If you live in the in the snow belt and own poultry, you know a winter can cause some significant problems. Chickens always lay less in winter, due to the cold temperatures and less sunlight. Cold can even be very stressful to some chicken breeds, which can even result in death, or a complication related to it.
The first step in preventing cold problems is purchasing the right breeds. A good breed to purchase would be Barred Rocks, which are some of the toughest little birds on the market. They rarely suffer from the cold, though their egg productivity may drop off fairly massively.
Another good breed to handle the cold is the Australorp. This bird is quite large with almost shaggy black feathers. It rarely dies from any kind of cold related problem, being too large to be affected by cold.
These two breeds are the most obvious options for cold hardy birds, but besides that, what are death preventing procedures for cold winters?
Feeding corn to birds in winter helps significantly. Corn acts as an insulating layer of fat. It is, in effect, a fast food for chickens. Corn fattens up the bird and provides more warmth. There is only drawback to feeding your birds corn. If chickens are fed corn in excess, they’re feathers and skin turn a decidedly yellow tint. This is not good for showbirds, as the yellow color is rather ugly. When you go to the store and purchase a chicken to eat, you may notice a yellow tint to the animal’s skin. This is not the birds native color. It is a cornfed diet.
Chickens in the winter must absolutely have a shelter to protect them from the wind. Wind is a killer, as it blows all body heat away. Some people make the mistake of buying the cart before the horse, or the chickens before the building. Or if they do, it’s a flimsy little coop that is solely built to house laying hens, with it being otherwise exposed to the sun, rain, and wind. A structure that houses chickens must protect them from the wind and not be completely stifling, so the birds won’t bake in the summer.
Be smart and make good buying decisions. A cute breed of bird may not be particularly hardy. I myself have known the pain of buying an attractive bird that survives until the first snow hits. Bantams are especially vulnerable to cold, as they are significantly smaller. Many people also make the mistake of buying chicks or young fowl right before winter. Cheap show chicks are usually sold at this time because the sellers don’t want to trouble themselves with winter chicks. Raising chicks over winter is a very frustrating process, but that’s for another post.