The end of summer is the perfect time to think about fall chicken coop preparations. This isn’t a huge job for most of us. The chickens most likely spent a lot of time outside the coop during the summer. Feathers are everywhere at this time, due to the fall molt, so it’s a good time to clean up. Making sure that you are ready for the changeable fall weather, makes life much easier. Some years we have gone from beautiful fall weather to an over zealous cold front over night. Scrambling to get warm water to the flock, close up gaps and make sure we had plenty of straw and feed ready was a rush! Spending an afternoon running through my list of fall chicken coop preparations will save you many headaches later on.
Fall and winter, in many areas of the country, are wet and cold. There are areas of the country that don’t see bare earth after the snow begins to fall in late October,or sometimes earlier! Here are a few key items to focus on while preparing your chickens for fall and winter weather.
6 Fall Chicken Coop Preparations to Make Now.
1. Start the Season with a Clean Coop
Start by emptying all the nest boxes, bedding, and what ever you use to cover the coop floor. When your coop is completely swept out,check for rodent damage. Walk around the outside and look for areas where rodents might be entering the coop. If you can enter the coop, do the same thing on the inside. If you can’t fit into the coop to inspect, use a flashlight to look for structure damage and holes. Look for any holes or openings and repair them. When the holes are in the floor or lower portion of the wall, I recommend using some cement to plug the holes. Roost bars should be cleaned and dusted with DE powder to remove any mites. Placing the roost bar in the sun for a few hours will help with insect control and disinfecting. Remember clean and dry surfaces are healthy.
While you are in the cleaning mode, pick up debris that may have accumulated around the coop. Weeds, sticks and trash give rodents a place to hide. If the area is cleaned up, the rodents are more exposed and may not try to mooch dinner from the chickens.
2. Check the Coop’s Ventilation
Grab the broom again, but this time look up. Dust off the ceiling of the coop and make sure the roof ventilation is not blocked by debris, dust or leaves. Ventilation is just as important to the coop atmosphere in the winter. Without adequate ventilation, moisture will collect in the coop. Moisture during cold temperatures can lead to frost bite on combs, wattles and feet. It will also contribute to unhealthy accumulation of ammonia in the air, making your chickens more susceptible to respiratory illness.
3. Inspect the Roof
Next, check the roof. Check that the shingles are in good condition, and still firmly attached to the roof. Make the repairs now while the weather is fine. It is no fun at all to be repairing the coop roof during a heavy rainstorm. This will be a fall chicken coop preparation that you will wish you paid attention to!
4. Check the Lights (for you, not the chickens!)
Check the cords for any light you may depend on to brighten the coop once day light savings time is over. Sometimes extension cords stop working. They may have shorted out, or been damaged somehow. While I don’t recommend extending daylight in the coop for the chickens to lay more eggs, I do appreciate being able to turn on a light when feeding in the fall. When daylight savings time ends, darkness comes so early!
5. Check on the Water
One of our fall chicken coop preparations is to check the water system. If you use a hose to get water to the coop area, check that it is in good shape. Does it have holes in it? Right now, our hoses are a mess. The connections are bent, leaving puddles along the way to the water bins. I need to bite the bullet and buy some replacement hoses or connections. Where do you hang the hose when not in use so that water doesn’t freeze inside of it? If you don’t drain the hose after use, the water in the hose freezes. You won’t get any water through this hose unless you find a way to thaw it out first.
6. Grab a Little More Feed
Now is the time to stock a little bit more feed than you normally stock during the warm summer months. Using this method you will not run out of feed during a winter storm. Summer storms seem to be shorter in duration than winter storms. Afterward, the chickens can go back to foraging for weed, greens and insects. During the winter, the storms may dump large amounts of snow. When the storm ends, your chickens will need to be fed grain and may need to be kept inside for an extended time. Be ready for this possibility by having chicken feed on hand beyond what you normally use.
What do I do? We normally use 100 lbs of feed per week, give or take. During the winter I like to have 2 or 3 bags of feed in the feed room at all times. This way, if I can’t get to the store, or the store does not get it’s delivery of feed, I can easily wait. Of course your amount will be whatever works for your flock. I just don’t recommend playing it too close to empty during the winter. This is one of the simple fall chicken coop preparations to make.
Chickens are rather cold hardy beings and have built in insulation with the thick feathers that come in after molt each year. Keep the coop draft free, well ventilated, and dry, and have plenty of grain to keep them fed along with fresh water. Your chickens won’t mind winter one bit.