Prepping for Winter

Well, well, well, look who has showed up! FALL! Which means for us flock tenders we have to start the preparation for winter! From making sure we have a way to keep them warm, protecting their crops and feet, providing them with a healthy diet and making sure they will have plenty of snacks, now that the grass will be covered in snow soon!

Some states do not have to worry about the cold, but I am in Michigan and here we never truly know when it will snow or rain, basically our weather has a mind of its own and the weatherman/woman is never right (so funny…laughing out loud)! So where do we begin when fall comes? That is a good question. I tell people to start with heat, bulbs and heated water bowls or buckets, anything heat related.

If you are able to run an extension cord or have power in your coop many wonder, Do you want to provide a lamp? This is 100% your choice! You are the only one who understands your coop. On our farm, where the nest boxes are located inside, it’s heated with a heat bulb instead of a basic light bulb and it is insulated with power. My chickens live in the outside portion of the coop though (seriously such stinkers) so none of them care that heat is in there. They will always choose the outside. The outside is completely fenced off and roofed for winter because I don’t want them to only have an area with snow to run around in. I do allow mine almost every day, even in winter, to free range. They love playing in the snow. I will surely post some pictures this winter to show you! Eeee! It is ADORABLE!!

Back to what I was saying though, heat bulb or not, they should have a warmer space to get into and if your coop does not provide that, I have some ideas! To create a warmer space, you can add a denser bedding, such as straw. I do not recommend this in the same are you choose to hang a heat bulb, just because accidents can happen and fires can start very easily. To help insulate a lot of people will take a tarp (I recommend a vinyl tarp versus your average blue or black polyethylene tarps, these will last years rather than just one season) cover one side of their coop from top to bottom and use straw bales to stack up and create an insulated wall with it. This helps block wind and snow while creating a more winter proof living space.

BEFORE YOU BUY ANYTHING, BUY HEATED WATER BOWLS! I do NOT recommend buckets; I have had friends who lost some of their flock because they didn’t fill the bucket high enough and then hen fell in face first and could not get out and ended up drowning. So please avoid a regular bucket! I only say get a heated water bowl now, because when you want them while it is snowing, they are usually always out at supply stores.

I recommend:

  • Either a plug-in heated water bowl (do not keep in straw in case anything goes wrong with the cord, better to be safe then sorry!)

  • Rubber horse feeding bowls with a floating heater

  • These are great for chickens and ducks! If you choose to go larger like a short water trough for sheep or goats, it is not so as safe as you think for ducks. We had a duck last year jump into our water troth with the floating heater and tried to climb on it and knocked a wire loose on the top and it got electrocuted! So, lesson learned, we do smaller rubber bowls that they do not try to climb into! Or, simply add some reinforced electrical tape to the top of the heater where the wire goes in.


Once you have a way to block the wind and snow from your coop and provide clean, warm water for your flock then most of winter will be a breeze! I do have a few things that I do for my flock that I would like to share with you. Some people feel I do too much but I love my flock, they have saved me in a sense and have brought so much peace into my life when I didn’t feel like a person. Having 3 babies and going through post-partum depression can really get to a person, and my birds helped make me laugh, heard me cry, let my babies hand feed them, and help me teach how to be a loving pet owner to my children. They complete my world and I can not imagine a time when I didn’t have them. SO! I do like to go above and beyond to make them comfy!

When it gets very cold (below freezing at the end of the day), when my flock returns to the coop at night, I go in with Vaseline or coconut oil. I put it on their feet, crops and waddles to prevent frostbite. The coconut oil I like best because I can even rub it around their eyes, my hens truly appreciate this, ladies of all species like to try to avoid wrinkles! (hahaha that is just a joke, I am not going too crazy here, BUT it made u smirk!)

I love baking warm snacks for them, so taking seeds of any kind, I choose 4 kinds and mix them with some dried meal worms, molasses and peanut butter then bake in the oven at 300 degrees for 25 minutes. Some ovens take 35 minutes.

· 1 circle pan (like for cheesecake/pie)

· In large bowl mix

o 1 cup NatureServe Layer pellets

o 1 cup Sunflower seeds

o 1 cup Safflower seeds

o 1 cup of dried meal worms or cracked corn

o 1 cup Dried peas or pumpkin seeds

o 2 cups of molasses

o 2 cups of peanut butter

· Mix all ingredients well and then place into the pan

· Bake at 300 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes

· Let cool for 20 mins then take to the coop!

If you’re in a hurry, your chickens will surely love a hot feed drink, which is very easy! Get your goat’s milk (I purchase a fermented goat’s milk called ANSWERS from our local pet store) and NatureServe feed, then you’ll need:

· Large cooking bowl

· Some raw fermented goat’s milk, warmed up

· Some cinnamon, clove, nutmeg or a pumpkin spice

· In the large bowl, add 50% of the bowl size with your NatureServe Layer pellets

· Add the warm goat’s milk and spice and mix well

· Let sit while you get ready for the day

· When you leave, mix it up and take it outside and serve!


We do this for our barn cats as well, with no poultry feed though, just warm goat’s milk with some cinnamon. Everyone deserves a warm drink on an early winter morning!

You may feel I promote NatureServe in my blog because this is their page, but I have fed their food before ever writing blogs for them. I chose their food because it supported so much of what I was looking for in a feed: proper percentages for organ and body growth, support for their immune and respiratory system, and their feed SMELLS AMAZING!! So many companies’ feed smells like dirt or just old, but not NatureServe pellets. It seriously smells like soup or a rotisserie dinner. I love it!! I have great, bright orange egg yolks and strong egg shells, no issues with my hens not laying or being egg bound. It supports them where I am worried, sometimes free ranging can’t always. So, if you have not tried it, do it! You will love it and so will they!

One last thing that I started adding in the winter was a large dust bath area. I took an old wheel barrel that broke off the base and filled it with diatomaceous earth. Because we use a wood stove for the winter months, I add warm ash from our wood stove into the dust bath pile. The hens love it! They line up and usually 3 at a time can dust bathe, nothing feels better then some nice warm ash on a cold day when your outside 24-7.

I also like to sprout oat and sunflower seeds for them since the grass is gone, this is a fun snack for them. Beware, it is stinky, but they love it! Just soak seeds overnight, then rinse and drain, keep seed in an air available container and rinse daily to keep the seeds moist, and WOOWHOO, sprouted seeds full of amazing probiotics and gut health benefits! They sell sprouting kits online with jars and a cute stand on Amazon for very affordable. If you have kids or grandkids, it’s a cool science project to hand feed the poultry with!

I hope you loved these ideas! Please share them to your friends or send me pictures. I appreciate everyone who reads and follows them!


-Amanda B.

Published by Amanda B.

Our family homestead began 6 years ago when we decided to buy a home in the country in the beautiful state of Michigan. I was on a mission to have it all but no idea where to begin. So, our dream house found us! I know, I know, that doesn’t sound right, but it did! An older gentleman that shopped at our local pet food store had approached my family about having a home for sale and once we saw it, we knew there was no way we could get approved for the amount he was asking. BUT this man was an angel disguised as a human here on earth. We called him up and he met our daughter (my mother’s 1st of 3 grandbabies) and when I explained to him the sad news he simply said, “I have known your family for a long time, your mother worked at my kennel and holds a piece of my heart and I do not care how much you get approved for. I want that little girl (pointing to my dear Abby who was 6 months old) to have a forever home. When you get approved by a loan company come find me and buy my home.” With tears of joy and tears of so much weight being lifted off my shoulders I hugged him with the biggest and hardest hug I could gather up and we went through the home buying process. 6 years later, I am here in this very home to share my love for poultry and homesteading. That entire step of homesteading started with chickens! We have always been in love with animals and nutrition is my number one priority for my animals. My family’s business is Holistic Pet Store, feeding raw, dehydrated raw and the finest foods for pets and holistic and homeopathic supplements for people and pets. We take nutrition to a different level. So, finding a poultry feed that fit in was my task and I was up for the job. I of course brought in organic, soy free, and even things to add such a safflowers and sunflower seeds, but as my family grew, this $48 per bag of feed for 30+ poultry was not in the budget plan. We went from a family of 3 and a couple dogs and chickens to a family of 5, 4 dogs, 7 cats, 3 guinea pigs, 20 rabbits, 4 goats, 2 cows, 30+ chickens, 20+ ducks, 3 turkeys and 1 pig. So, I took my knowledge of feed and started fermenting everything. (I’ll explain this process to you soon in another blog post, it will blow your mind!!!) Every animal’s feed had been fermented and costs were minimized tremendously and it seemed as though nothing could go wrong…but it did. The Words that Changed Everything When Evie my 3rd beautiful baby girl came into our world, my job was on hold which meant my money used to pay for the animals’ feed was no longer available. Things became solely on my husband’s shoulders. He was prepared and had budgeted for most of it, but money just seemed to disappear. So, we did what it was time to do. We sent the cows for butcher and rented the goats out for parties and events, and cut costs where we could. Which sadly meant buying the cheapest feed. We did the usual big box store brands. We thought this cannot be too bad and everything will be fine. The first few months everything was okay but we slowly noticed our chickens lost their shiny feathers and softness. They even had weaker immune systems and we had lost chickens more than we ever had the years prior. We had no sign of Avian Influenza, but we had chickens dying at random moments for no reason. I truly felt it couldn’t get worse and then I started cracking eggs and the yolks were gray, the beautiful orange yolks dwindled to flavorless, bland grays and pale yellows. At this time, I felt like the odds were against us and was about to sell everything I owned and when I was able to work, I would start up with a new flock. The next day we had our wonderful truck driver from our distributor, John A. Van Den Bosch, come in. When I told him the news and was to my wits end, he said the magic words that changed everything, “Have you ever heard of NatureServe?” At first, I thought to myself maybe, then quickly realized I never had. He told me about the company and how Van Den Bosch carries them and that he truly feels it is the perfect fit for what I am looking for. When I looked them up, by golly-gee he was right! NatureServe was everything I was looking for, they used fermented probiotics and digestive enzymes and ESSENTIAL OILS. Combined, it was an immune system booster created by man with 100% of natures bounty. I was blown away. HOW DID I MISS THIS! I am sure if you are reading this you may think I am kind of crazy but let me fill you in on a life of one of my chickens. They receive fresh water every other day with essential oils in it to help prevent respiratory issues, as well as keep the immune system stable. They have free access 24/7 to almost 200 pounds of feed that is mixed with safflower and sunflower seeds. As a treat we chose fermented broccoli sprouts or flaxseed sprouts. They have almost 11 acres of grass and wild herbs and flowers to rummage through and a medium sized pond to find some yummy tadpoles, baby frogs, and crickets to eat. But when winter hit, it was fermented sprouts and feed they relied on the most. To find an affordable but not breaking the bank food that fit my lifestyle and ethics was hard until that magical day I was introduced to NatureServe. NatureServe is a company based on family and faith. They use the highest quality ingredients while going above and beyond with what they are putting in their feed. For example, they use: Fermented pre/probiotics and digestive enzymes to support your flock’s digestive tract Flaxseed for a safe form of Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber Alfalfa, THIS ONE I LOVE! Reduces seasonal depression in chickens, helps hens lay all winter or during a usual off season, and is an amazing protein source Diatomaceous Earth is a natural de-wormer, and with its main ingredient being silica it will help give your poultry a healthy heart Marigold may be the best ingredient added to this feed! Marigolds help the skin’s ability to heal faster as well as reduces eye infections from even starting. This flower is also a natural anti inflammatory which is wonderful for chickens that free range on several acres all day Oregano and Thyme to support immune system The feeds are produced through Belstra Milling in DeMotte, Indiana. With NatureServe’s ingredients being the safest and the healthiest, I know what I am putting into my flock is of the highest quality. After all, don’t we do this so we can feed our families the healthiest meat? As a homesteader we use the whole chicken. The chicken’s meat is for food, the bones and certain organs are used in stocks and broths. Why feed a food that is destroying an animal’s immune system when you can feed a layer that can excel your poultry’s life and not only improve their way of living but your own. What change came since being on NatureServe Stronger flocks Longer egg laying duration Strong shells No issues with blocked eggs or eggs breaking inside the chicken due to optimal nutrition Golden orange yolks Healthy chicks, poults, and ducklings Nutritionally satisfied poultry (no aggression due to lack of nutrition or hunger) Beyond beautiful feathers and colors I can’t wait to touch base on more topics with you! Keep your eyes peeled for more fun blogs by yours truly, Amanda B.