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Cold weather treats for chickens - ways to help ease the winter blues

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Whether your birds are still producing eggs for you or not, this cold weather can be tiring on their bodies. Not only can they develop frostbite on their combs and wattles, but the stress of trying to keep warm in wet, drafty conditions can cause weight loss and respiratory issues.

Try some of these ideas to treat your chickens and help them through the winter until the world begins to warm up and green over again in spring:

  • Warm water - while it does freeze faster than cold (it's been scientifically proven!), your birds will enjoy a warm drink on a cold day. Indulge them! ACV (apple cider vinegar) with the mother culture (Braggs makes a really good one) can be added as a natural probiotic.
  • Hot oatmeal - mix your hens up a mash of warm oatmeal made with water or milk; add a little mashed garlic and a generous sprinkling of cayenne powder for a natural de-wormer.
  • Let them free range! On a dry day, let your birds out, supervised if you have a predator problem, and let them dig around for bugs and grubs, and maybe even sunbathe and dust bathe in a patch of sun.
  • Put them down a bug board - lay a piece of OSB or similar down on the ground and leave it there for a week or so. When you pick it up, all kinds of beetles and worms will have made their way under the board, leaving a delicious buffet for your birds! Simply flip the board over and next week they will have a fresh patch to scratch up.
  • Corn - candy for chickens! While they probably shouldn't have it as the greater part of their diet, as it is lacking in protein, fat and other essentials, it is a great long term filler. Perfect for cold evenings, it will sit in their crops and digest slowly overnight, helping them to keep warm.

Don't forget to ensure that all your birds have ample shelter from the elements - wind, rain, snow - and that they always have access to fresh water.

Katy Light has a 44 acre homestead in North GA, where she raises goats, bunnies and chickens. Find her blog at www.poppycreekfarm.com. She can be reached at katy@poppycreekfarm.com.

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