Rachel Hurd Anger
As the days grow shorter and colder, we often talk about how to care for chickens as the seasons change, and we’ll certainly discuss cold-weather care soon. But, the worst thing about chicken keeping as the seasons change isn’t the maintenance to help your flock survive the winter—in fact, depending on where you live, winter is often much easier on our birds than the hottest weeks of summer. The worst part about winter chicken keeping is simply being a chicken keeper who’s grumpy about winter. Sometimes going outside is the last thing we want to do.
We might find ourselves standing at the back door just like our birds. They will stand at the door of the coop and look at the snow, clucking to each other gently. Chickens don’t mind a dusting of snow, but when the flakes pile up shank deep, the girls get grumpy, too.
Bitter cold, wind, rain, snow, ice, goose bumps, wet socks, frozen eggs, no eggs, lethargic chickens, frostbite risk, predator risk, traveling for holidays, seasonal affective disorder and chicken poop that Mother Nature never washes away—all these reasons can leave us feeling temporarily disillusioned with our flocks when Old Man Winter blows in.
When you find you’d rather stay cooped in your own house than tend to your flock, here are four ways you can recharge your relationship with them.
1. Cook For Your Flock
The way to a chicken’s heart is through her crop, so fill her up with a steaming plate of oatmeal. I like to stir in leftovers past their prime or kitchen scraps normally destined for the compost bin. It’s a small gesture of compassion on very cold days that will perk them up, and their gratitude will warm your heart in return. Feed them no more than they can eat in 20 minutes so food doesn’t go to waste and freeze.
2. Deck The Coop
Decorating for the holidays? A string of inexpensive holiday lights can dress up the coop all winter long, add a little lighting for the year’s shortest days, and give you something quaint to look at when the evenings get dark well before dinner. Later, gaze onto the coop with hot chocolate in hand for maximum enjoyment.
3. Set Up Chicken Boredom Busters
Wintertime is a slower time, with the short days often feeling very long. Install a chicken swing or a new roost above the snowy ground, create foraging opportunities with chicken scratch or sprouted grains, and spend a little extra time each day with your flock. These projects will give you something to plan for and to enjoy as you wait for spring. You’ll have a lot of fun watching them enjoying their new activities.
4. Provide Care Daily
Set aside the household chores and take a chicken break. Putting off care causes stress. You know you should do it. You obsess about the chore. You bemoan any excuse from the list above. Don’t think of chicken care as just another chore. Set aside time for the pleasure of hanging out with your chickens. You know you always feel happier after just 20 minutes with your flock, and you’ll naturally care for their needs without much thought while you’re outside.
The care we give our flocks is what’s so fun about chicken keeping—not just the ownership and the eggs. Even when we think we hate winter, having a reason to go outside and breathe fresh air is something we can be excited about. Chickens are a great reason for enjoying the winter season!