Chickens on Allotments - Winter Tips
Even with the cold winter weather, chickens are better off to peck at winter greens and see the outside world rather than be banged up in a cage with nowhere to peck or roam around. The veins in chicken feet are designed to keep them from freezing in snow. Hens have their own feather duvets and can puff up to keep warm.
In severe frost it is worthwhile to rub some vaseline on the larger combs and wattles for protection against frostbite. A high energy feed late afternoon such as mixed corn helps fight the cold. They also welcome a warm feed in the morning.
Maize is very useful in the chicken diet on cold winter days. It contains the most energy of all cereal grains (it is high in Carbohydrate) but contains little else in the way of nutrients. The protein quality is relatively poor. Maize should normally only be fed in small quantities to avoid overweight hens.
Check for any damage and water leaks in the housing structure. Position the coop so that the entrance is sheltered from direct rain and wind. Good ventilation in the coop is vital as the birds will be inside longer than in summer. Air must be allowed to circulate without causing a bitter cold draft. Birds cope very well with low temperatures but a cold draft whistling through the henhouse can kill. Make sure that ventilation is not situated at perch level. Chickens still need some ventilation in the coop so do not cover all ventilation holes up.
The coops may need some extra bedding. E.g. lots of woodshavings, hemcore and straw (chopped up if possible). Shredded paper is warmer than straw (the straw has more gaps and is not as insulating). However paper can get soggy quickly and stays wet. If any bedding gets wet it will need to be replaced. One of the most common, and potentially serious, causes of trouble is wet house bedding or litter.
There is a fundamental difference between chickens and waterfowl, in terms of their respective attitudes towards cold and wet weather. While chickens are often content to sit inside the coop during cold spells, waterfowl just seem to love the outdoor life, whatever the weather.