Come autumn and winter most back garden poultry keepers notice how damaged the ground can become where they keep their chickens and ducks.
Rain turns the grass into a mud bath and the cold nights then turn the mud bath into an ice rink, both of which end up with you flat on your bum with inquisitive birds staring down at you wondering why you haven’t fed them yet!
Winter Chickens in a Large Garden
There are of course solutions to the problems, and these depend on how much space you have got to keep your birds in. If you have a large garden that can be sectioned off, I would highly recommend you set this up and rotate your birds on a fortnightly or monthly basis giving the ground a chance to recover and to help avoid the muddy puddles chickens and ducks are so fond of creating.
Small Gardens and Chicken Runs in Winter
A lot of people, myself included, don’t have the space to rotate their birds or have a fixed run that cannot be relocated. It is also the case that by winter the chickens and ducks in a small garden have pretty much destroyed what was the lawn and this becomes the worse spot for mud baths.
If this is the case I would suggest that woodchip becomes your winter best friend in the garden. I put a 3-inch thick layer on what used to be my lawn (!) and in front of my coops or the same in a run if you have one and this stops the area turning to mud. The chippings can be washed down and raked over a couple of times a week to keep them evenly spread and free of droppings.
For fixed runs you may wish to consider plastic chippings which last for years and can be washed over and raked through without the need for replacement. If you do choose plastic chippings make sure your hygiene management is of a high standard to stop the area becoming over burdened with parasites from the droppings.
Another option in front of the coup is to put a pallet down as this will stand above the mud helping you keep your footing while cleaning out. Just remember that when the ground freezes over so will the pallet so take care as this can make it a little slippy, but not a slippy as frozen mud!
Winter Shelters for Poultry
Whether in garden large or small or a run chickens and ducks need shelter, especially in the winter. Make sure there are one or two spots that are sheltered from both wind and rain, perhaps using plastic sheeting or old fencing to section a dry area off for them.
Come springtime you could either rake up and compost the chippings and reseed the grass lawn (you would need to keep the birds off while it takes to seed or they will just gobble it up for you) or you could put down fresh chipping and choose to use this as a year round garden cover for the birds. I now choose to keep chipping down all year and replace them every 4-6 months as the girls love to dig in them and my garden is too small to successfully reseed the lawn without giving them too little space to roam.
Further Resources for Winter Chicken Keeping
This article is part one of a 3 part series on looking after your chickens and poultry in winter.
- The first part, Keeping Your Chickens Warm in Winter, discusses housing and has a number of tips for dealing with very cold weather.
- The second part, The Chicken’s Garden in Winter, covers ways to keep the garden in some sort of order during winter when the hens can turn it into a mud bath.
- The third part, What & How to Feed Chickens in Winter, covers how to ensure your poultry have enough of the right things to eat and drink in Winter.
More Articles on Keeping Chickens
- Chickens Illness & Problems
- Low Cost Hens – Finding Cheap Hens and Housing for them
- Starting Keeping Hens – A Basic Guide
- Chickens in Winter – The Garden
- Back Garden Chicken Keeping – Hens at Home in the Garden
- Low Cost Hens – Feeding Frugally
- Low Cost Chicken Coops – Budget Hen Houses
- Keeping Chickens on a Budget – Getting & Housing Your Hens
- Keeping Chickens on a Budget – Feeding, Watering & Protecting Your Hens
- Keeping Chickens Warm in Winter
- What to Feed Chickens in Winter
- Incubating Chickens & Ducks
- Keeping Chickens for Meat – Costs & Returns – The Economics
- Incubating Chickens & Ducks, Hatching, Sexing & Rearing
- Keeping Chickens for Meat, Table Birds Best Chicken Breeds
- Keeping Chickens for Meat – Raising & Feeding Table Birds