Chickens usually enjoy going outside during the day, however, many breeds of chickens are not fond of snow (just like people!). In places where the snow does fly, this requires a bit of planning on the part of the chicken farmer. See tips on keeping chickens happy in winter.
Chickens enjoy scratching the ground looking for bugs and worms, stretching out and sunbathing in the rays as well as digging 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.
But once the white stuff has hit the ground, you open their door and the first foot that goes out may come right back in. Some chickens would prefer to spend the entire winter indoors for this reason (Perhaps that’s where the saying “cooped up” comes from).
Last winter, it began snowing the day after Christmas and continued every three days for about six weeks. These were big, powerful storms that often took a couple of days to clean up. No sooner would we have all the paths and driveway clear, then it would snow again. It was exhausting!
During these snowstorms, my chickens looked out and decided to pass on the exit plan. I gave the girls something to chew on (pumpkin, squashes, or sunflower seeds) so that they don’t decide to chew on each other. Sometimes, I will hang a cabbage from a roost for them to peck on—for the same reason.
Then I got out my shovel, dusted it off, sprayed it with cheap non-stick cooking spray and went to work (I keep the shovel in an outbuilding so that it stays cold).
With the shovel, I pushed the snow off of their ramp. The path to the coop was next and, when I was sure that the snow was done, I cleared a courtyard for the hens so they wouldn’t feel hemmed in. Our chickens can get under their coop, so I make their yard clear enough so that they can then get under it. Then, I put down some fresh hay or leaves.
The girls love to poke through this stuff and it entices them outside. The hay keeps their feet dry and hay generally contains some seeds that they like to nibble at as well.
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.
If we get a dusting of snow on top of the hay, I just lift up the hay over the snow. This way, the girls continue to go outside and are generally much happier than just being “cooped up.” Once again, happy chickens!