As the wind cools and the pumpkins start to smile, you know that winter is coming. Time to prep for the cold weather months.
Fortunately, getting your waterfowl ready for winter is much easier than prepping chickens. Unlike chickens, waterfowl are winter hardy. This does not mean that they don't need some additional help though.
The requirement for insulation depends on your location. Most waterfowl coops do not need insulation unless your winter nights frequently get down to 15 degrees Farenheit or less. Otherwise your birds just need a shed that has plenty of bedding and protection from winds. Heating is only required to keep temperatures above 0 degrees.
While it is easy to go overboard and make the coop air-tight, you want to make sure that there is adequate ventilation. Moisture from body heat and runoff from the snow is far more dangerous to your birds than the cold weather as it can invite mildew and bacteria. If you can smell ammonia in your pen, it does not have adequate ventilation.
Visit our Ammonia page for more information.
For really cold areas, an extra layer or two of bedding in the coop will help to keep your birds toasty at night. Duck farmers in Poland, for instance, rely on a deep layer of bedding as it adds heat as it slowly composts. Remember to add more bedding as it becomes dirty.
Water and Feed
All animals need a source of drinking water. If you have extremely cold weather, you need to provide drinking water every day or keep your waterer from freezing.
Make sure you protect their feed from rain and snow. Otherwise the moisture may spoil the feed and cause illness in your birds.
For some fun with their food, try hanging a head of cabbage or ball of alfalfa with wire. Do not use sting or twine as they will attempt to eat it. They'll have fun pecking at the vegetables or hay
while having a nice treat.
As mentioned above, waterfowl are very winter hardy. Their down, the same stuff used in our pillows and comforters, keep them warm. If their feet become too cold, they'll sit and bring their legs up close to their body to keep warm. Normally ducks would rather spend their day out in the snow than inside. You will be amazed at the amount of time they will spend out in the snow.
Ducks and geese can get bored – especially if they are kept inside during extremely cold weather. With snow covering their usual play area and most of the foliage dead, there isn't much for them to do. Solve this by placing a pile of hay in their coop or any play toys like a hanging ball that they can investigate. The hay will give them an extra layer of insulation while giving them something to play with and eat. Get creative!
The winter months are a prime time for predators to try for your birds as there are fewer wild animals for them to hunt. Check the fencing of your run and repair as needed. If you do not have a top on your run to protect from air attacks, try to provide cover. Bushes and even picnic tables work great. Keep access to the coop available at all times during the winter.
The best thing to do during the winter months is to keep an eye on your birds and adapt as you go along. If you find it is too cold in the coop, take measures to warm it up. If the feed is spoiling, find a way to keep it dry. Don’t worry! Winter does not last forever and taking measures to protect your birds will make the time both pleasant and quicker.