It’s fall, y’all….and that means you gotta make sure your backyard chickens are ready before the cold sets in. You need to know what to do in your coop in October!
I know in some parts of Canada (looking at you, Alberta) that it’s already snowing….but for most of the United States, it’s just starting to get cool. The really cold temperatures have not yet settled in.
And there’s lots you can do right now BOTH to celebrate the season AND prepare your flock for the upcoming wind and ice.
Although chickens weather winter pretty well in most locations (their feathers help!), just a few tweaks can mean an easier time when the cold weather mercury dips.
Even if you live in a temperate climate, there are ideas on this list to help your backyard chicken flock stay healthy year-round.
Fall is also the perfect time to explore some fun treat ideas, and we have the details! So read on!
Table of Contents (Quickly Jump To Information)
October Coop Checklist
1. Deep Clean
Now is the time to give your coop a final clean before the cold makes it miserable outside. You likely won’t want to clean it again (a deep clean at least) until the spring thaw.
In addition to sweeping out any old bedding, be sure to wash off any accumulated poop on or under roosting bars, and wipe down nesting boxes that might have bits of broken eggs or feathers lodged in them.
If you have a wooden or cement floor, give it a good wash to reduce the chances of ammonia buildup, which can affect your chickens’ lungs.
Put down a thick layer of fresh bedding to give them warmth.
Be sure to have feed closed up tightly to help prevent hungry rodents from inviting themselves in.
2. Keep Water From Freezing
Now is the time to figure out how you’ll keep water unfrozen in your chicken coop. Will you use heated bowls, solar energy, or add water throughout the day?
There are lots of options (you can view them in this article about keeping water from freezing). You’ll need to find one that works for your particular situation.
Remember, what works in Southern Missouri likely won’t work in Northern Dakota, right?
3. Go Pumpkin Shopping
This time of year, there are lots of pumpkins to buy. Don’t pay retail – wait until they go on sale and stock up for your backyard chickens.
Pumpkin is very healthy for chickens, with lots of vitamins and nutrients for chickens – and they love pecking at it! Plus it helps keep them from boredom.
Most stores start to discount pumpkins well before October 31.
Pumpkins keep for a while and stored in a cool, dry location, you can have healthy treats for your hens for the next month or two!
If you REALLY want to buy one now, you can make a cute coop decoration by carving out a pumpkin into a flower pot.
After a week, you can then feed it to your chickens! Just make sure you use flowers that aren’t poisonous.
4. Feather Loss Remedies
Yep, every fall, some or all of your chickens will lose their feathers due to molt.
It’s normal – and there’s something you can do to help regrow those feathers quickly!
5. Coop Security
While predators might leave your fluffy butts alone during summer, as the days get shorter and food becomes more scarce, they might turn an eye to your chickens.
Now is the time to check that your coop is completely secure and make adjustments as needed.
Make sure all doors and windows latch tightly, and upgrade the wiring around your coop if necessary. You don’t want predators to get OVER your coop walls or UNDER them!
Learn more about predators here!
6. Farmers Markets and Orchards
You can usually purchase seconds (bruised or unattractive fruit that’s still fresh and edible) for pennies on the dollar. They still make great treats for your fluffy butts!
Some great ideas for fruit and veggies to feed backyard chickens are peaches (without the pits), apples (without the seeds), and leafy greens!
You can also grow your own leafy greens over winter for your backyard chickens with this guide.
Your chickens may need some supplements to keep them healthy in the winter. As you know, they won’t be getting all the nutrients they are used to getting from so many bugs. If they are accustomed to being free-range they’ll be missing the bugs, and if they are coop dwellers they need help all year long.
Scratch grains and high protein treats and feed will also help increase your chicken’s body temperature (as they are digesting).
8. Ventilation and Drafts
This is a topic that requires careful balance. Your chickens need ventilation (fresh air), but they also need to be free of cold drafts (especially if there is moisture). Since no people have the exact same setup, it’s hard to tell you what you need to do (exactly).
Just keep this in mind and be sure your backyard buddies have some fresh air, but aren’t getting chilled and sick by moisture-filled drafts. Straw or wood shavings are always an easy standard when it comes to keeping a coop fresh and clean while helping chickens stay warm and draft-free.
The month of October is amazing and a time for celebration. The cooler weather, the bright colors, and the smell of pumpkin lattes. Let’s just not forget that our chickens need some extra care during this time. We all love our flocks and the better prepared we are, the better their Fall will be.
So lets get off our roosts and go clean that coop and do the other things we need to! Our chicken friends deserve it!
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.