Winter Chicken Care

| 12/20/2012 3:15:23 PM

Chickens EatingOriginally published in Robert Plamondon's Poultry Newsletter, Dec., 2012.  

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

Oregon winters are all about rain, so mud is our big enemy. Chickens that spend a lot of time outdoors will quickly denude the areas around their houses, since they scratch at the ground with their claws in addition to pecking at interesting morsels. In wet weather, these areas soon become muddy.

One solution is to move their houses periodically, but wet ground is fragile and the chickens can wreck it pretty quickly. Also, they like the new grass that springs up in their old stomping grounds, so unless you exclude them from it, they'll prevent the grass from growing back.

Using a mulch on the ground can work, but it takes a lot. A light covering of straw or old hay will get churned into the mud almost instantly, rendering it ineffective. A really thick layer works much better, but has a tendency to rot out the walls of the chicken houses where they come into contact with it. No doubt this can be worked around with appropriate building materials.

One thing that can help is to create some kind of porch around the doors of the chicken houses. That's where the traffic is highest. Wooden pallets work well for this. Rats will instantly take up residence under any wooden pallets, so you'll need to set up chicken-proof bait stations. The commercial bait stations work well for this.

There's an old method I haven't yet tried, which is to create a porch with a wooden frame covered with welded-wire mesh or perhaps heavy-duty chicken wire. The chickens can peck at the grass growing underneath, but can't scratch the plants to pieces. The only downside I see is that, if you leave the porches in place too long, the grass will intertwine with them and make them really hard to move.

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