Seasonal variations occur in many locations, affecting all living creatures, including chickens. These months of fluctuating weather conditions make birds more sensitive and vulnerable to a variety of factors.
To keep our birds healthy and comfortable throughout the year, we must be aware of what each weather brings with it as well as how to best support our birds throughout it.
tl;dr version of the article in three bullet points below :)
1) Rainy weather – pay attention to the bodies of stagnant water which can result in pathogen infection.
2) Cold weather – while chickens are quite resilient to low temperatures, weather below freezing will need some sort of heating setup in your coop. Shorter days may also impact egg production negatively.
3) Hot weather – ensure plentiful cold water and even frozen treats for birds to refresh themselves as well as a cool place in a shade where they can spend their day.
Rainy weather brings with it a great shift in birds’ eating pattern as temperature cools down. The birds usually prefer to remain hidden during this season as they will be trying to avoid the rain. The most critical thing to be on the lookout for is that your birds may encounter bodies of stagnant water which could be harmful if ingested. This is because drinking stagnant water can result in pathogen infection.
The best thing to do during rainy weather is to keep your birds away from the rain in a sheltered area and ensure to clean up any stagnant water that might have accumulated from the rain.
What we consider to be cold weather may not be so for chickens. Chickens are fairly resilient to cold as long as we are talking about temperatures above freezing. Anything beyond that means that you need to invest in a solution to ensure comfortable temperature is maintained in your coop and there are plenty of heaters that can help you to achieve this.
Both the low temperatures and shorter days coupled together may cause your chickens to produce less eggs so providing them with essential nutrients and adequately warm shelter will help to address this problem.
Chickens, just like us, can get more easily agitated during hot weather so don't stress your birds too much :) Unfortunately hot weather is the time during which lice and mites strive and they can pose a threat to your birds.
The things you can do are to ensure your chickens have a place to wash and cool down and provide them with plenty of water bowls refilled regularly. For mice and lice, you may increase the frequency of coop washing as well as add some garlic to your birds diet in an effort to avoid your birds being attracted by these parasites.
What You Can Do Outside of Seasonal and Weather Extremes?
Spring tends to be the most pleasant season for your birds, a season when both your birds and your garden is thriving. This is also the season which marks the best time to hatch and raise chickens as the temperature is just how it should be. When the days lengthen again in the spring, chicken production will increase compared to the dark winter days. Since the weather is considered ideal not just for chickens but for us as well, it also makes for a good time to do some work in the garden, as well as to clean up the mess that autumn and winter have left behind, with no distractions such as falling leaves or rain pouring into your backyard.
However, it is also the season for your flocks to suffer from broodiness. So try to get them out of their nesting boxes as much as possible and ensure they get more light to help end the bad case of broodiness.
Each weather and season bring with it a set of unique challenges and things to look out for. To keep your flock healthy and comfortable throughout the year, be aware of all seasonal situations and keep observing them for any unexpected behavior. They, too, have their mood swings which are both hormonal and affected by weather. Your birds will go through various challenges and behavioral changes, and while we most of us are not trained psychiatrists, you are likely going to be able to help support them through these different phases.