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Poultry Autumn/Winter Care

24/09/2010 If you decide to have any kind of livestock they will need looking after 365 days of the year and its up to you to provide them with the necessary care on a daily basis. With this in mind it’s a good idea to establish a routine and stick with it you can then tackle any other jobs as they arise.

Daily Care – The first job of the day is to let your hens out of their housing and into their runs. This should be early but never before it is fully light to minimise a predator attack.

Make sure they have fresh water and feed and if they have the whole ration in the morning they will continue to eat throughout the day.

Check on the weather, if its to be a wet day make sure food is undercover by placing it inside the hen house to prevent it spoiling and if its frosty check the drinkers hasn’t/ won’t freeze.  Runs are best placed in a shady area or build the whole thing undercover this way your hens can still exercise even in the rain/snow.

Make a check around the run to look for signs of intrusion from predators. Freshly dug mud or damage to the fencing is a big clue that the fox has been about.

As the birds start to settle for the day just take a few moments to check that behaviour is normal and nothing out of the ordinary.

You should also collect any eggs laid in the nest boxesof the coop, as leaving them put can encourage egg eating which is a hard habit to break. Also if you find any hens on eggs and your not encouraging a broody then gently lift the bird off and place her outside with the others in the run.

Throughout the day the hens will keep themselves amused, as they are reasonably self sufficient and assuming you have provided the basics good housing, fresh water, food dust bath and adequate exercise space they should be happy.

At the end of the day food will need to be placed in the chicken ark and any spillages cleared up from the run as this can attract vermin to your coop. Drinkers can be left outside but must be refilled in the morning. Never put them in the coop overnight as this increases humidity levels and there is a risk of them getting knocked over and spoiling the litter. Chickens will not eat or drink whilst roosting.

As soon as the birds are away for the night close up the pop hole and check that all locks and catches are secure. Your birds will keep sufficiently warm overnight if the number of chickens is matched to the size of the hen house. If the weather does turn very cold though a handful of corn in the afternoon will provide the energy needed to keep the birds warm during the night.

Every few days - Handle your poultry on a regular basis to check on general health and for parasitic infestations. Also inspect the coop for these sort of problems as red mite become active at dusk and after dark,if they are there you will soon see them crawling around the housing. The quicker infestations are dealt with the better and the only way you will know if anything is wrong is to check the birds by hand. Also check the legs and if any scales are raised or crusty this points to scaly leg mite.  

Lastly take the time to check for excess dirt within the hen house, which will need to be dealt with.

Weekly Tasks – Feeders and drinkers will need to be disinfected and then refilled also check grit trays are refilled.

Check in the poultry run for waterlogged ground or standing water. It’s never a good idea to let the birds drink from puddles as they can contain nasty bacteria. Use a garden fork to spike the ground and allow the water to drain away.

A thorough clean out of the inside of the hen house is needed every seven days. In the winter bedding will be soiled quicker due to wet weather and more hours being spent inside.  Keeping your chicken coop clean will help to keep rats away and also any unpleasant odours.

Any damp on the coop floor can be helped by the use of a disinfectant powder under the hens bedding keeping the coop fresher for longer.

Monthly Jobs – Check the coop and run thoroughly for any rotting timbers, holes caused by wear and tear, rusting of hinges and bolts. All of these things can provide predators with a weak area through where they can access your birds.

Also check for mites in the coop you will need to remove perches, as this is where the critters will hide. Treat birds with a powder even if there are no signs of infestation, as you cannot always see a problem that may be there.

Make sure feed is in secure containers and no rodents are gnawing their way into your supply.

Every other month – Moving the hen house and the run around on a frequent basis is a good idea to prevent worms and stale ground. Obviously this depends on your own circumstances and how much room you have to hand. If this isn’t an option just add wood chip to the run and change on an 8 weekly basis.

Six monthly. Birds will more that likely come into moult in the autumn/winter period and this can be a hard time for your hens. Providing them with cod liver oil or poultry spice in their feed or a good tonic in their water can help them along with this process.

Although the winter seems long and sometimes bleak regular maintenance still needs to be undertaken and cannot be neglected.

If the birds wings were clipped at purchase this may need to be done again as they will have grown back.

Worming is also important twice a year. This can be done using flubenvet, which is a powder you mix with the feed or Marriage’s suppliers are now adding this to a layers pellet making it easier to administer. This needs to be fed for 7 consecutive days. If there is a known worm burden then repeat after 3 weeks for another 7 days, otherwise twice a year should easily suffice.

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