W is for Weather
An eclectic alphabet of chicken facts with a difference. Compiler: Andy Cawthray
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.
WET WEATHER QUARTERS
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.