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Reader Question: What’s the best strategy for winter time?

Chickens and kale from Joey L. at

Chickens and kale from Joey L. at

Colleen writes:

“my daughter has a gluten intolerance and we found that she cannot eat eggs. I have 1 hen and she and her mate wonder our two acres all day and eat bugs. Her egg yokes are a bright beautiful blood orange and I have just found out my daughter can eat these eggs. Since most hens eat grain it seems that free range is best for my daughter to eat. But I am not sure how to feed them over the winter months. any suggestions?”

Here’s my answer, it’s brief, but might provide some help:

Hello Colleen- I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s gluten intolerance, that can be challenging! I have read some about how omega-6 and omega-3 oil imbalances can come through in eggs, making it all the more pressing to re-orient the feed for chickens to something more “natural.” I don’t know where you live and what winter means for you. Where I live in Northern California winter just means rain and less sun, but not really that cold. We can maintain worm bins easily here, and have a large abundance of greens to feed the chickens.

Probably the easiest strategy is worms in a well insulated bin where you can dig some worms out and feed them to your chickens each day. Don’t clean the worms off, I think the residues are beneficial too. I would keep the proportion of high quality greens as high as possible, perhaps using sprouted radishes or something similar. If your chickens cannot go outside in the winter, I’d make extra sure that they have a large pile of bedding to work through. With a small flock it’s easier to get a big pile of bedding for them, but it’s a crucial strategy for everyone. The chickens will scratch through for bugs and ingest beneficial antibodies in the process. I’ve also been reading up on small-scale silage, which could be a useful technique for chickens, though I have not posted about that yet.

Let me know more questions, and I will answer as best I can. All the best, Christopher

This lovely blog has a nice post on what to feed chickens in the winter, it might be more appropriate to your climate than what we do here. The cool photo of the chickens eating kale in the snow is from them.

What strategies have you found that are helpful in the winter time? When it gets cold, how do you modify your chickens outdoor diet? Please answer in the comments and I will compile and post, thanks!

3 comments to Reader Question: What’s the best strategy for winter time?

  • My few thoughts on subject.

    If you got a bit of land you can plant some Chinese chestnuts (they are hardy up to zone 4-5) they are gluten free. Maybe walnuts can be good supplement to choks’ diet although omega 3 omega 6 balance would be a bit worse. So I think that proteins coming from worms, fat coming from flaxseed (you can feed chickens with flaxseed up to 5% of they caloric intake)and walnuts. Finally carbohydrates – main energy source coming from chestnuts. Also don’t forget you can feed them with food scraps.

    I hope that helped.

  • Cathi

    How many chickens can I fit into a 8X8 7ft high
    they are free range we have 15 acers and 24 chickens roam

  • Leela

    I’ve recently started sprouting grains and seeds for my hens. I am doing mostly hard red winter wheat and sunflower seeds (whole with shell) they absolutely LOVE the sprouts!
    I also grow flats of wheat grass for them in the winter. I am toying with the idea of creating a space in my small greenhouse for them to forage, get some sunshine and stay out of the inclement weather during the day. I just need to find a way to keep them away from the plastic of the greenhouse.
    I’ve put a raised bed made from Hugelkultur (see for description) It’s essentially logs, branches etc piled up with compost or soil on top. You can plant on it immediately. The heat from the composting wood etc will keep the bed pretty warm in freezing temps and also provide moisture in drought prone climates.
    I’m in NH.

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