inFocus: A helping hand for hens during the winter
- Credit: Archant
James Bezant, from Flyte so Fancy, gives some tips on keeping your birds happy during the cold winter months
I recently found myself being mocked by a friend for only having two coats. One for the summer, worn from Easter until it gets too cold to continue, and then out comes my winter coat. The reason my friend was mocking me was apparently two coats are nowhere near enough. However, my two coat system has worked perfectly for another year and, in fact, it was only with a recent torrential downpour that I dusted off my winter coat and headed out into the wintery weather to let the hens out.
Whilst winter prep for myself involves putting on a coat. For the three Orpington girls living at the bottom of my garden, making sure that they get through the winter months in a healthy and hygienic way takes a little more diligence.
As my chickens have such beautiful, bountiful plumage, I always like to make sure they won’t be dragging their feathered skirts through the mud at the first sign of a dark cloud, let alone the ceaseless rain that we experienced last winter. To prevent this, the floor of my run is liberally covered in Flyte so Fancy Hardwood Woodchip for Poultry.
Hardwood Woodchip provides an excellent surface to keep your hens ‘entertained’ as well as clean and healthy. They will just love scratching it around looking for elusive worms and it will, with care, create a clean barrier for them to live on, out of the mud. Properly maintained, this layer of woodchip will last for up to a year and certainly see my girls through the winter.
The best way to maintain this surface is to regularly, say once a fortnight, rake it over and wash with the garden hose. It sounds counter intuitive, but as the woodchip is lighter than the mud and soil that clings to it, by raking it and washing it back and forth, the woodchip rises to the surface again as good as new.
Just the same as my winter coat is thicker than my summer coat, come the winter months my girls get a warmer ‘duvet’ to keep them cosy at night. HempBed-E is an absorbent, natural bedding for chickens, but what I really like about it for the winter months is the added eucalyptus. With the nights being longer and my ladies being inside their hen house for over 12 hours, the added eucalyptus has two advantages. Firstly, it keeps the coop smelling fresh and clean and is well known as a mild decongestant (which can kill airborne germs) as well as being anti-bacterial. Secondly, by keeping the inside of the coop fresh, the added eucalyptus can help prevent those seasonal sniffles and colds that chickens are just as susceptible to as ourselves.
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With the woodchip keeping the run dry and the HempBed-E keeping the coop fresh, I like to give them both an added boost through the depths of winter, by adding some Flyte Coop and Run Sanitising Powder. This ground sanitiser and absorbent powder contains natural ingredients like Yucca to combat ammonia, essential oils for anti-mite properties, and has a DEFRA-approved disinfectant powder for killing germs. Due to its highly absorbent properties, any water forms into dry clumps that can be easily removed whilst doing a quick clean. By reducing the humidity it can also work in tandem with the HempBed-E to aid against any respiratory issues your chickens may get.
With my summer coat carefully stored away in the cloakroom until the Easter bunny starts to skip around the garden, my feathered friends and myself are fully prepared for whatever this winter decides to throw at us, be it freezing Jack Frost or a re-creation of the Poseidon Adventure.
Hardwood Woodchip for Poultry Runs, HempBed-E Bedding and Flyte Coop and Run Sanitising Powder can all be found at www.flytesofancy.co.uk or for more information call 01300 345229.