Winter Blues and Breathing Problems, too!
Written by: Amanda B.
I know some people thrive in the colder weather, enjoying the snow sports and getting outside as much as possible, but for animal people, this year has been depressing… and wet. I live in Mid-Michigan and my flock and me have the winter blues! I do not mind the cold weather one bit, it is why I chose to live in Michigan. It’s a relief when we have cold weather, because a lot of the bugs pass away or go dormant and we do not have as many to deal with the following Spring. 2023 will be bug filled…we have had only one major storm and maybe 3 separate snow days and the rest has been wet and SOOO GLOOMY!
YES! A chicken can get the winter blues! They show it differently though, mostly by changing a few things like the pecking order, aggression, extra appetite and boredom. Below are a few things we do to keep our flock busy in the winter and feeling more lively!
Idea Number 1: You will need several oranges or grapefruit, string, any 16 oz. nut butter, 1
scoop of NatureServe Layer pellets, and extra seeds optional.
COLOR! I love color, so we take oranges or grapefruit and cut them in half. Then, spoon out the inside. When you do this, it should look like a beautiful orange bowl. Next, head to the cupboard and grab any nut butter and make sure you have your Layer pellets. Mix your 16 oz. of nut butter with the Layer pellets in a separate bowl. Once it is mixed well, put it to the side. Also, you can be creative and add whatever seeds you want to this. They are your birds so spoil them this winter. Next, grab your string, a tiny knife, and those orange bowls. Add two holes, one on each side toward the cut part of the orange. You will be adding the string into it to create a hanging basket for your feathered friends. Add the string and knots so that it holds together well. Once this is done, stuff with the Layer and nut butter mixture then freeze. Once it is frozen take it outside and hang around your coop! Voila! This will be distracting, exciting and new to your birds, as well as 100% edible. (Use 100% cotton string if your birds are savages and will eat it)
Idea Number 2: Anyone with a real Christmas tree, go ahead and keep it and put into their run. Add some nut butter to branches, then sprinkle fun treats like meal worms, some Layer pellets or seeds to the tree and this will keep your birds busy PLUS pine needles are great for your birds lung sacs. Did you know chickens have several lung sacs in their body and adding pine needles to their diet can increase circulation as well as improve respiratory health? So, this is a win win! No trees in the dump and healthy happy birds.
Idea Number 3: You will need a nut butter, maple syrup, seeds, some chicken feed, 1 jar of cayenne pepper, parchment paper and 2 medium size bowls.
In one medium bowl, add 16 oz. nut butter,
¼ cup of Maple Syrup, seeds and some feed together. I recommend adding 4 tablespoons of cayenne pepper or if you don’t have that, add red pepper flakes. (4 tablespoons is ¼ of a cup) Cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes can both help increase temperature and help hens produce more eggs.
In bowl number 2, add parchment paper. Pour in mixed ingredients, form into a ball or square. Go ahead and freeze. Once frozen remove the parchment paper from the bowl and put the ball or square in the coop.
I hope these ideas can help your flock keep things flowing smoothly and keep them happy. As for you, this will help too. When we suffer from the winter blues sitting inside and being on our phones will not help, so get your butt up and make some cool snacks for that bad*ss flock you have outside!
But, speaking of being on the phone... since I have been inside, I have also been doing more reading and going online more. Which…has led to some fun chatroom adventures and seeing what people have to say has been going on in their state and their flock. I have been looking online and watching group chatrooms about what people and their flocks are experiencing and it seems like some people have a wet mess and some random deaths due to respiratory issues. I did not realize what humidity was in winter until this year! I can honestly say this year has been so wet and humid, that what type of bedding you chose for your flock is going to play a key factor in this. Respiratory issues or sudden death are on the rise. If you are having this issue with your flock, please try this.
Step 1: Empty the coop…that’s right... kick those chickens out and start cleaning out the bedding. It is not going to be easy if you’re like me and did the deep liter method. In fact, it's going to be heavy and time consuming, BUT WORTH IT!
Step 2: Sweep it up, even if it is a dirt bottom and go ahead and get as much of the excess material up. It is important to make it clean!
Step 3: Lay barn lime down. Some people use First Saturday Lime, but I just buy 50# bag of crushed barn lime and spread it in all the areas that are very moist. This reduces the ammonia smell in your coop as well.
Step 4: Throw down pine pellets mixed with any other bedding of choice. As the moisture enters the bedding, the pine pellets will absorb it and turn into a crumble. This comes in handy!
Step 5: Remember to remove all the roosting pieces and power wash them off. If your worried about the moisture, you can just scrape them clean and put them back in place.
Step 6: Essential oils...that’s right, you can use a bottle of certain oils outside, slowly walk about and add a few drops to the bedding. With the humidity so high, if you add eucalyptus and lavender it can work in your benefit. They are known to open up the lungs and allow any infection to pass.
These steps should help keep the humidity down and gather up any moisture that is building up. Be sure to flip your bedding weekly to prevent stagnant spots from getting moldy, especially if you are not doing this method and are using the deep liter method. If you try this method above, let me know what you think!
I also think it is so important to add essential oils to the water bowl! It will not hurt the birds if you use the right oils and dosage. Or you can purchase VetRx or other water additives to add into their water bowl to keep them healthy. But, KEEP THE WATER BOWL OUT OF THE COOP! Especially if you have a heater in it. That will create condensation inside the coop and freeze! It will be bad for your flock to breath in it and for their little toes, crops and waddles to come in contact with. No one wants to deal with frostbite!
I hope this helped if you have an issue like this occur in your flock. These are just my ideas and things that have worked for me! If you have special techniques, please share them! I always game to and love to try new things!
Keep warm and dry out there!
Your chicken friend,