Cold weather preparation for small and hobby flocks


Tips for managing small flocks during the colder months.

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Michigan State University Extension recognizes that cold weather management can be a challenge for even the most seasoned poultry owners. There is no substitute for good management that takes into consideration a variety of factors.

First, temperature and wind are the most critical environmental concerns that flock owners must be aware of. Chickens begin to pick up temperature changes around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. A bird’s comb, waddles, face, feet and other non-protected body parts are sensitive to temperature changes. Making sure that your coop is draft free, yet well ventilated, is key in keeping a comfortable environment for your birds. There are many methods to cut down wind such as creating wind breaks that will protect the coop from the most common prevailing winds and identifying areas in the coop where there are drafts.

Brigid McCrea, PhD, small flock specialist, from Auburn University and Zac Williams, PhD, Michigan State University (MSU) poultry specialist dispel many of those myths and give practical, best practices for poultry owners in the “Poultry Talk 101—Cold Weather Prep for Small and Hobby Flocks” podcast. Here are some other tips from Brigid McCrea:

  • Coop bedding should be kept clean and doubled from what is used during the summer months to insulate the floor of the coop and protect again frostbite on the toes.
  • Daily observation is critical so that birds exposed body parts can be monitored for frost bite.
  • Choose breeds suited for your climate.
  • Provide free choice feed during the winter months; chickens should consume 50% more feed than during the warmer months.
  • Provide fresh, clean water every day and make sure to clean the water troughs every day.

The Poultry Talk 101 podcast has a variety of episodes that provide science based educational content on poultry production from Michigan State University and guests.