
While chickens may not be laying during winter, their bodies still require a high energy and nutritious feed. Maintaining their core body temperature requires energy, from protein and other nutrients. Going in to winter it is important that they replace lost feathers, maintain and build condition for the cold months ahead. This will in turn prepare them for Spring, when the daylight increases and the laying season begins. We can provide protein as a key building block for the majority of bodily functions. It is important to increase the protein offered to your birds during the autumn and winter months to set them up for future success.
Your local AIRR member carries of a great range of chook food for all life stages.