W is for Weather

An eclec­tic al­pha­bet of chicken facts with a dif­fer­ence. Com­piler: Andy Cawthray

Your Chickens - - Contents -

The A to Z con­tin­ues


Very wet weather can mean the chick­ens traips­ing mud into the coop from the out­doors. This can be re­duced to some ex­tent through pro­vid­ing a dry porch area next to the pop hole, by putting a slightly raised area at the en­trance. A sim­ple way is to use a pallet or sec­tion of pallet. It may be a lit­tle un­sightly, but it will mean some of the dirt from the chick­ens’ feet will be re­moved, plus it gets the birds off the ground near the pop hole, which will re­duce likely poach­ing (when the ground becomes pud­dled with mud and wa­ter) in wet weather. The pallet can be cheaply and eas­ily re­placed or cleaned when it becomes too dirty.


A move­able chicken coop and run, or ark is a good com­pro­mise for the win­ter or pe­ri­ods of pro­longed wet weather. De­pend­ing on the size of the ark, it can mean the chick­ens are a lit­tle more re­stricted in terms of the space they have to range, but it does mean that they can be moved to fresh ground reg­u­larly. Us­ing one on a lawn area or in the veg­etable patch, if moved fre­quently enough (once or twice a week), will mean the chick­ens not only clear a num­ber of the bugs and weed seeds on each patch of ground, but also add a spot of fer­til­izer into the deal.


This can be a prob­lem for birds with large head gear, in par­tic­u­lar males. Ba­si­cally, it causes black­en­ing in the tips of

large combs and wat­tles on breeds such as the Leghorn, and kills the tis­sue. If you are an­tic­i­pat­ing a pro­longed pe­riod of sub-zero tem­per­a­tures then a coat of Vase­line on the comb will help pro­tect the flesh.


Chick­ens cope with most weather quite suc­cess­fully. How­ever, it can im­pact their be­hav­iour and, more im­por­tantly to the keeper, egg pro­duc­tion. Long pe­ri­ods of high wind are not a favourite of chick­ens, and can re­sult in re­duced lay­ing within the flock. This is nor­mally only tem­po­rary, and usual pro­duc­tion re­sumes within a cou­ple of days of the weather calm­ing down.


Bring­ing drinkers in­doors at night, or emp­ty­ing them com­pletely when frost is fore­cast, is far eas­ier try­ing to de­frost them in the morn­ing. It will also re­move the risk of the drinker be­ing bro­ken by ex­pand­ing ice if the freeze is par­tic­u­larly heavy.


Daft as it might sound, don’t be tempted to add any­thing to the wa­ter to stop it freez­ing. There is noth­ing cur­rently avail­able on the mar­ket that will stop the chick­ens’ drink­ing wa­ter from freez­ing that will not ei­ther kill them or present a se­ri­ous health risk to the bird.


Un­less sub­jected to ex­tremely cold tem­per­a­tures, most chick­ens are quite ca­pa­ble of cop­ing with the win­ter nights without need­ing an ad­di­tional heat source or in­su­la­tion. Chick­ens, like many other birds, roost com­mu­nally, us­ing each other’s body heat to keep warm. They still re­quire the coop to be ven­ti­lated, but re­duc­ing draughts will help them. Don’t be tempted to cover the coop against any air­flow as this will re­sult in con­den­sa­tion build up.

Giv­ing the chick­ens a hand­ful of wheat about an hour be­fore they go in to roost will en­sure they do so with a full crop, plus the wheat is a ‘slow burn’ feed that will gen­er­ate a low level of con­sis­tent heat overnight.


Chick­ens can strug­gle with snow any deeper than 5cms. They will of­ten re­main within the coop rather than ven­ture out­doors, though they will need to drink at some point. Rather than putting the drinker in­doors for them (where they will in­vari­ably knock it over), place it just out­side the door, hav­ing first cleared the snow. En­cour­age the birds out on to the cleared ground with some scratch feed.

ABOVE: Arks make good ac­co­mo­da­tion in wet weather con­di­tions.

BELOW: Chick­ens don’t dis­like rain but the con­di­tions can make hard work.

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