We all know the basics of caring for backyard chickens- making sure food sources are refreshed, cleaning the nesting boxes, and collecting eggs regularly, are just some of the daily tasks involved in keeping your hens happy.
As well as this, there are some tasks that need doing on a seasonal basis so your chickens can make the transition through the changing climate, temperatures and daylight hours with ease.
In Australia we are lucky to have a more mild Winter than most places on the map.So generally speaking, snow and freezing temperatures aren’t too much of an issue for most of us. However, there are still a few precautions to take to keep your chickens fighting fit through the cooler months of the year.
- Frostbitten: Chickens with larger combs (especially roosters) do become more susceptible to frostbite in winter. Applying a petroleum jelly such as Vaseline to their combs and wattles is an easy fix.
- Freezing Over: Sometimes, even in Australia, we will experience some very cold days which can lead to water freezing, cutting off your chickens water supply. Make sure waterers are emptied at night and refilled first thing in the morning, and checked throughout the day if it is particularly cold.
- Home Sweet Home: Chickens are generally very hardy creatures and cope well with the colder temperatures, but just like humans, coming home to a warm bed after a long day is such a delight! Make sure your chickens have clean and dry nesting boxes with lots of bedding to snuggle into, in a draft-free area of the coop.
- Lay off the Lay: In the cooler months, you will notice a drop in egg production- due to the shorter daylight hours. Despite this, make sure your chickens are still getting their daily essential nutrients, and a diet rich in protein.
- Chicken Knits: If you’re chickens are looking particularly chilly- try your hand at knitting one of these cheeky chicken jumpers- your flock will be the talk of the town!
Spring is such a wonderful month for chicken keeping- the garden is thriving, and the days are longer so your girls can begin laying again! There are just a few things to take care of during these months.
- Spring Cleaning: Spring is the perfect time to give the coop and run a good clean out! Muck and refresh the run, clean out nesting boxes and roosts, discard of droppings or loose feed- this should do the trick!
- Discourage Broodiness: Spring is the time where pure breeds will think of breeding, and even without being fertile, hens may start showing signs of broodiness. It is best to discourage this behaviour early on by collecting eggs regularly so they can’t sit on them, and try to encourage them to get out of the nesting boxes and free range.
Summer in some parts of Australia can reach soaring temperatures that can put a lot of stress on your chickens, especially heavier and more feathered breeds. To make sure your chickens stay cool, calm and collected throughout the warmer months take into mind the following tips.
- Cool Chicks: Chickens don’t cope particularly well with the heat, as they cannot regulate their body temperature when it gets particularly hot- they will ‘pant’ with their beaks open and hold their wings out and away from their body when the heat starts to get to them. To help keep them keep their cool, make sure they always have plenty of cool water and shade available. Clumsy chickens will often spill water bowls, so to be safe, have several sources and check and refill them on a regular basis. Shade can come in all forms- trees and vines are great to grow in the run for this reason- and they look great too!
- Chilly Treats: Chilled watermelon, tomatoes, and frozen ice treats are great for spoiling your chickens on particularly hot days- keeping them cool, entertained and their tummies full! Like with all treats, be careful not to overdo it!
- Beat the Heat: If your girls are really feeling the heat, fill a shallow tray with water- some of your girls will cool down by standing in the water. Give them a cool place to dust bathe by hosing down the run- they will love it!
- Beware of Mites: Although lice and mite prevention should be carried out all through the year, summer is the season when they are most prevalent, so keeping on top of it during these months is most important!
Autumn is a more relaxed season for chicken keepers- a time to reflect and enjoy your girls company and what a wonderful year it has been together! Although there are still a few things to keep an eye on...
- Watch for Moult: Most chickens will go through a moult sometime in Autumn, and it can happen quickly, or over a longer period of time- so don’t be alarmed if you come across a near naked chook among your flock during these months! To keep your chickens healthy through this time, make sure they are receiving all their dietary needs- lots of protein and essential vitamins and nutrients to assist with producing lots of fantastic feathers. Remember, that hens will also stop laying while they are going through a moult.
Chickens are quite independent and hardy creatures, but they do need a little extra care from you to keep fighting fit through the seasons- especially in the warmer months.
Heed the advice above and you will have happy and healthy hens on your hands all year round!
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Come rain or shine, something we’ll never be able to control is the weather! Being prepared with the right information for each season is essential. You don't want to stress unnecessarily about the safety and comfort of your backyard friends.
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