Chickens have some pretty clever ways of beating the winter chill, but they may still need a bit of help from you.
Like all birds, chickens use their feathers for insulation.
“They can fluff up their feathers and trap air which warms it up,” says Greencross Vets’ Dr Matthew Gosbell.
The Springvale vet says chickens kept outdoors naturally adapt to gradual changes in weather, season and day length.
“They will usually eat more if they need to keep warm, reduce egg production and huddle together,” he says.
But for the times when nature is hard to predict, good pet care involves providing appropriate refuge.
“Always provide shelter from the weather including sun, rain and wind so chickens don’t get caught out by natural extreme weather changes,” Dr Gosbell says. “Birds in the wild will find shelter from extreme weather so we need to provide the same opportunity for birds in captivity.”
In cold parts of Australia you could insulate your chicken coop with tree branches, cardboard or styrofoam. Care should be taken if hay or straw is used for insulation, as these can become infested with mould and vermin and carry chicken parasites. Also remember to keep the insulation tidy.
“Exposed insulation may not be a good idea as the chickens will likely peck at it and pull it apart,” Dr Gosbell says.
It’s also important to maintain ventilation to prevent the build up of humidity, disease and ammonia fumes from your chickens’ droppings.
“Proper and regular cleaning of the chicken coop is essential. This will help avoid the build-up of droppings,” Dr Gosbell says. “Keeping the coop clean and dry is also essential as most bacteria, fungus and parasites thrive in warm, moist environments.”
If you live in one of the warmer Australian states then you probably won’t need to install insulation in your chicken coop at all. Open, ventilated coops are more important.
Learn more tips on coop setup here , or alternatively, visit your local Greencross Vets for expert advice.