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Expert tips and tricks for backyard chicken keeping

Giving you flock a healthy diet in Winter

Chicken health, General, How to..

Maintaining a healthy diet for your chickens during the winter is crucial as they need more energy to stay warm and maintain their overall health.

Here are some tips on how to ensure your flock is getting the nutrients they need:

  1. High-Energy Feed
    • Quality Feed: Start with a high-quality layer feed that is specifically formulated for laying hens. This feed should provide a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients.
    • Additional Protein: During the winter, chickens need more protein to help them stay warm and healthy. Consider adding protein-rich treats like mealworms, black soldier fly larvae, or even scrambled eggs to their diet.
    • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are essential for providing the extra energy chickens need to generate body heat. Cracked corn is an excellent source of carbohydrates. Feed it to your chickens in the late afternoon or evening to help them stay warm through the night.
    • Grains and Seeds: Incorporate grains and seeds such as wheat, barley, and sunflower seeds into their diet. These provide additional energy and essential fatty acids.
  2. Supplements
    • Apple Cider Vinegar: Adding apple cider vinegar (ACV) to your chickens’ water can help boost their immune systems and improve digestion. Use 1 tablespoon of ACV per litre of water. Ensure you use raw, unfiltered ACV with the “mother” for the best benefits.
    • Garlic: Garlic is a natural antibiotic and can help keep your chickens healthy. Crush a few cloves of garlic and add them to their water or feed once a week.
    • Spice Blend: Adding Spice Blend to your chickens’ winter diet can boost their immune system, improve digestion, and provide essential nutrients that help them stay healthy and warm during the colder months.
    • Probiotics: Probiotics promote healthy gut flora and can improve your chickens’ overall health. You can find poultry-specific probiotic supplements or use natural sources like yogurt (in small amounts) or fermented feed.
    • Electrolytes: In stressful conditions, such as sudden temperature drops, adding electrolytes to their water can help keep your chickens hydrated and balanced.
  3. Hydration
    • Fresh Water: Access to fresh, unfrozen water is critical. Chickens need water to digest their food and stay healthy. Check their water supply multiple times a day during freezing weather.
    • Heated Waterers: Investing in heated waterers or water heaters designed for poultry can prevent water from freezing. This ensures your chickens always have access to water, even on the coldest days.
    • Monitor Intake: Ensure your chickens are drinking enough water. Dehydration can quickly lead to health issues, especially in winter when their bodies are working harder to stay warm.
  4. Treats
    • Warm Porridge: Offer warm oatmeal mixed with seeds and grains as a special treat on cold mornings. This not only provides warmth but also gives them a nutrient boost. You can add a bit of molasses for extra energy and palatability.
    • Vegetable Scraps: Give your chickens vegetable scraps like leafy greens, cooked squash, and carrots. These are nutritious and provide variety in their diet.
    • Warm Broth: Occasionally, you can offer warm, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth. This helps them stay hydrated and provides additional nutrients.
    • Kitchen Scraps: During winter, your chickens will appreciate the extra calories from safe kitchen scraps like cooked rice, pasta, and bread (in moderation). Ensure these scraps are free from mould and harmful ingredients.
  5. Routine and Consistency
    • Feeding Schedule: Maintain a consistent feeding schedule to help your chickens manage their energy levels throughout the day. Feeding them more frequently or providing a hearty meal before they roost can help them stay warm overnight.
    • Observation: Pay close attention to how your chickens respond to their winter diet. If you notice any changes in behaviour, appetite, or egg production, adjust their feed accordingly.
  6. Special Considerations
    • Senior Chickens: Older chickens may need additional care and nutrition in winter. Ensure they have easy access to food and water, and consider supplementing their diet with extra vitamins and minerals.
    • Broody Hens: If you have broody hens, make sure they are eating and drinking enough. Gently encourage them to leave the nest for short periods to eat and drink.

By following these tips and ensuring your chickens receive a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet, you can help them stay healthy, warm, and productive throughout the winter months. Happy clucking!

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