Chickens love to go outside during the day.
Yes, they do come home to roost at night, but they love to romp in the Sun when it’s up. They scratch the ground looking for bugs and worms, stretch out and sunbathe in the rays and dig deep dirt holes so that they can “dust bath” in them. They emerge from their baths completely covered with dirt and create a huge dust cloud around themselves as they shake it off. It’s quite hilarious to watch.
Chickens, do, however hate snow. Once the white stuff has hit the ground, you open their door and the first foot that goes out comes right back in. Some chickens actually spend the entire winter indoors for this reason (I’m sure that’s where the saying “cooped up” comes from). But I think it’s healthier for the chicks to keep going outside. They won’t get any vitamin D in their eggs if they stay inside and the coop gets dirtier and dustier. In northern climates where the snow does fly, this requires a bit of planning on the part of the chicken farmer.
During a storm, I give the girls some squashes, pumpkins or sunflower seeds to chew on so that they don’t decide to chew on each other. Sometimes I will hang a cabbage from a roost for the same reason. Once the storm has departed, I get out the shovel. I slide the snow off of their ramp then shovel them a courtyard. Our chickens can get under their coop, so I make their yard where they can then get under it. Then, I spread out some hay or leaves. They love to poke through this stuff and it entices them outside. The hay generally contains some seeds that they like as well.
If we get a dusting on top of the hay, I just lift if up over the snow. This way, they continue to go outside and are generally much happier than just being “cooped up.”
Celeste Longacre has been growing virtually all of her family’s vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens.
Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer’s Almanac as their astrologer!
Celeste's new book on living lightly on the Earth is due out September 25, 2014.