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Unprotected Poultry: the Hidden Dangers Of Shelterless Backyard Chickens

By Tom Seest

Are Your Backyard Chickens Safe Without Shelter?

At BackyardChickenNews, we help people who want to raise backyard chickens by collating information and news blended with our own personal experiences.

Chickens dislike being wet and would much rather be inside during rain. They also tend to have a harder time maneuvering in windy conditions and need a safe place to stay. A coop or run will provide them with shelter and make catching them much easier. Chickens are also prone to diseases, so keeping them protected from predators is essential.

Are Your Backyard Chickens Safe Without Shelter?

Are Your Backyard Chickens Safe Without Shelter?

Surviving the Cold: How Do Backyard Chickens Weather Winter?

Chickens are natural outdoor dwellers, so if you’re planning to keep them outside during the winter months, you can do so. Make sure your chicken coop is dry and well-ventilated, and provide extra feed. During the cold months, chickens’ internal body temperatures are higher, and they need extra food to stay healthy.
The biggest threat to your chickens during the winter is dampness. Wet feathers don’t insulate well, and the combination of wet and cold can cause frostbite. Chickens also tend to produce more ammonia, which is bad for their health. Additionally, their droppings can lead to a buildup of moisture. This can cause mold, spores, and respiratory problems.
Although chickens aren’t fond of snow, they’ll happily venture out of their coops if you shovel or clear the run. Fortunately, some chickens don’t mind walking through a little snow, and most won’t even mind a little bit of rain. You should avoid forcing them to go out, though – leave the door to the protected run open for them to choose where to spend time.
Although it is not recommended for chickens to stay outside during the winter months, some chickens may suffer from frostbite, which can cause them to die in the cold. To protect your chickens from this, you can keep their coops well-ventilated with hay or straw and apply petroleum jelly on their combs and wattles. For small flocks, you can also scatter some straw on their run to protect their feet from snow and other elements.
Although it’s tempting to use sweaters and other winter clothing to protect your hens from the cold, it doesn’t help the average chicken. Aside from being inconvenient for humans, they also don’t contribute to your chicken’s health and well-being. If you can afford it, a cozy indoor dog crate might be more appropriate.
Chickens need food during wintertime, and supplemental feed is the best way to provide them with the nutrients they need to survive the cold. It’s important to make sure that they have a consistent supply of feed and water throughout the day. It’s also vital to keep your chickens healthy and warm.

Surviving the Cold: How Do Backyard Chickens Weather Winter?

Surviving the Cold: How Do Backyard Chickens Weather Winter?

Is a Coop or Run Essential for Your Backyard Chickens?

Chickens need plenty of space. Cramping in an unsuitable coop can cause pecking, aggression, and boredom, which in turn will affect the health of your chickens. A coop should have at least 1 square meter of space per bird, and a run should have about twice that much. Chickens that live in cramped quarters are also more likely to suffer from diseases and pests.
You can create a coop with sturdy materials or use additional fencing and corrugated panels. You can also use industrial netting to cover the roof of the coop. Chickens are sensitive to heat, so you need to provide a way for them to cool down. One way to do this is to put the coop under a large tree. Aside from providing shade, trees can also provide dust baths and provide shelter from the wind.
Besides a coop, you will also need laying boxes, fencing, and a covered area. You can build this area in a garage or porch if you have the space. The chickens will need a clean place to scratch and make dust baths.
The size of your chicken coop and run depends on how many chickens you want to keep. A good rule of thumb is two to three square feet per chicken inside the coop. An outdoor run should be a minimum of 8 to 10 square feet. The more space you can give your chickens, the happier they will be.
Chickens also need a place to stay away from the weather. During the day, they need food and water. When the weather turns cold or rainy, chickens will seek shelter in a sheltered area. In winter, they will huddle together for warmth.
Free-range chickens need an area to stretch, dust, bathe, and forage. This space is usually attached to the coop. However, if you live in a small suburban area, it will be impossible to let your chicken’s free-range. In this case, you may want to consider a run, which will give them a secure place to rest and live.

Is a Coop or Run Essential for Your Backyard Chickens?

Is a Coop or Run Essential for Your Backyard Chickens?

Can Your Backyard Chickens Survive Without Shelter?

Chickens can contract many different types of diseases, and the severity of the illness depends on the particular cause. The most common diseases in backyard chickens are parasites, which are often caused by dirty coops or secondhand chicken feed. Parasitic infections usually cause feather loss, skin irritation, lethargy, and lack of appetite and can be treated with antiparasitic medications.
Despite this, some diseases are more contagious than others. The infectious coryza virus, for example, can spread through a flock, and its symptoms vary from case to case. It is transmitted by fecal matter, airborne particulate matter, and fomites. Treatment usually involves antibiotics and disinfection of the affected flock. Vaccines are rarely recommended for backyard flocks, although they can be administered to prevent the spread of disease.
Some diseases are caused by specific bacteria, which can be transmitted to chickens. In the United States, campylobacter is responsible for fifty percent of all cases of enteritis. It can be spread by contaminated feed, hand-to-mouth contact with children, and large industrial chicken houses. Chickens that have contracted this disease will usually show signs of diarrhea and lethargy and may also exhibit fever. In humans, those infected with this disease usually need rehydration. Some victims of the disease may even require hospitalization.
Coccidian disease is another disease that chickens can contract. The symptoms of this disease usually include bloody diarrhea and unthriftiness. Although older chickens are less likely to display clinical symptoms, they are still carriers and can infect young chickens. Coccidian disease is a serious issue in chickens and can result in death.
The most common infection associated with backyard chickens is Salmonella. This bacteria lives in chickens’ intestines and often carries symptoms without warning. Chickens also carry the bacteria on their feathers and in their surroundings. This bacteria is easily transmitted to humans by touching poultry or touching the eggs.
Marek’s disease is another disease that can occur in backyard chickens. This disease attacks chickens between the ages of twelve and twenty-five weeks. Chickens with this disease can develop tumors, have irregularly-shaped eyes, or even die.

Can Your Backyard Chickens Survive Without Shelter?

Can Your Backyard Chickens Survive Without Shelter?

Who’s Watching Out for Your Backyard Chickens?

A large number of predators can attack backyard chickens, including foxes, coyotes, and bobcats. Even smaller predators can make the birds’ lives a misery. Some predators are active during the day, while others are active at night. It’s important to protect your flock from these creatures by taking precautions.
The best way to protect your chickens from predators is to make sure they’re locked in at night. You can also install a trail camera that can help you determine which predators are lurking nearby. Also, keep the coop securely shut and make sure that no holes are present. This will prevent a predator from gaining access to the coop and killing your entire flock.
Predators can also be deterred by installing a guardian dog to watch over the flock. However, a guardian dog must be accompanied by its flock at all times. Other measures that can be taken include contacting federal and state wildlife services. These agencies can identify and prevent predators of poultry and offer assistance in killing them.
The perimeter of your coop should be well-fenced to prevent predators from entering. You can also add motion-sensor lights to the coop at night to deter predators. Another option is to install an electric fence around the perimeter of the yard. This type of fence is inexpensive and easy to install. It may deter larger predators and keep your chickens safe.
Raccoons are another common threat to backyard poultry. These animals attack chickens and steal their eggs. They also tear the bird’s breast and crop, and often consume the entrails. They also eat the eggs from the nests. Raccoons can be found in urban areas, and may be attracted to backyard poultry flocks.
Predators can be local or nationwide. It’s important to know the predators in your area and be prepared to use common sense. It’s important to keep your chickens locked in at night.

Who's Watching Out for Your Backyard Chickens?

Who’s Watching Out for Your Backyard Chickens?

Be sure to read our other related stories at BackyardChickenNews to learn more about raising chickens in your backyard.


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