Taking Care of Chicks in the Winter
Spring is a time of new birth and growth, including for chicks. However, modern technology and methods make it possible for chicks to hatch and thrive all year long. If you're expanding your flock--or starting a new one--this coming cold season, here's a guide to taking care of chicks in the winter.
Benefits of Winter Chicks
Traditionally, chicks hatch in the spring and spend the season growing and maturing. This means that springtime chicks won't become laying hens until at least the end of the season, and in some cases, they may not lay eggs at all until the next spring. On the other hand, chicks hatched and raised in the fall or winter will be ready to lay eggs in the spring and throughout the entire season. If you show chickens, your chicks born in the winter will be older and larger by the time competition season comes around, giving them an advantage over their younger rivals. Winter chicks also tend to be hardier throughout their lives.
Tips for Taking Care of Winter Chicks
Provide the Proper Amount of Heat
Adult chickens are good at regulating their body temperatures, but chicks need more help. As such, a chicken heater is one of the most important devices you need to raise chicks, especially in the winter. Install the heat lamp in the proper position inside your brooder to avoid any fire hazards with the bedding or other materials. If you can, place it so that there are still cooler corners of the brooder where your chicks can go if they overheat. Newly hatched chicks require heat that matches their body temperature--around 95 degrees Fahrenheit--but as they get older, you should steadily decrease the temperature so that they can learn to acclimate to the weather.
Supply Plenty of Food and Water
All chickens need more food in the winter to keep their energy up, and chicks are no exception. Use protein-rich chick feed to promote health and growth. Be sure to place their food and water in trays that are shallow enough for them to reach it, and make sure the water doesn't freeze. Keep an eye on your chicks during these first few weeks to make sure they're getting enough food and water. Dehydration is incredibly dangerous for young chicks, and they also might need help finding their food and water.
Keep Their Home Dry
When you're taking care of chicks in the winter, remember that the cold isn't nearly as dangerous as the wet. You want to keep your brooder clean and the bedding fresh and dry. This applies to your chicken coop, as well. It may be tempting to shut the coop tight and insulate it, but this makes it easier for moisture--and, in turn, mold or other dangers--to build up inside. Keep your chicks safe by cleaning out wet spots and providing plenty of dry bedding for them.
Have you ever had chicks in the winter? What did you do to care for them? Leave your suggestions and tips in the comments below.