How To Heat A Greenhouse In Winter

Wondering how to keep a greenhouse warm in winter without investing in electric or fuel-supplied heating systems?

Yes, it can be done. And without adding any more costs to your household budget. I mean, who needs another bill right? Right.

Now, you might be wondering why bother keeping your greenhouse warm during the frostier months anyway – why not just enjoy the season? Well, this girl likes her greens.

Ok, you caught me. I DO like greens, but I’m not a superfan. I like them…but more like sprouts on a sammich. NOT full blown salads. Unless they’re Southwestern salads. Then, bring on the arugula. ANYWAY, I like to keep growing over the winter because, well, I like to grow vegetables. Like any normal, sane person.

The other reason to keep a greenhouse warm in winter is because if you ARE growing anything, you’ll want to provide a healthier living environment for your vegetables, prevent cold spots, and reduce the risk of fungal diseases.

I have more readers growing crops in the winter, and naturally, a common question is how to heat a greenhouse in winter for free (which mean you can grow a wider variety of vegetables, too).

 
Wondering how to heat a greenhouse in winter? Here's 4 easy but genius ideas to heat a greenhouse without electricity! You can even heat a greenhouse with compost!

Understand the Basics of How to Keep a Greenhouse Warm in Winter

Before we delve into our ideas, let’s first establish some basics. In this season where temperatures can go unpredictably low, you can only do so much. In other words, don’t try to grow oranges in sub-zero weather. You won’t be successful, right?

So, let’s talk about some basics to help you run your greenhouse in winter.

  • Choose the right crops to grow for the season. Go for low-lying greens like kale, spinach, and mustard greens that can stand below-freezing temperatures
  • Invest in a good quality thermometer like this one that can read max and min temperatures throughout the day.
  • Only heat the areas necessary. Grouping plants together will help you save energy and cost.
  • Install proper ventilation to prevent the spread of fungal diseases and maintain a healthy growing greenhouse.

Here are 3 more effective strategies in controlling the temperature inside your structure without having to waste fuel or energy.

Store Thermal Energy Using Thermal Mass

Thermal mass heaters are the bee’s knees, and easy to incorporate into your greenhouse. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, thermal mass, sometimes called a heat sink, absorbs and stores solar heat energy.

This involves putting materials around your greenhouse that absorb heat from the sunlight during the day. These heat sinks are then capable of slowly releasing thermal energy at night time when the mercury drops like crazy.

Here are some effective methods to collect thermal mass:

Idea 1: Build a cobbled pathway across the floor of your greenhouse using dark gravel or small stones (you can reach out to a local nursery or a dealer that sells rocks for driveways).  These rocks naturally absorb heat – and the release of this heat keeps your plants warmer during the dark, cold hours of winter.

Idea 2: Since water has higher heat capacity than land or soil, try putting water or rain barrels around the interior of your greenhouse. Place dark barrels at a Southern-facing location, where they can easily absorb sunlight in the day. Make sure they’re also near tender plants that need more warmth at night

Idea 3: Use cinder blocks or earthenware ceramic pots to further absorb solar heat. They can be used to support planters on table-tops and benches, and they can release their heat around the plants (this is also a good idea to keep your chicken flock’s water from freezing over the winter).

Note: Painting these materials dark (i.e. black) helps absorb more thermal mass and one additional tip on how to keep a greenhouse warm in winter.

square foot gardening plant spacing

Build an Indoor Compost Pile

This is a genius idea that’s also one of the most sustainable techniques to keep your greenhouse warm this winter.  (Psst…it’s also cost-effective since you can build it nearly for free AND you won’t have to use power or fuel to heat your greenhouse. This is what we call Win-Win-Win.)

As the material in your pile composts, bacteria that break down organic material generate a considerable amount of heat to the environment. We cover compost piles in depth in Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Farming. Save 10% with coupon code GREENHOUSE right here.)

Insulate!

Insulation is another option to keep a greenhouse warm in the winter.  So what do I mean by insulate?

Well, you can insulate the entire greenhouse using plastic sheeting, OR you can add row covers (yes, row covers over crops inside your greenhouse) for added protection.

Plastic helps absorb more heat without keeping the sunlight away from your crops. Combined with the other ideas in this article, you have quite a few ways to keep a greenhouse warm in winter.

There are many other natural techniques for keeping your greenhouse thermally controlled throughout the year. In the most challenging seasons, let these suggestions guide you on how to heat a greenhouse in winter for free. You don’t have to do everything. You just need to find the right combination that will work best for your set-up.

square foot gardening plant spacing

5 Herbs Every Chicken Mama Needs This Winter

While there are a lot of herbs that are great for your backyard chickens, there are a few that are very important during the fall and winter months.

 

Their tiny bodies have to work hard to stay warm and healthy during the winter, and while a good layer feed is ALWAYS the basis of any healthy diet, you don’t need to stop there.

 

There’s herbs you can provide your chickens that’ll support healthy immune system functions – which is especially important when the mercury dips!

 

Here’s the top 5 herbs you should keep handy!

 

Oregano

Oregano is one of my favorite herbs for backyard chickens. It supports healthy immune systems, and hens love to GOBBLE down the little green flecks.

 

You can offer fresh or dried oregano – both are great – and you’ll want to use the leaves of the oregano plant. Mix with their feed, offer separately, OR make a “tea” by immersing them in water.

 

Whenever we have a chicken or duck that needs some extra TLC, I turn first to oregano!

 

You can find oregano for your chickens here: Oregano for Backyard Chickens

Echinacea

Without a doubt, you’ve heard of echinacea!

 

Echinacea has been used traditionally to support healthy immune system functions for centuries, and it’s a great herb for your chickens, too!

 

You can use the leaves or the roots of the echinacea plant – while the roots are more powerful, they’re also more expensive. Chickens love picking at the leaves!

 

It’s easiest to mix echinacea with their feed or use it as a top dress. If your chickens aren’t sure what to do, add an extra treat such as mealworms or dried river shrimp to the mix – your flock will quickly figure it out!

 

To make it easier for chicken owners to get echinacea, we’ve included it in my herbal blend StrongHen (TM). Wherever you buy echinacea, be sure it’s 100% pure!

 

 

Calendula

Calendula is not only good for giving your eggs the perfect golden yolk, but it’s also great to offer your hens during the winter months. In fact, it’s a bit of a “superherb” that’s used in traditional herbalism for many things: to support skin, immune system functions, healthy digestion, and more!

 

As a bonus, it smells DIVINE.

 

The beta carotenes that gives these flowers their pretty yellow petals are also super healthy nutrients for your hens. Calendula has some antimicrobial properties, and is packed with many other vitamins that will help your flock be healthier during the cold winter months.

 

Plus your hens will love picking at these pretty yellow flowers, so it’s a great winter boredom buster.

 

You’ll want to use the dried flowers and/or petals. You can add to feed, create a tea (it makes a pretty sweet tea), or add to nesting boxes.

 

Find calendula here: Calendula for Backyard Chickens

 

herbs for backyard chickens

Elder

Elder is packed full of immune support power for your chickens.

 

Elderberry has been used as a traditional herbal remedy for centuries and researchers are discovering that it’s a powerful herb for keeping chickens healthy!

 

In a 2014 study, researchers found that elderberry helped prevent Infections Bronchitis Virus in chickens (source).

 

For humans, elderberries and elder flower are used to support healthy immune functions. With chickens, you can use the berries and the flowers – hens love both!

 

While humans can use elder in a tincture, you’ll want to stick with dried or fresh berries and/or dried flowers. Particularly if you offer dried berries, add it to their feed – your hens will love to pick at their tiny dark treats!

 

In our herbal blend StrongHen (TM), you’ll find elderberries (along with most of the other herbs I mention in this list). It’s an easy and economical way to get all these herbs in one product.

 

Garlic

Not only is garlic perfect for adding flavor to your meals, but it’s also great for supporting the immune system of your backyard chickens!

 

Garlic has been traditionally used for generations to support healthy immune functions, and it’s no different for chickens! The allicin in garlic gives the herb it’s characteristic smell AND it’s where the power of the herb originates.

 

It’s easiest to offer garlic steeped in your flock’s water. You can use fresh or dried garlic – both are great!

 

You can find garlic for your flock here: Garlic

PCM StrongHen (TM)

My StrongHen herbal mix combines the powers of oregano, echinacea, garlic, elder, calendula, and other great herbs to keep your chicken’s immune system strong. This mix is perfect for fall and winter because it gives your chickens the immune boost they need to stay healthy!

You can find PCM StrongHen here: StrongHen

Have more questions about keeping your flock healthy in the winter? Check out these articles:

13 Chicken Feeder Ideas: No-Waste, PVC, & More!

If you’re raising backyard chickens, then you’ve likely also come across the pesky problem of raising mice and rats. A good quality feeder solves unwanted food freeloaders and keeps your feed fresh and bacteria free. In this article, you’ll find DIY chicken feeder ideas that’ll keep your coop a clean and happy place for your flock.

Rats and mice are a problem because not only do they eat your chickens’ food, they leave droppings, attack young chicks, and spread disease.

So, keeping them out and away from your flock is critical.

Let’s go over what you need to know, and how you can make your own DIY no waste chicken feeder.

(If you don’t want to make one, here’s the no waste chicken feeders I recommend. There’s links to different ones on Amazon and they’re all high quality and affordable).

What Can I Make A Chicken Feeder Out Of?

Anything can be a chicken feeder as long as it can be removed from the coop for cleaning and it holds food.

But if you’re here, you likely want something more sophisticated AND that’ll keep pests away from your chicken feed.

A bowl is great, but it won’t keep mice and rats out during winter, when they’re more likely to try to build nests in the nooks and crannies of your coop.

It’ll also attract ants, and give your flock a way to throw their feed everywhere – making clean up a nightmare.

So, let’s look at different DIY chicken feeder ideas that you can try at home!

List Of Possible Materials For A DIY Chicken Feeder:

  • Wood
  • PVC
  • Tupperware bins
  • Repurposed food-grade barrels
  • Metal
  • Rubber

The possibilities are really endless – this is just a brief list of possible materials. You might even have them on hand if you build your own chicken coop!


We’ve found it easiest to make a no waste feeder from PVC, from parts sourced at any hardware store. Another easy option are the repurposed food-grade barrels. (See our DIY horse feeder tutorial here – it can easily be adapted for poultry).

In my experience, these are the two simplest chicken feeder ideas to implement.

While wood seems like a good idea, and it’s readily available, it’s not very easy to clean, and it can harbor bacteria in the grain.

If you have access to welder (a simple one is around $100 at hardware stores), a metal chicken feeder is great also.

5 Gallon Bucket DIY Automatic Chicken Feeders

Making a DIY chicken water feeder out of a 5 gallon bucket takes just minutes. This one is my favorite!

While this video is about how to make an automatic chicken water feeder out of a 5 gallon bucket, this idea can very easily be adapted for feed.

It costs about $12, and will take 5 minutes of your time. 

Easy access to feed and water will improve egg production and lower the chances of your chickens developing bad habits like feather picking (which can easily be confused with chicken mites, so make sure they’re truly bored).

Click here for the tutorial for 5 gallon bucket automatic chicken feeder waterer

Here’s a second idea, using an an extra PVC component

 

Wood DIY Zero Waste Chicken Feeder

Wondering how to make a chicken feeder out of wood? This idea is good – but just note that it’s made out of wood. So, you’ll need to take extra care to clean it.

If you have wood hanging around, though, it’s very easy to make!

If I were to improve on it, I would add a second door at the bottom, so it can be shut at night to keep rodents out. (While chicken wire will keep most rodents out, keeping the feed closed at night will reduce the temptation to raid your coop, and reduce your mouse population.)

Get the tutorial here

Here’s a second idea that looks easy to execute

PVC Pipe Feeder

We recently built one of these for our chicken coop, and it’s an easy chicken feeder idea to execute.

You’ll need to decide whether you want to drill holes into a PVC pipe for individual feeding holes, or remove the top portion of the pipe for easy group access.

You’ll also need to make sure there’s enough holes for each chicken – so if you have a large flock, like I do, then making access as easy as possible will also make your life simpler.

PVC Feeder Idea #1 (group automatic feeder)

PVC chicken feeder idea

PVC Feeder Idea #2 here (multiple individual feeder holes)

PVC feeder idea #3 (single feeder hole)

DIY Rain Proof Chicken Feeder

If you want to locate your feeder outside the coop, then you’ll need to make sure it keeps the grain dry. Sometimes chickens can be picky about the texture of their feed, and might turn their beaks up at mushy mash.

Muddy feed also molds fast (and can shorten your backyard chickens’ lifespan) – so, it should always be a priority to ensure your chicken feeder keeps your flock’s food safe from the elements that could cause it to spoil.

The easiest way to execute this chicken feeder idea is to add a rain hood or cap onto a PVC feeder.

This idea is made from an old kitty litter bin. Just be sure to clean the bucket before using it (and clean the bucket more often than this author has)

Get the tutorial here

You can also try to make the PVC feeder below – this one has a rain hood you can find at any hardware store. The only caveat is that because of the rain hood, it can’t be closed – so rats can still get in.


However, it IS a no waste feeder. You will need to make multiple ones, however, if you have a larger flock.

Get the tutorial here

DIY No Waste Chicken Feeder Bin From A Tote

If you have a plastic tote (aka Tupperware bin) hanging around, you can make an easy no waste feeder from it. You’ll need to drill holes into it (2-3 inch holes) and add PVC pipes. You can use glue to hold the PVC in place.

It’s easy to clean, reduces food spoilage, and keeps your feed dry!

Get the tutorial here

DIY Hanging Automatic Feeder

DIY YouTube chicken feeders are easy to execute because you usually get step by step instructions. If you have a lot of time, and are handy, then this chicken feeder idea might be for you. Looking at the video, it feeds chickens a few grains at a time when they poke at a hanging element.

It’s clever, but I think it also can be improved upon. I personally would opt for one of the feeders above (but it might work well for your situation!), especially if you feed a mash (it looks like this will only work with pellets or a textured feed)

It’ll also certainly keep rats out of your food. For more intelligent and mischief-loving breeds, like Speckled Sussex, a feeder like this will entertain them for hours. 

DIY Baby Chick Feeder

For chicken feeder ideas for your chicks, here are some incredibly creative and simple chicken feeder ideas for you to try.

It’s always a good idea to keep plastic out of landfills! These look like they can me made in just a few minutes

I love how this one re-uses a yogurt container

Upcycled 2 liter soda bottle

DIY Chicken Feed Recipe

If you’re interested in feeding your chickens with organic and non-GMO feed that will keep them healthy and happy without costing you a lot of money then you’ll find this recipe helpful:

Get my best organic non-GMO chicken feed recipe here

Don’t want to make it yourself? You can buy my favorite 100% NON-GMO layer feed here

What Do You Feed Organic Chickens?

A high-quality layer feed with 16% protein and supplemented with nutrients is the best thing to feed backyard chickens. You can make your own feed using my layer feed recipe here, or find a high-quality non-GMO chicken feed here. You can also supplement their diet with table scraps, alternative chicken feeds like dried insects, and high quality chicken treats. It’s also critical to know what chickens can’t eat, like avocado and dried beans.

Here’s a brief table of what chickens can eat (not comprehensive):

FruitLegumesVegetablesSeedsProteinsDairy Grains
BerriesPeanutsSpinachSunflowerMealwormsMilkWheat
CantaloupeAlfalfa HayTomatoesFlaxBlack Soldier Fly LarvaeGreek Yogurt

 

(Plain)

Oats
WatermelonPeasSquash & PumpkinPumpkinDried River ShrimpCheeseRye
BananasCloverKaleHempEggsWheyMillet

You can also find a list of what chickens eat here.

Here’s a list of what chickens SHOULD NOT eat:

VegetablesFruitLegumesGrainsOther
Potato skinsAvocado skins & pitsDried beansDry riceSalt
OnionsApple seedsUncooked beans Chocolate
ChardsPeach pits  Lots of sugar
 Rhubarb leaves  Coffee

Should I Hang My Chicken Feeder?

Yes, hang the chicken feeder to keep vermin out of it and so your chickens don’t poop in their grain. Be sure to at an appropriate height – 8 to 12 inches off the ground is best. You can also hang it about the middle of your bird’s back, if you think 12 inches is too high. In addition, by hanging your chicken feeders, you prevent vermin and predators from getting to the food.

How High Should I Hang My Chicken Feeder?

8 to 12 inches off the ground is best. You can also hang it about the middle of your bird’s back, if you think 12 inches is too high. Remember that some chicken breeds like Silkies can’t fly, and Cochin bantams and Sebrights are very short, so make sure your feeder is at the right height for everyone to get a meal.

How Do I Keep Rats Out Of My Chicken Feeder?

To keep rats out of your feeder, you’ll need to use a feeder that closes. Also store food away, and make sure to clean up any spills as they are likely to attract unwanted guests. You can check out my automatic chicken feeder ideas here.

How to Stop Chickens From Picking On Each Other

Interested in learning how to stop chickens from picking on each other? You’ve come to the right place. 

If you have chickens, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed their not-so-nice feather pecking tendencies from time to time. 

While it would be nice to assume that animals are much kinder to each other than we as humans are to our fellow man, that is sadly not the case. In fact, chickens can be downright brutal to each other. 

The extent of the bullying and feather pecking can vary – while some flock owners only have to deal with a bit of feather pulling here or there, others have full-blown massacres on their hands as hens begin to kill each other without mercy. If you’ve begun to notice dead birds, damage to feathers, or injured chickens in your flock – or if egg laying has ceased as a result of the bullying – you will want to take action immediately.

Fortunately, there are several easy ways you can stop chickens from picking on each other and prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some tips.

How to Stop Chickens From Picking On Each Other: 10 Helpful Tips

free range chickens on a farm

1. Understand the Pecking Order

You won’t have much luck in dealing with bullying in your flock if you don’t know what’s causing it in the first place. 

While we’ll go on to discuss the potential causes of bullying in our next point, what you first need to have a clear understanding of is the pecking order. 

Each flock has its own unique natural pecking order that determines the relationships and social hierarchy within a flock. The most assertive, most dominant hen will naturally be at the top of the pecking order. In some unique circumstances, the dominant hen actually takes on rooster-like behaviors (this is common in flocks that are lacking a rooster). 

When left undisturbed, the pecking order usually remains unchanged. However, when the pecking order is undergoing some kind of transformation, you may notice excessive bullying behavior in your flock. If a hen wishes to rise to the top, she will act more aggressively with the other flock members as she challenges the more dominant birds. 

From the outside, this behavior might seem negative, but it’s entirely natural. If you think it’s a pecking order shift that’s causing your hens to pick on each other and cause serious damage to feathers, don’t worry – there’s not much you need to do (or should do) to intervene. Just let the shuffle run its course. 

2. Evaluate the Potential Causes of Bullying 

Besides changes to the pecking order, there are four main causes of bullying in a flock: stress, sickness, overcrowding, and boredom. 

Take a careful look at your free range flock to help you determine which of these issues might be causing the bullying behavior and damage to feathers among your girls. In most cases, they can easily be identified and addressed as they occur. 

Stress is one of the most common causes of bullying, and unfortunately, it can also be one of the most difficult to pinpoint and eliminate. As with people, there are all kinds of things that can cause chickens stress and lead to feather pecking. From poor weather to predator threats and everything in between, it can be tough to narrow down the list of culprits.

However, do what you can to keep your chickens happy and healthy. We’ll talk more in the next point about how to boost the health of your flock, but it’s also important to make them feel safe. Make sure your coop and run are secure and comfortable and you’ll likely notice bullying incidences as a result. 

3. Boost Flock Health

Think about the last time you had a cold. You probably weren’t very friendly, were you?

That’s why it’s so important to keep your backyard flock healthy when you’re trying to prevent bullying. If your chickens aren’t healthy, they aren’t going to be very amicable toward each other. Not only that, but chickens intuitively know when one of their own is ill. Although this isn’t of course a factor in their current environment, in the wild, chickens would drive out sick, weak members from the flock because she would become a liability for the other chickens. 

Therefore, you will want to make sure you keep your free range chickens as healthy as possible. Make sure they are vaccinated (if necessary) and kept up to date with dewormers (even if you are using natural methods to keep parasites at bay). Keep the coop clean to prevent mites and lice, too, which will help prevent bullying in the flock.

As a side note – sometimes, chickens will bully each other when they notice that one has any severe damage, like bloody or raw areas showing on its skin. You can often prevent these sorts of situations by making sure your chickens have dust baths (which will limit the occurrence of external parasites) but if you happen to notice red or raw spots on your chickens’ skin, apply a liquid bandage like Blu-Kote to remove the temptation to peck and pick for the others.

4. Provide Entertainment

Boredom is one of the most common causes of aggression in a flock. You might notice that this becomes an issue if your chickens have been stuck inside all winter or if you keep your chickens in a confinement setting. When chickens can’t get outdoors to be chickens they are naturally going to become more aggressive toward each other. 

If you can, introduce a few boredom busters to the coop. A bit of scratch grain, like our non-GMO blend, goes a long way, as do chicken toys like swings and hanging heads of lettuce.

It is also a good idea to make sure your chickens have access to enough hours per day of bright light. Sometimes free range chickens engage in more feather picking when they are deprived of natural sunlight. While you don’t need to introduce excessive light or a heat source to the chicken coop,  an ample supply of light (red light is best) can be helpful.

You may also want to add some relaxing herbs, like these, to your nesting boxes. This may help calm down broody hens and make egg laying a bit less stressful for everyone!

5. Introduce New Birds at the Right Time

If you plan on adding new chickens to the coop, don’t do so willy nilly. Ideally, all of your flock mates should be around the same age – when they grow up together, the pecking order will be established more naturally and you shouldn’t have to worry about bullying later on.

However, if you must introduce new chickens later on, do so with caution. The best way to introduce new birds is to put them in the coop at night, when all the flock mates are sleepy and on the roost. Although the birds will notice each other in the morning, they’ll be much less likely to be aggressive (although you can expect some shenanigans as the pecking order gets sorted out). 

Make sure there is plenty of space in your chicken coop, too. You need at least eight square feet per bird along with ample opportunities for dust bathing, nest boxes, and adequate feeder space. This (especially extra nesting boxes) can prevent aggressive pecking later on – and avoid dead birds in the future!

Another tip – if you are introducing chickens that look dramatically different than those in your existing flock (for example, if you are adding a White Leghorn to a flock of New Hampshire) you may want to introduce more than one of that breed. Chickens will often engage in feather pecking when there are others who look different, and there’s safety in numbers. 

6. Isolate (or Distract)  the Bully 

Sometimes, you may have no other choice than to isolate the bully who is being aggressive. This will be easiest if you’ve been able to pinpoint the main perpetrator in your flock – sometimes, that’s easier said than done. If you aren’t sure which chicken is to blame, hold off. Otherwise, you can remove the “mean” chicken and put her in a separate location. While she’s gone, the pecking order should re-establish itself, and she’ll likely be a bit calmer upon her return.

Another thing you can do is to distract the bully. You can squirt her with a hose, toss rocks in her direction, or any other safe techniques when she starts up with her nonsense. Of course, you’ll have to actually witness the bullying behavior for this to be effective, so that can be limiting in and of itself. 

7. Prevent and Eliminate Overcrowding 

If you’ve ever ridden a subway in New York City, you probably know how stressful it can be to be packed shoulder to shoulder with other people. The same goes for chickens that are jammed tight into a coop. Make sure your chickens have some wiggle room, which will help them feel a bit more comfortable and less willing to fight with each other. 

Often, adding some additional feed (this herbal chicken feed for layers is a great option!) or making sure there is adequate space in your housing systems is all it takes to improve the appearance of feathers and enhance your chickens’ overall well-being after a period of feather pecking.

8. Maintain the Right Hen-to-Rooster Ratio

Most of the tips in this article have to do with bully hens, but it’s certainly not uncommon for roosters to be aggressive, too. Most of the time, an aggressive rooster can be attributed to a poor hen-per-rooster ratio.  You should aim for no more than one rooster for every five hens. That way, you won’t notice roosters fighting over hens and the hens won’t feel targeted by the rooster as he goes about his “courting” behaviors.

9. Chicken Glasses?

One unique solution to stop chickens from picking on each other is to use chicken glasses, also known as pinless peepers. Although some chicken keepers claim that this technology is nothing more than a gimmick, others swear by it. Chicken glasses prevent chickens from seeing what is directly in front of them. While wearing the glasses, a hen can see to the sides, but she can’t see facing forward, which can help prevent aggressive chickens from pecking behavior and picking at the feathers of other chickens. 

10. Remain Attentive 

The best tip for stopping chickens from feather picking is to remain attentive and vigilant at all times. 

It can be tough to identify what’s causing the aggression in your flock – as well as who is inflicting it – but following these steps and paying attention to your flock’s dynamics can be hugely beneficial as you try to keep your flock safe and happy. 

How to Help Chickens Injured From Bullying

How do you know when too much pecking becomes a problem? If your chickens have been injured from this, chances are, it’s time to intervene.

Once you’ve followed some of the tips above and removed the bully, you may need to isolate the injured bird from your flock. An “over-pecked” chicken may have injuries that attract and entice other chickens to peck. This can lead to greater injuries over time.

For minor injuries, remove the injured bird and spray the wound with Blu-Kote or a similar type of animal-specific liquid bandage. Return the chicken to the flock as soon as possible, ideally once you’ve been able to stop the bleeding and cover up the wound. You don’t want to keep your chicken away from the rest of the flock for too long, as this can lead to greater bullying later on.

However, for more extensive injuries, you may need to call in a vet for help.

How To Stop Chickens from Pecking Each Other

Do a quick Google search for the topic, and you’ll find all kinds of “home remedies” designed to stop chickens from bullying each other. Some people swear by things like vinegar – but if you’re wondering if vinegar will help keep your chickens from pecking at each other, you may want to keep moving. Others will recommend more intensive, risky procedures like beak trimming, but usually, this is not necessary.

Ultimately, the only way to stop chickens from feather pecking each other is to figure out the root cause behind the behavior – and actively work to stop it. While a bit of feather loss here and there is nothing to worry about, you should take more precautions if you have noticed victims of cannibalism and excessive feather pecking.

Over time, you should be able to put an end to this nasty behavior – just be vigilant!

Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens , the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry , and Countryside Magazine . She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.

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Why Are My Chicken’s Feathers Falling Out?

Why are my chicken’s feathers falling out?!?!? This is one of the biggest questions I get from concerned new chicken owners.

 

There are many reasons why your chicken’s feathers might be falling out. I’ll go through some of the main ones today and give you tips on what you should do.

 

The top reasons chickens lose feathers are:

  1. Molting
  2. Not enough protein
  3. Self-inflicted from stress
  4. Broodiness
  5. Picking by bullies
  6. Mites and lice
  7. Vent gleet
  8. Overmating by roosters

 

Molting

So, chickens molt. And it’s a very common reason why chickens lose feathers.

 

In case you don’t know, molting is when chickens lose feathers and then those feathers are replaced by new ones.

 

And luckily, it’s a natural and totally normal process. (Ducks molt, too!) that happens more or less once a year (normally in the fall), and it can be ugly. (Not always, but sometimes you’ll wonder what happened to your once beautiful hens!)

 

I love chickens, but they just aren’t that good looking when they’re going through a rough molt. It’s messy, ugly, and a little bit uncomfortable as the feathers grow back.

 

The molting process can be scary for first time chicken owners, but realize that your chickens losing their feathers in a molt is a normal process.

 

If you want, you can feed them a high protein treat (like BEE A Happy Hen, which we sell in the store) to help them stay healthy and regrow their feathers.

 


Freaked out over feather loss?

 

Not enough protein

Another reason your chickens could be losing their feathers is because they aren’t getting enough protein. This can happen if you’re feeding your chickens scratch or letting them forage for their food

 

Even if you allow your chickens to roam around the yard and they’re finding and eating bugs as they do so, you need to make sure that you are also providing them with access to feed that is nutritionally balanced and has the appropriate amount of protein.

 

If your chickens start losing their feathers without an explanation (such as molting), then evaluate their diet and feed that you are providing.

black soldier fly larvae backyard chicken treat

What to do:

Provide more protein!!! Start incorporating black soldier fly larvae (we sell them in the store right here – use coupon code FEATHERS to save 10%) or mealworms (use coupon code FEATHERS to save 10%) into your chickens diet – you can mix it with their feed or give it as a treat (we have lots of treats in the store with dried insects for just this reason!).

 

Plus chickens LOVE them  (like….really love them, LOL!) so they will eat it happily! If you want to raise them yourself, it’s easy to start a mealworm or black soldier fly larvae farm

 

Self-inflicted picking or picking by other chickens

One reason your chickens might lose their feathers is from picking, which is usually caused by environmental stress such as over crowding or bullying. Think of it as a reaction to anxiety.

 

Bullying among chickens CAN happen (personally, we’ve been lucky and not experienced this in our coop, but yours might have an alpha hen who picks on a more subservient hen).

 

Every coop has a social order and particularly if the flock as a whole is stressed or the “picked on” hen is new, chickens will sometimes peck the victim until she’s lost her feathers.

 

Or your chickens could also be stressed and so they begin picking feathers of other hens in the coop to deal with that stress.

 

What to do:

The simplest thing to do in this case is figure out why your chickens are stressed and try to remove the problem. If they’re over crowded (10 square feet per chicken in a coop is a good guideline), then give them more room.

 

If they’re bored, then provide environmental enrichment such as treats they have to “hunt” for, swings, branches for them to fly up to (this can also give them more room), places to hide, etc.

 

One popular idea is to put a treat such as cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, or cucumbers on a string and allow your flock to peck at it.

 

If your flock has a bully, then you can remove the bullied chicken from the coop and isolate her from the flock (give her a friend since 2 chickens together are likely to bond since they only have each other for company). You can then try to reintroduce everyone a few days later or continue to keep them separate.

 

If your chickens lose feathers still, then you should figure out if the problem is something else.

 

Broodiness

Chicken’s may also be picking their feathers due to broodiness. Some chickens get broody (i.e they really want their eggs to hatch) and so they’ll sit on their eggs for long periods of time and often pick their own feathers and lay them around their eggs for warmth.

 

If you want your hen to hatch the eggs, then let her do it, and understand she’ll stop picking her feathers after the chicks hatch.

 

If you don’t want her to hatch chicks, then break her broodiness. She should stop losing feathers because she’ll stop picking at herself.

 

Mites & Lice

Yuck. I hate lice and chicken mites, and they can definitely cause your chickens to lose feathers. Now, you might say “I don’t see any mites on my chickens” and assume the issue is something else.

 

I hear this a LOT from chicken owners trying to figure out feather loss. Even though you might not see mites on your chickens, they can still be the source of your trouble.

 

Mites are sneaky. They hide in corners of your coop and then come out at night and infest your flock. And eventually, they can cause more than feather loss – they can cause your chickens to lose the scales on their legs and eventually death as they rob your hens of nutrients.

Chicken losing feathers completely? Here's what to do!

What to do:

Even if you don’t think mites are why your chickens are losing feathers, you can still preemptively clean your coop and use herbs such as peppermint and cinnamon and diatomaceous earth to keep mites and lice away.

 

If you don’t know, diatomaceous earth is a powder that your chickens can bathe in. It has been shown in scientific studies to reduce the number of mites and lice in chickens because it’s sharp edges cut the exoskeletons of insects, causing them to die.

 

However, I highly recommend that you only use DE in well ventilated areas, and keep your flock out of the coop while you’re spreading it about (a little goes a long way)! Chickens have a very delicate respiratory system, so you want to be careful that they don’t inhale it on a regular basis.

 

If you don’t want to bother with DE, you can just use herbs. Mint repels insects, so hanging peppermint around the coop or nesting box is a great way to get rid of or prevent a mite infestation.

 

Another option is to provide garlic for your flock (we sell shelf-stable garlic granules in the store, which I’ve found hens prefer over fresh garlic). Because of the spicy nature of garlic, it repels external parasites (and it’ll help your flock’s immune system as well!)

 

Vent gleet

Another reason your chickens could be losing their feathers is vent gleet, which is a fungal infection in the vent (where your chicken expels waste and eggs) and it can cause some pretty nasty whitish/yellowish discharge along with a loss of feathers.

 

Think of it like a yeast infection. It’s gross and it’s definitely not good for your chicken!

 

What to do:

If you think your chicken has vent gleet, then the best thing to do is take her to the vet, who can give you medications or make recommendations for all natural solutions.

 

One way you can help prevent vent gleet is to ensure your chickens have good gut health! You can do this by adding some apple cider vinegar (about a tablespoon per gallon) to your chicken’s water. We sell apple cider vinegar granules in the store – they’re shelf stable and easy to add to water or feed.

 

 

Rowdy roosters 

So roosters like to mate. A LOT. It’s normal and part of a flock’s social dynamics. If you notice your hens are losing feathers on their back (and only their back) and you have a rooster, you can be pretty sure the issue is overmating.

 

This isn’t to be taken lightly – I’ve seen cases where roosters were overmating hens to the point where the hens lost not just their feathers, but the skin on their chests – which, of course, is a much bigger issue than losing feathers. 

 

In summer, this can end in a bad case of fly strike, and you might have to put your hen down if it’s bad enough.

 

Fly strike is notoriously difficult to get rid of, and treatment – which consists of picking maggots off your hen’s body and removing dead tissue – is painful and difficult, and a lot of animals simply die of shock).

 

Roosters stand on top of hens backs while they are mating and they can cut your hens or cause them to lose feathers.

 

If this happens you might need to separate the roosters from your hens to keep your girls safe. If the issue is only feather loss (and not skin loss), you can also use a chicken saddle, which will cover the bald area.

 

If you have multiple roosters and see them excessively bickering over the hens, then it’s time to either give each rooster his own flock of hens, or re-home one of the roosters.

 

If you have multiple roosters and notice one rooster is losing feathers on his back, then it’s time to separate him from his “prison buddy” if you get my drift. (Yes, this is a real thing that can happen because it’s about social dominance and their pecking order).