How to Feed Chickens in the Winter

Items you will need

  • Food dispensers

  • Pie tins

  • Food scraps/peelings/leftovers

  • Commercial chicken feed

  • Fresh greens/grass or weed cuttings

  • Cayenne pepper

  • Grit

  • Egg shells

Raising chickens can be both a rewarding personal experience and a worthwhile investment of time and energy, as they will provide you with a year round supply of fresh eggs with proper care. However, during the winter, your hens will need special treatment if you'd like them to go on laying. You will have to fool the birds into believing it is actually summer. The food you provide during the colder times of the year can have a major impact on the success of this particular venture.

Move all your chickens indoors once egg laying begins to drop off a bit. You will have to mimic the summer environment to the best of your ability. This means you must provide warm (but well ventilated) housing and mimic the seasonal lighting conditions, rather than subjecting your hens to the shortened daylight hours of winter.

Begin placing all the food into dispensers. Scratching and pecking at the cold ground will not help to convince the hens that it's actually warm out. Dry food can go into a hopper type dispenser, while wet foods can be placed in old pie tins.

Use any extra scraps you have on hand. Chickens benefit from the regular addition of human leftovers to their diet. Boil up any vegetable or potato peelings and mix them with any other food scraps. Ensure all pieces have been chopped into small pieces so it is easy for the hens to grasp the pieces.

Source out a supply of fresh greens, grass or weed cuttings or collect them yourself. For example, a number of restaurants place escarole decoratively between the bowls of the salad bar. Most of them change this greenery on a daily basis and won't mind if you arrive at the end of the day to collect the old vegetation. Spread whatever greens you can find across the chickens' feed area at least once a day.

Sprinkle a little cayenne pepper to the water you provide for your chickens. The pepper will be warm when swallowed, helping to convince the birds of the increased temperature in their immediate surroundings. Also, be sure to change the water at least twice a day to prevent freezing.

Offer a high protein, pellet-form commercial feed two times a day. Add a handful of grit to the chicken feed with each offering. The birds need a small amount of grit within their stomach to help break down the swallowed food.

Tips

  • You can recycle egg shells by giving them to your chickens. Wash the egg shells thoroughly, spread them over a baking sheet, and place them in the oven to dry. When they are evenly brown and crumble when touched, remove the shells from the oven. Allow them to cool and then add them to the next ration of chicken food.

Warnings

  • Try to provide your chickens with a variety of foods. This will ensure the best, natural balance of vitamins, minerals, protein and calcium. A diet that is deficient in any way will have a serious impact on the health of the flock and will undermine their egg laying ability.

Author

Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.