At Freedom Ranger Hatchery, we’re advocates of free-range chickens and letting birds do what comes naturally to them. That sometimes means going the extra mile to ensure your birds stay happy and healthy all-year-long—especially when cold weather starts kicking in!
Whether you have two chickens or 200, there are many tips for keeping your birds healthy, no matter your flock size. Read on to learn our top five tips for keeping your chickens and baby chicks healthy throughout the winter.
Don’t Let Water Freeze
A fresh water supply is essential for any animal, but you need to ensure your chickens’ water supply doesn’t freeze during the day. We say during the day since most chickens don’t drink or eat at night, and luckily there are a lot of reasonably priced water heaters you can use during daylight hours. If your coop or enclosure doesn’t have an electricity supply, you can keep water from freezing in several easy ways:
- Add ping pong balls to the water to keep surface tension that helps prevent ice from forming.
- Switch to a rubber water dish versus metal, which tends to freeze water a lot faster.
- Use a larger basin that increases the surface area of the available water.
Avoid Heat Lamps (Sometimes)
Your free-range chickens deserve a little more credit than you might think when it comes to keeping themselves warm. Most of the time—assuming your coop is well sealed and ventilated—chickens won’t need any heaters to stay warm. If your birds are fully feathered and don’t have any bare spots on their backs or under their wings, they can retain their own body heat. Chickens (and most birds) will fluff out their feathers during colder weather to help keep more body heat insulated in their downy feathers.
Adding heat lamps to a coop can cause an unnecessary fire hazard, so if you have birds with bare spots and absolutely need more heat, we suggest using a radiant heating pad. Also, giving your chickens a pre-bedtime snack of corn or grains can help get their metabolism going while they sleep, helping them generate more heat overnight.
Protect the Coop from Drafts
Fluffed up feathers won’t do anything to keep your birds warm if there’s a constant draft blowing on them at night. Good ventilation is a key to any size chicken enclosure, but make sure it’s not too much during those colder winter months. Seal up any cracks or holes in your coop and make sure your chickens have decent bedding to help retain that radiant heat that builds up throughout the day.
If you notice condensation on your coop’s windows in the morning, there’s too much moisture in the enclosure. This means there’s not enough ventilation, which can lead to other problems for your birds.
Check for Damp Areas
Did you know that chickens can get frostbite? Any place that they don’t have feathers can be susceptible to the cold—specifically on their combs, wattles, and even feet. While you can use Vaseline on their combs and wattles to help protect them from frostbite damage, it’s also important to keep their coop as dry as possible as well.
For example, feces inside your free-range chicken enclosure can lead to a build-up of moisture, making it colder than it should be. If you clean the coop frequently and keep their feeding and watering areas on the outside, you’ll greatly reduce any excess moisture that could hurt your birds.
Let Them Outside on Warmer Days
While most chickens don’t really enjoy the rain or snow, the best part about having free-range chickens is that they’ll do whatever they feel comfortable with. If they’re cold, they’ll go inside. So on sunnier days, we suggest letting them roam around and get as much exercise as they like.
Just remember that your free-range chickens won’t be able to forage for bugs or grass in the winter, so make sure you feed them extra. Letting them outside will help with mental stimulation and physical activity, but they’ll also burn more calories to keep warm.
Need More Free Range Chicken Tips?
Make sure you check out the other tips on our blog! From starting your own egg-laying business to information about some of the most common diseases found in chickens, our hatchery is committed to providing you with top-quality free-range chicken knowledge, as well as the best birds in the industry. Contact us for more information on our birds or place an order online!