3 Natural Ways To Take Care of Your Flock During The Winter
I am no expert, and unlike almost everyone anymore, I will never pretend to be. I do certain things a certain way, and observe my results. That is what this is folks. My observations I have made through the years. That’s it. I have raised hundreds of chickens at this point, hatched chicks, built multiple coops, butchered hundreds of birds, dealt with illnesses, dealt with predators, neighbors, law enforcement, and even government officials. Dang, just writing it down has cured my impostor syndrome, I know what I am doing. I have observed a thing or two and may have a piece of advice or two. Now, honestly, with this big ole push for people to want to learn some of the things I have been doing for years, that’s what brings me here.
Sharing information and never attempting to think that I have nothing else to learn.
I don’t fear criticism and as someone who has attended summer school, I am clearly not afraid to fail! I’m not an idiot or anything, its just hard to learn another language.
Anyway, just getting my little disclaimer out of the way so no one who has read a million books and never shoveled out a coop accuses me of not knowing what I am talking about. Not to dismiss the “bibliophile’s amongst us, of course.
All I am saying is, some things sound good on paper, but in reality, tweaks almost always have to be made. Keep that in mind! Even with me. Tweaks are everywhere! Find a good foundation to build on, and build how you see fit. Never assume because you “read it online”, that it is scripture. Unless you read scripture online, then that is scripture. I am slowly losing my point here.
Anywho, now that we have an understanding, let’s get into a few of my “observations” as it pertains to winter time and chickens.
1. Oregano- The First Line of Defense
Whether the whole plant or oil, oregano has shown to have multiple health benefits for your chickens. Research has shown that oregano has some of most powerful natural antibiotic properties ever studied. Oregano contains 2 powerful compounds called carvacrol and thymol. Both have been show to have strong antibacterial and anti fungal properties, even against antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria! Long story short, tossing chickens the chopped fresh leaves, dried leaves added to food, or oregano oil added directly to their water serves as great frontline defense from illness. Bacterial infections spread fast and without discretion through a flock. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so introduce oregano to your chickens as early as possible.
2. Shut the Light Off!
During the fall/winter time your hens are focused more on molting and conserving energy to make it through the cold months. The spring and summer are busy times for hens as this is when the are most often mated, go broody, reestablish pecking orders, and lay eggs. A lot of eggs. It is an exhausting time for hens. the winter time is when they finally get some semblance of a break. As the chickens slow down and light becomes less readily available due to the changing seasons, egg production drops off. Chickens rely on light, usually sunlight, to stimulate their pineal glands, which is vital in the production of eggs. Chickens reach peak laying around 12 hours of sunlight a day, mid summer. All this leads to the issue of supplemental lighting techniques. Some people add artificial lighting to their coops to continue high laying habits for their hens years round. this leads to a wide variety of potentially deadly, and ultimately mostly avoidable issues. Prolapsed vents, lash eggs, drastic increase of ovarian cancer, heightened stress, and fires are all common and deadly effects of supplemental lighting. Leave your hens bodies to naturally go through this rest period. It is vital for their long term health and it is also their reward for a long and tiring laying season for your homestead. Days where they get to just eat, drink, lay in the sun, take a bath, and then go to sleep. Not having to squeeze out the equivalent to a watermelon multiple times a week, every week, every month, every year, until you die. Let them rest. They need it.
3. A Clean House is a Happy House
Coop Cleanliness is imperative during the cold dark months of winter. even when taking into account the first two things, nothing in life is perfect and issues can still slip through the cracks. Chickens are highly susceptible to respiratory ailments due to their very unique respiratory systems. Chickens have lungs like mammals, but the also have two air sacs, one in front of and one behind each lung. These sacs work like bellows to suck air in and out of the lungs. It actually takes two breaths in and out for air to fully cycle through a chickens system. Because of this, air is constantly moving through a chicken, so they are always picking up dust particles and other microbes in the air. Too much dust can wreak havoc on a chickens respiratory system. Also, as chicken waste breaks down, it turns into dust, further adding to issues. Adding your oregano and practicing good diets for your flock is the first line of defense, but a clean living space is vital! First making sure no cracks, drafts or leaks are present before the winter is important. Any found should be dealt with. The bedding is what you will be dealing with throughout the winter. We use fresh wood shavings, because in our experience the dust is minimal and the added carbon from the pine absorbs nitrogen from the chicken droppings which can be toxic to chickens. When piled deep, it creates a warming insulation for your flock to help through the coldest off winter. Pine shavings, straw, recycled paper, and even sand are all options for bedding in your coop. Just make sure to keep it fresh and clean, and if your coop begins to emit an ammonia smell, it’s high time to get in there and rectify that situation!
Three incredibly easy, (one completely hands off), natural methods to ensure your flock is healthy, strong, safe, and eager to do what chickens have been put here to do!