Izy Hossack is a London based chef and baker, food stylist and food photographer, as well as author of the books Top with Cinnamon and The Savvy Cook. Izy has created two deliciously festive recipes for the Omlet Advent Calendar, you can find her Chocolate Gingerbread Bundt Cake here.
This layer cake is the perfect Christmassy bake to impress. Inspired by the flavours of eggnog, the cake and frosting are flavoured with vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and rum for a slightly boozy, warmly spiced dessert.
The frosting is an interesting one to try – if you usually find standard buttercream too sweet, you’ll love this version (and it doesn’t require icing sugar!). The base is a cooked custard, thickened with cornflour and egg until very viscous. This is then whisked into softened butter until fluffy and creamy. It can seem a bit dense if the butter or custard are too cold so you may need to add a splash of boiling water to help it fluff up properly. It’s definitely worth the extra effort over a standard buttercream as the texture is so smooth and light with the perfect level of sweetness.
For decoration, I like to keep the frosting simple with a thin layer around the outside and a slightly swoopy texture on top. For the toppings, I look for edible bits to give the cake a festive look; Woody herbs like rosemary, thyme or sage (as I’ve used here) are lovely as are chopped/flaked nuts. A sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg are a finishing touch and boost that eggnog flavour.
300g granulated sugar 140g unsalted butter, softened 60ml vegetable oil 4 medium eggs 150ml natural yoghurt 150ml milk 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract 330g self-raising flour 1 tsp ground cinnamon ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg ¼ tsp fine table salt ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
150ml milk 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract 80g granulated sugar 20g cornflour 1 egg ½ tsp ground cinnamon ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg Pinch salt 200g unsalted butter, softened 2 tbsp dark rum
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 180C fan. Grease, line and flour three 18-cm cake tins.
In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Beat in the oil then eggs, one at a time.
In a jug, combine the yoghurt, milk and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, place the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and bicarbonate of soda and stir to combine.
Add 1/3 of the yoghurt mixture to the butter mixture and stir to combine. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir to combine. Repeat in this alternating fashion until you’ve mixed in all of the yoghurt and flour mixtures and have a smooth cake batter.
Divide the batter evenly between the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
Run a butter knife around the inside edges of the cake tins and then leave them to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting:
Combine the milk and vanilla in a small pot and place over a medium-low heat on the stove until gently steaming.
In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cornflour, egg, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until smooth.
Pour a little of the hot milk into the egg mixture and quickly stir with a whisk until smooth. Stream in the remaining hot milk whilst stirring to combine. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the pot and return to the heat.
Cook over a medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk, until the mixture becomes lumpy and thick. Keep stirring until it looks smooth and glossy, about 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
Spread the mixture out in a shallow bowl and pop into the freezer for 5-10 minutes until cooled. Alternatively, chill the mixture in the fridge for around 1 hour.
Beat the softened butter in a large bowl with an electric whisk (or in a stand mixer) until smooth then gradually add the cooled egg mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally.
Add the rum and keep whisking until the frosting looks aerated and light. If it seems too dense still, add 1-2 tbsp of boiling water to help soften the butter which should help the frosting to achieve the correct texture.
Cut off any domed tops from the cooled cake layers using a serrated knife and peel away the baking paper from the bottoms.
Place one cake layer onto a serving plate and spread a few heaped tablespoons of frosting over the top of the cake. Top with a second cake layer and repeat.
When you’ve placed on the final cake layer, place ½ of the remaining frosting onto the cake and spread it thinly over the top and sides of the cake. Using a warm palette knife can be useful here (warm it up by placing into a jug of boiling water and wipe clean as needed).
Place the cake into the fridge for 10 minutes to harden this initial layer of frosting.
Remove the cake from the fridge and add the remaining frosting to the cake, using it to decoratively frost the top and sides as you like.
Decorate the cake with any toppings you want – I’ve used grated nutmeg, ground cinnamon, sage leaves and flaked almonds here for a festive feel.
Does your cat get in the way when you’re wrapping presents at Christmas? Are you tired of hunching over badly wrapped socks with scotch tape stuck to your fingers? Is your dog snoring in the corner with one eye on the food gift sets?
It’s time to take a break and make some fun DIY pet toys! These four simple toys can easily be made with used wrapping paper cardboard tubes, so you can make great use of the tubes, and keep your pets entertained.
Opting out of wrapping this year? Don’t worry, you can make all these toys with a toilet paper roll or paper towel rolls.
Safety note: Always supervise children with scissors and supervise your pets with these new toys. Give treats in moderation.
You will need:
Toilet roll cardboard tubes or a longer wrapping paper tube cut shorter
Your dog or cat’s favorite treats/kibbles
Cut into one end of the cardboard tubes, and repeat around the edge of the end of the tube, about 1cm between each cut, and up the tube by about 2cm
Fold the cut pieces into each other and hook together so they hold their position, push your thumb through so the ends point inwards into the tube
Repeat with the other end, but before closing up the tube and pushing inside, fill with your pet’s favorite treats or kibble
Use the pencil to poke holes into the tube, just about big enough for the kibble to fall out of
Give to your pet and encourage them to kick the tube around to release the treats!
You will need:
Toilet paper roll cardboard tubes or a longer wrapping paper tube cut shorter
A small cardboard box
Your dog’s favorite kibble
If using a cardboard box, cut down the top flaps so it’s a completely open box
Stand up toilet paper roll cardboard tubes in the box. You can cut them into different heights to make it more interesting
Fill the box with your dog’s food
Place the box on the floor and watch as your dog sniffs out their kibble and nudges and removes the tubes to eat
Christmas tree chewer
You will need:
Toilet paper roll cardboard tubes or a longer wrapping paper tube cut shorter
Fold a toilet paper roll tube in half by length (end to end)
Draw a Christmas tree shape on the toilet roll
It’s very important to leave a folded edge uncut by about half a centimeter either side – this will hold the tree together
Once the tree shape is cut, push in the sides so isn’t folded flat, and the tree should stand up
Place in your hamster’s cage or playpen and enjoy!
You will need:
Toilet roll cardboard tubes or cut up a longer wrapping paper tube
Treats or kibble
Cut a toilet roll tube into 5 rings
Place one ring through the other, and a third ring through these 2
Place another ring through a gap, then pop some kibble into the center
Place the final ring through the tiny gap left so it holds its shape
Roll the treat ball on the floor for your cat or dog to kick around to release the treats!
Chickens are hardy birds, and are fantastically good at adapting to the climate, whether it’s midsummer or deepest winter. Unless the winter in your area is very harsh, your chickens will be able to keep warm by snuggling up in the coop, and the cold weather will not prevent them from going about their usual business of scratching and pecking through the run or garden.
How do chickens keep warm in the winter?
The chicken’s secret is natural insulation. Their feathers help them retain body heat and warm the air trapped beneath their downy under-feathers. When she’s at rest, a hen’s body temperature is 40–43C, and her heart rate is around 400 beats per minute – evidence of a high metabolism that sets up the birds very well for winter weather.
Watching chickens scratch at the frozen ground or strut through the snow, you might wonder how they manage to keep their feet and legs warm. After all, this is one part of their body with no feathers to keep it cosy (unless you happen to have a feathery-legged breed such as the Cochin, Brahma or Silkie). The answer lies in the chicken’s leg scales, which retain heat to a certain extent. The average chicken will always be on the move, not keeping all its toes on the ground for too long.
How can you tell if chickens are too cold?
You can tell if a hen is feeling cold by simply looking at her. She will have her feathers ruffled up and will be perched off the ground, probably with one leg tucked up. Her wattles and comb may look paler than usual. These are not signs of distress, and as long as the chicken is only having a brief rest, rather than staying hunkered up for the whole day, you don’t have to worry.
Chickens are should not be allowed to remain soaking wet. This is more dangerous than the outdoor temperature or the falling snow, and in extreme cases will result in hypothermia. An affected hen will be stiff and cold to the touch, with her eyes wider and unblinking, or closed. If you find one of your chickens in this state, take her indoors and wrap her in a warm towel. When she recovers, put her in a bedding-lined box in a warm spot for a few hours.
Does perching keep chickens warm?
Like many other birds, chickens often adopt the ‘one leg’ pose in the winter, tucking one of their limbs up into the warmth of their bellies. This reduces overall heat loss and stops feet and toes from freezing on the icy ground. Like all birds, chickens are warm-blooded, and their own body heat soon works its magic.
Perching is the most effective way for a chicken to retain body heat. A hen hunkers down when roosting, with her feathers fluffed up and her legs tucked into her warm body. If space allows, install a flat perch in your coop or run. This will enable the hens to roost without having to curl their toes around the roosting bar, which in really cold weather will prevent their toes freezing. An upturned pot, a log, pallet or other slightly elevated space will give the birds a flat surface to perch on, to escape the ice and snow.
How cold is too cold for chickens?
Chickens will regulate their temperature and behaviour accordingly, so wherever humans can live, chickens can thrive too. It is the combination of cold and wet that can prove fatal, so ensuring a dry coop is vital, and any bird who becomes soaked should be towelled dry. Applying Vaseline to their combs will prevent frost bite.
Can chickens freeze to death?
Cold conditions will not usually kill chickens, as long as they have a warm coop to retire too when the weather become extreme. Cold hens may be more susceptible than usual to illness and parasites, though, and their egg production will fall. The chickens will simply hunker down on perches and in nesting boxes, with their feathers fluffed out.
What’s the best chicken coop for cold weather?
The type of coop you have makes a big difference. In really cold winters, a wooden coop with a draughty coop door can soon become damp and semi-frozen – not to mention very draughty – while a more robust state-of-the-art structure such as the Eglu will keep out the cold and damp and enable chickens to defrost after a busy day in the run. The temperature in the Eglu will remain relatively high when all the hens are tucked in at night.
You can help your backyard chickens keep warm in the frost and snow by making sure the coop is clean and dry. Clear out any snow dragged in on the birds’ feet, and keep an insulating layer of straw on the floor. You can give the birds extra protection by insulating the run – although there should still be some ventilation, to allow the gases released from the birds’ droppings to escape.
An automatic door will help keep the living quarters snug, too. If installing a heater, it must be one designed specifically for hen houses, and it’s best to use it only if the temperature dips below -5°C, otherwise hens may get used to being cosy all the time, and that could be disastrous if the heater fails and the birds are suddenly exposed. Heat-pampered poultry can die of cold shock.
What happens if a chick gets too cold?
Chicks and young hens are more susceptible to the cold than adult chickens. If a young chicken has its full coat of feathers, it will be as hardy as the older birds. Chicks, however, will need protection from the cold, and should be kept under an appropriate heat lamp. Any chick left to fend for itself in cold weather will die.
Cold Weather Tips
The following precautions will help ensure happy chickens in winter:
Protect combs and wattles from frostbite with petroleum jelly or an equivalent product.
Prevent water from freezing. Check it at least twice a day to keep it clear of ice. If a freeze is forecast, bring the containers indoors at night, or, if possible, buy a water heater designed for the job of preventing freezing.
Chickens usually return to the coop at dusk, but in the winter you may find your birds trying to get more pecking time from the short days. If your hens tend to wander in the dark, a high visibility hen coat will help you locate them, and will ensure they’re visible to anyone else, should they stray from the garden. The coats also keep the birds cosy, so it’s a double blessing in the winter.
Heat lamps or oil filled radiators can provide extra warmth in sheds and outbuildings, but are generally only needed for frail birds or ones with lots of feathers missing (such as ex-battery hens). The space should be made slightly less chilly rather than actually warm.
If you do not have a cosy Eglu, a wooden coop can be insulated with bubble-wrap, cardboard or old carpets or blankets.
Extra bedding on the floor of the coop will help keep the chickens warm, too.
Providing weather-proof shelter in the chicken run will give the hens some respite.
Some extra corn offered as a treat before the hen’s bedtime will act as an internal heater as the chickens digest it overnight. In general, hens will eat more food in the cold months, as more of their energy is spent keeping warm.
Some owners like to supplement their chickens’ diets with extra protein or a little suet, to increase their fat levels for the winter. Fat retains heat, and the whole bird benefits – not just the legs.
So, the answer to the question ‘Are my chickens suffering from the cold?’ is usually ‘no’. Make sure the hens’ environment – specifically the coop and run – is fit for all weathers, and your hens will be too.
In December, Santa Barbara and her team of Elves helped us say a big thank you to our pets and all they have helped us through in the past year. We’ve been in touch with some of the lucky winners from around the world to see how their pets are enjoying their special prizes…
Watching chickens scratch at the frozen ground or strut through the snow, you might wonder how they manage to keep their feet and legs warm. After all, this is one part of their body with no feathers to keep it cosy (unless you happen to have a feathery-legged breed such as the Cochin, Brahma or Silkie).
Surprisingly, the simple answer to ‘How do they keep their leg warm?’ is ‘They don’t!’. Those skinny, bare legs have scales, which retain heat to a certain extent, but they will still get very cold if the bird stands still for too long.
And that’s the important detail. A chicken keeps its legs warm by moving, and by not keeping all its toes on the ground for too long. These parts of their body lose heat rapidly; but the solution is quite simple.
Perching is the most effective way of retaining heat. A hen hunkers down when roosting, and her legs are tucked into her warm body. If space allows, install a flat perch too. A piece of wood with a 10 cm width will enable the hens to roost without having to grip the perch, which in really cold weather will prevent their toes freezing. (The lucky ones will simply snuggle down in a nesting box, which is the chicken equivalent of a thick quilt!)
But of course, a hungry hen doesn’t want to waste the whole day perching, so even in the coldest spells she will make a lot of contact with the ground.
Like many other birds, chickens often adopt the ‘one leg’ look, tucking one of their limbs up into the warmth of their bellies. This reduces overall heat loss and stops feet and toes from freezing on the icy ground.
An upturned pot, a log, pallet or other slightly elevated space – cleared of snow or ice – will help the hens get the circulation going again, without having to catch their breath on the frozen ground. Like all birds, chickens are warm-blooded, just like us, and their own body heat soon works its magic. Indeed, with an average body temperature of around 41°C, chickens can remain active in the coldest weather.
The leg-warming process is helped by other tricks, too. Fluffing up the feathers retains body heat, by trapping small pockets of air which are then heated up by the bird’s warm body.
Some owners give their hens a supper of corn and grains, which take longer to digest than a standard pellet or other chicken food. Part of the digestion process involves producing heat – a kind of internal hot water bottle!
In general, hens will eat more food in the cold months, as more of their energy is spent keeping warm. Some owners like to supplement the birds’ diets with extra protein or a little suet, to increase their fat levels for the winter. Fat retains heat, and the whole bird benefits – not just the legs (which will remain as thin as ever!)
Help With The Heating
You can help your hens keep their toes cosy by making sure the coop is clean and dry. Clear out any snow dragged in on the birds’ feet, and keep an insulating layer of straw on the floor. You can give the birds extra protection by insulating the coop – although there should still be some ventilation, to allow the gases released from the birds’ droppings to escape.
You can install an automatic door to help keep the living quarters snug. Heaters are also available – but never use anything other than a heater designed specifically for hen houses. It’s also best to use these only if the temperature gets below -5°C, otherwise hens may get used to being cosy all the time, and that could be disastrous if the heater fails and the birds are suddenly exposed. Heat-pampered poultry can die of cold shock.
A coop should be draft-free, but not completely sealed, as ventilation is important for healthy hens. During the day, a sheltered spot in the run or garden will help them take a breather and warm those long-suffering legs.
Chickens are amazingly hardy, and although not exactly warm, their legs will be able to cope with anything the average winter throws at them. As long as they can toast their toes on a nice perch every now and then…
Many people bring their pet rabbits indoors during the winter months. That’s certainly one way of helping them cope with the cold. But is it necessary? After all, wild rabbits survive the winter without having to ask us to turn up the central heating.
However, wild rabbits have a very important trick up their furry sleeves. They live in burrows, protected from the weather in the confines of a cosy rabbit warren. Pet rabbits don’t have access to this comfortable underground lifestyle, so you’ll need to simulate it in other ways.
The key to underground living is insulation. In the same way as an igloo creates a relatively warm space in a cold environment, a burrow provides an insulated living space with a constant temperature. Not exactly a hot spot, but somewhere that can be warmed up by lots of furry bodies, dry grass and compacted earth.
Hutch insulation can be reinforced by adding extra bedding materials. The paper lining commonly used at the base of rabbit bedding soaks up urine, and so it gets wet very quickly. Anything wet can soon become cold, and can even freeze if the temperature really plummets. In really cold weather – anything below zero degrees C – change the paper lining daily.
The real key to cold weather comfort is hay. Double, or even triple the amount you normally use in the rabbits’ sleeping area, and they’ll be snug through the night.
Not All Hutches Are Equal
An old wooden hutch with gaps and cracks for the cold wind to blow through is always going to be a lot less cosy than something more windproof. The ideal hutch has all-round insulation, like the Eglu. This will still need its thick mattress of hay, though.
There comes a point when cold weather is actually dangerous. If temperatures plunge below minus 5 C, wild rabbits hunker down and lie close together to share and conserve body warmth. In a backyard hutch they will struggle when things get this cold. Not many pet rabbits can cope with sustained temperatures below minus 5, even in something as well-insulated as an Eglu.
In these extreme temperatures, there are two choices: bring the bunnies indoors, or use a heat pad in the hutch.
It will also help, of course, to keep the hutch in a sheltered spot, away from the worst of the winter winds.
How To Fight The Freeze
Rabbit water bottles freeze when the temperature falls. You can help prevent this by wrapping insulating material – bubble wrap is good – around the bottle. The water bottle in the Eglu, for example, comes ready-insulated from the cold. But even this will freeze when it gets really cold. You’ll also need to make sure the water bottle nozzle stays unfrozen, which involves changing the water bottles a few times each day. Always have a couple of spares, for this purpose.
The hutch itself can be made cosier by adding insulation to the outside. Extreme temperature jackets are a much better option than a thick blanket, as the latter will get wet and then freeze.
If the weather forces you to bring the bunnies indoors, keep them there until things warm up again. It’s not good for their health if they are forever going back and forth from cold winter to centrally heated house or shed.
Eating To Keep Out The Cold
Outdoor rabbits, like all small mammals subject to the whims of the seasons, have to eat more during the winter. This enables them to stoke their internal central heating. We humans tend to forget that the food we eat is largely fuel to heat us up from the inside out – part of being a warm-blooded mammal rather than a cold-blooded fish or reptile.
A cold rabbit will shiver. If, in spite of your insulating efforts, you notice a whole lot of shaking going on in the hutch, you need to take action. Heating pads, or the great indoors – those are the options.
It’s important to remember, though, that rabbits love having access to fresh air. They are hardy creatures, and you don’t need to keep them cooped up until the spring. As soon as the cold snap passes they can move to their outdoor quarters again.
In winter, one of the biggest concerns we see from our customers is: “how well is the Eglu going to keep my chickens warm?”. In this blog, we explain the science behind the Eglu’s carefully designed features, which ensure your chickens are kept nice and toasty in the colder months.
Air is an amazing thermal insulator. Heat is conducted between an area of more heat to an area of less heat. The warmer molecules vibrate rapidly and collide with others, passing on energy. If the material the heat (in this case the body heat from the chickens inside the coop) is trying to pass through has few molecules in it then it will be harder for the heat to transfer through it. This is the case with air, and that is why it’s commonly used as an insulator in everything from walls and windows to cooking utensils and drinking flasks – and chicken coops! The Eglus’ unique twin wall system captures air in a pocket between the inner and outer wall, taking full advantage of air’s great insulating properties. This solution stops the cold air from moving into the coop, and retains the warm air in the coop. The same process also keeps the chickens cool in summer by stopping the warm air from entering the coop and making it too warm.
Perhaps even more important than the coop’s insulating properties, is how well ventilated it is. If the coop doesn’t have good ventilation, you run the risk of either having a nasty draft if the coop has badly positioned vents or large holes and openings, or a build up of moisture if the coop is too tightly insulated. Both will prevent the chickens from staying warm on chilly winter nights, and can cause unpleasant respiratory illnesses.
The Eglu coops are designed to let air flow through the coop, but without creating an uncomfortable draft for the chickens. The vents are positioned in such a way that your pets won’t notice the fresh air flowing through the coop, but the warm air evaporating from the animals and their droppings will move through the vents and prevent any moisture.
How chickens keep themselves warm
Chickens, like many other non-migrating birds, have a layer of downy feathers under their visible plumage that they can fluff up to create air pockets close to their bodies. This will retain the heat, and will keep them warm during winter.
Chickens also have a high metabolic rate that will speed up even more during winter, helping to keep their bodies warm. This is why you might have to feed your chickens a little extra during the winter months.
Chickens are also able to decrease the blood flow to their bare legs to minimise loss of body heat. The overlapping scales on their feet and legs trap some warm air, so walking on snow and ice rarely causes chickens any discomfort. When roosting in the cold, the feet and legs are tucked in under the warm feather blanket, and the chicken might also tuck its head under a wing to get some extra body heat.
Snowy weather can bring great fun for all the family, but when it comes to our pets we need to take extra care to keep them happy and healthy (even if they love it!) Take a look at our snow safety advice, and make sure you’re prepared for whatever winter may bring…
Dry off damp fur and feathers
Check on your outdoor pets a few times throughout the day during periods of snowy weather and check they haven’t got too wet. Damp fur and feathers will take longer to dry during colder temperatures, making it difficult for them to warm up again. Indoor animals should also be dried off with a towel after being outside or going for a walk.
Clean paws of ice
For dogs and cats in particular, snow can get compacted into their paw pads and turn to painful cubes of ice. Use a towel or drying mitt to dislodge any chunks of snow and dry off their feet. Also take care when walking your dogs in snow, as salt used to grit the roads can be poisonous. Watch that they don’t stop to eat snow at the roadside and clean their legs and paws of any snow or dirt after their walk.
Pets of all kinds will use more energy to keep themselves warm in winter, particularly in super cold, snowy spells, so they will benefit from some extra food. Although they will appreciate more treats, don’t be tempted to overfeed on these. Something nutritious will help them the most.
Outdoor pets will need more dry bedding in their coop or hutch for them to snuggle into and keep warm. However, make sure their home is still well ventilated to keep fresh air moving through and prevent health problems. Read other ways you can get your coop winter-ready. Indoor animals might also appreciate an extra blanket or a cosy den for bedtime.
If you have a cat who still likes to go outdoors whatever the weather, be wary of the potential of antifreeze poisoning. Look out for symptoms such as vomiting, seizures or difficulty breathing and call a vet immediately if you think your cat may be ill. An outdoor enclosure could also provide a solution for letting them play outside in safety.
Don’t forget about the wild birds in your garden!
Place a wide bowl or tray of water in your garden with something inside to float around (e.g. rubber duck!) to keep the water moving and prevent freezing. Extra wild bird food will also be appreciated!
Chickens are built to be outside, and they are known to withstand some pretty extreme temperatures. Under the visible plumage birds like chickens have a layer of downy feathers that can be puffed up to create an extra layer of insulation that will keep them warm.
Cooped up chickens will soon get bored and agitated, and even though you might be surprised that they choose to go out in freezing temperatures, you should definitely always give your chickens the opportunity to stretch their legs.
Ensure chickens have a dry and sheltered spot in a secure run or in an area of the garden where they can spend time outside.We have plenty of different covers that makes this an easy job. Clear covers are ideal for winter as they will protect your chickens from wind and rain while still letting the light in. Put straw on the ground to prevent a build-up of mud, and install a perch or two for the chickens to rest on during the day.
Close the door to the coop when all chickens have gone inside to roost for the night, or let your Automatic Chicken Coop Door do it for you. If you have chickens who are eager to stay out later you can use a Coop Light to encourage them up to bed.
2. Don’t compensate for bad insulation by blocking up the coop
Well insulated coops, like the Eglus, will keep the chickens warm in winter by capturing the heat from the chickens’ bodies while not letting any cold air travel through the walls. They are also designed to let air flow through the coop to prevent a build up of moisture, without any nasty drafts.
Drafts and moisture are the two biggest winter enemies for chickens, as they make it difficult for them to stay warm and dry. If the coop is too tightly insulated the moisture evaporating from the chickens breaths and droppings will have nowhere to go. This humid environment – and the possible build up of ammonia – is really bad for chickens, and can lead to unpleasant respiratory illnesses.
Make sure that your coop is well ventilated, with vents that directs the air somewhere other than straight onto your chickens.
3. Don’t heat the coop
Chickens are hardy creatures that will gradually adapt to lower temperatures, and heating the coop will mean that your chickens never get used to the cold. This will also make them less likely to actually leave the coop and get that exercise, fresh air and entertainment that they require to stay happy and healthy.
Apart from the fact that heaters in the coop will always be a potential fire hazard, you also run the risk of your ill-adapted chickens getting a shock at a sudden drop in temperature if the power was to go off for some reason. This is much worse for them than having a slightly chillier coop.
If you’re worried you can always add a bit of extra bedding to the nest box, or put an extreme temperature cover on your Eglu.
4. Don’t leave eggs too long
Although the Eglu will keep your eggs warm and toasty, there is a risk that eggs laid elsewhere in the run or the garden will freeze in winter. Frozen eggs are not automatically dangerous to eat, but when the content of the egg freezes and expands, there’s a higher risk of bacteria entering through the cracks in the shell.
Collect the eggs every time you visit your chickens to minimise the risk of a frozen yolk.
5. Don’t ignore the water
As goes for all animals, you will want to give your chickens constant access to fresh water, even in winter. They won’t drink as much during the colder months, but here that’s actually a disadvantage, as the water is more likely to freeze if not touched regularly.
Bring the drinker inside overnight and take it out when you go to check on your girls in the morning. If the temperature goes below zero during the day, check the water as often as you can, and break the ice or change the water if it has frozen.
There are several water heating solutions available on the market. There are heaters that you can easily plug into an outdoor power source, but there are also battery powered ones you can put in the water. Just make sure the chickens are not able to peck their way through the heater.
If the temperature stays around zero, you can put something floating in the water, like a tennis ball. As the floating object moves, it will break up surface ice as it forms on the water, which will stop, or at least slow down the freezing process.
6. Don’t put off cleaning the coop
Hanging out in the garden is not as tempting in winter, but you will still need to make sure the chickens’ house is nice and clean. It is likely that your chickens will spend more time in the coop in winter and produce more droppings there, so keep an eye out and change your routine accordingly.
7. Don’t limit the fun
The chickens might not venture as far out in the garden as they normally do, and the opportunity to forage for bugs and other treats will be limited when the ground is frozen or covered with snow. This can lead to chickens getting bored, which might result in aggressive feather pecking and egg eating.
You will need to make sure that they have plenty of fun things to do in their run. We have lots of boredom busting accessories in our shop. Put up perches the chickens can sit on and try the super fun Peck Toys or the Caddi treat holder for gradual treat-dispensing hentertainment. Or, if you feel your chickens might be the adventurous kind, why not put up a Chicken Swing they can enjoy together?
8. Don’t stick to the same feeding schedule
Your chickens will most likely eat more in winter, as they need the energy to keep warm. Give them some extra food, and make sure it doesn’t freeze in the feeder. For an extra snack, sprinkle some corn on the run in the afternoon to add both calories and some foraging fun.
Also make sure that you provide plenty of grit. As chickens don’t have teeth they need it do digest their food. The rest of the year they find and swallows little stones and pebbles as they peck around the garden, but if the ground is frozen this will be much harder.
9. Don’t ignore combs and wattles
All chickens, but particularly breeds with large combs and wattles, run the risk of frostbite on these sensitive body parts during winter. It’s not necessarily dangerous as it’s normally just the tips that get affected, but can be a bit uncomfortable. To prevent this, apply petroleum jelly to the combs and wattles during cold spells.
10. Don’t take covers off when the sun is shining
If you’re in the habit of taking the covers off the chickens’ run when it’s sunny, it might be a good idea to stop doing this in winter. Clear covers in particular will create a lovely sunroom feeling on the run when the sun is out, and your girls will love having a warmer spot to retreat to. Covers will also stop cold winds, so we would suggest keeping them on permanently in winter.
The temperature is already dropping rapidly, the nights are drawing in and we are just weeks away from the first frost. Although the fresh air and crunchy leaves may be loved by some, the signs of winter being just around the corner can be a worry for chicken keepers.
Now is the time to act! Get your chickens’ coop ready for the colder months before the freezing temperatures hit, and you will be able to rest easy knowing that your girls are warm and healthy throughout winter.
Take a look at some of our top tips for getting your chicken coop winter-ready…
Move your coop closer to the house
This is a simple step for making it easier for you to look after your girls and give them their daily health checks, which are even more important in the colder months. Choose a lightweight coop with wheels, like the Eglu, to make it even easier to move it around your garden.
Upgrade your wooden coop to an Eglu
The main benefit to an Eglu Cube Chicken Coop for chicken keepers in winter is the twin wall insulation found in the design of the plastic house. This works in a similar way to double glazing, by creating a barrier between the cold air outside the coop, and the air in side. The air between the two walls conducts poorly, which means inside the house stays at a consistent and warm temperature throughout winter, whatever the weather is doing outside. Chickens are very efficient at keeping themselves warm, all you will need to do is make sure the coop door is shut at night time.
…and to make sure your chicken coop’s door is always shut at dusk, even if you are not yet home, the Automatic Chicken Coop Door is a convenient solution for the Eglu Cube or wooden chicken coops. You can set the Autodoor to close at a specific time or light percentage to suit when all your girls have gone up to bed and the sun has set. The Autodoor runs off batteries and has been tested to work down to -10 degrees Celcius so there is no worry, however cold it gets outside!
The other benefit to the Autodoor is that it will open again at dawn so you can head off to work early before the sun rises and your girls need to be let out, or you can stay in bed for even longer at the weekends without going out in the freezing cold to let your chickens out of their coop!
The NEW Coop Light also makes it easier for you to check on your girls and carry out daily chicken keeping duties if you don’t get home until after dark. This plugs directly into your Autodoor control panel, and can even be programmed to automatically turn on 5 minutes before your Autodoor closes to encourage your chickens up to the coop.
“The nights are drawing in and I couldn’t be happier knowing that my girls are safely tucked up in bed with their Omlet Autodoor closed behind them. The Autodoor has given me peace of mind, flexibility and a well needed lie in! Couldn’t recommend it enough!” – Hayley’s Lottie Haven
Chickens are very good at coping in cold temperatures, but don’t like getting wet, so it would be kinder for them to be protected from the elements when in their run by our clear covers and windbreaks. Available in a variety of sizes to suit your run length, the clear run covers protect your girls from wind and rain so they can continue to play whatever the weather, whilst still allowing light into the run.
Extreme temperature jackets
When the temperature drops below freezing for multiple days in a row during the very depths of winter, it might be wise to give your chickens extra warmth with an extreme temperature jacket. Poorly or older chickens, will definitely benefit from this extra support.
Prevent chickens getting bored when rain stops play with a variety of fun and interactive toys they can play with in all weathers. The Chicken Perch provides an easy outdoor perch which can be installed in their run (and protected by the run covers) for when your chickens can’t perch in their usual spots around your garden. The Chicken Swingprovides hours of fun and again, can be easily installed in any run. While the Peck Toys and Caddi Treat Holder offer enriching entertainment as well as a rewarding flow of treats.
Prevent your chickens’ water from freezing with a water heater to ensure they have access to flowing water at all times. It is also recommended to provide extra layers pellets and treats during winter, as chickens will need more energy to keep themselves warm and lay their eggs in the colder months.
While most people check the weather forecast to help them plan their week activities or outfits, chicken keepers can also be using it to predict what accessories their coop needs to ensure their girls are as comfortable as possible.
From sun to snow, wind to wet, the breakfast time weather reports and the handy app on your phone are all giving you helpful hints that you might be ignoring.
🌡 TEMPERATURE 🌡
Firstly, the most obvious indicator: the predicted temperature for the coming 10 days. Depending on what time of year we are in, this can be super helpful or utterly confusing if it is varying drastically. But let’s think about what we can act upon.
In winter, if the predicted temperature is at below 0 degrees celsius for more than 5 days in a row or the temperature is near freezing and you have very few chickens in your coop, you may want to consider attaching the Extreme Temperature Blanket to your Eglu to give your chickens some extra help with keeping warm, without limiting the coop ventilation.
During hot summer months, when temperatures can be above and beyond 30 degrees celsius daily in some countries, it is wise to move your chicken coop into an area that is in the shade for as much of the day as possible. For your chickens, daily health checks are essential to ensure they are not suffering with the high temperatures. If your coop is attached to or inside a secure run, you can leave your coop door open to increase airflow at nighttime without your girls being exposed to predators.
☀️ SUN ☀️
When the sun is shining, it is tempting to cover your chickens’ run with shades so that it is completely protected from the sun inside. However, this can have the opposite effect on what you intended. Instead of shading and cooling the area, lots of shades create a tunnel which traps the heat, like a greenhouse.
It is best to keep them in a shaded area, and protect one side of the run from the sun. If your chickens are out free ranging most of the day, make sure that they have access to shady patches in the garden, and that their food and water is also in shade.
❄️ SNOW ❄️
Exciting for some, but for others a weather warning for snow can be very disappointing. You may want to consider sheltering your coop’s run with clear covers to prevent as much snow getting on the ground inside the run as possible. If snow is predicted for the foreseeable future, you may want to prepare for long term icy conditions and bring your coop closer to the house so it is easier to check on your chickens, and they can benefit from some of the shelter your house might provide. During the snow, be sure to dry off damp feathers and remove any chunks of ice from claws. Increase the amount of bedding and food you are giving your chickens too as this will help them stay warm.
If you have time, it might be wise to consider how effective your chicken coop will be against the bitter cold. If you have a wooden coop, check if it is water-tight and well insulated. If you are not confident in your wooden coop, consider upgrading to a sturdy plastic alternative, like the Eglu Cube. It’s twin-wall insulation works in the same way as double glazing to keep the cold out of the coop, and the heat in during winter. The plastic material is waterproof and super easy to clean out quickly (especially important on chilly winter days).
☁️ CLOUD ☁️
The most boring of all weather forecasts, but often a rest bite from other more extreme conditions. During winter, a few cloudy days should raise the temperature slightly and give you a good opportunity to clean out your coop and thoroughly check on your chickens and make any changes needed for whatever the forecast predicts for the coming days.
🌧 RAIN 🌧
Some weather reports are more helpful than others when it comes to the exact timing and chance of there being rain. But if you’re looking at days of 90% chance of heavy showers, it would be wise to act fast and get some protective clear covers over the run. If the ground under your chickens’ coop and run is already extremely muddy and wet, you might want to consider moving them to a new patch of grass, and maybe even laying down a base material, like wood shavings, to prevent it developing into a swamp!
💨 WIND 💨
How you react to a windy forecast completely depends on the wind speeds predicted. Light winds, less than 25 mph, shouldn’t cause much of a problem. You might want to add some windbreaks around the base of your Eglu and a large clear cover down the most exposed side. However, in extreme high winds, the worst thing you can do is completely conceal your run, particularly a larger Walk in Run, with covers from top to bottom. In a large run, the mesh holes allow the wind to flow through without causing any issues to the structure, and a clear cover round one bottom corner of the run will provide chickens enough shelter. If you cover the run completely, the wind will be hammering against it and is more likely to cause the structure to lift or move.
If your chickens are in a smaller run attached to their coop, we recommend moving it to a position where it will be most protected from the wind and any falling debris, for example, against a sturdy building wall. The Eglu’s wheels allow you to easily move the coops around your garden to suit the conditions. If you are keeping your chickens in their Eglu coop and run, and not free ranging during dangerous weather conditions, consider adding some entertaining toys and treat dispenser for them to prevent boredom, such as the Peck Toy or Perch.
Backyard hens usually spend their entire lives outdoors. This means they have to cope with everything the year throws at them, from warm summer days and sub-zero winter nights to year-round downpours.
Being hardy birds, they take much of this in their stride. But there are still ways of helping your flock through the changing seasons.
It’s amazing, having seen your chickens happily cluck and scratch their way through freezing winter, to now see them equally happy in temperatures 20-odd degrees warmer. The main problem in summer is too much sun – but with plenty of shade in the garden, your birds will love the warm weather every bit as much as you do. A chicken coop that provides shade in itself, like the space under the Eglu Cube or the Eglu Go Up, is ideal for the summer months.
Keep the water supply topped up, as hens drink more in warm weather.
Provide a dust bath – either a dry area of ground in the garden, or a tray in the chicken run. Cat-litter trays make good baths.
Daily egg-collecting will discourage hens from going broody – something they sometimes do at this time of year.
Although the summer has gone and winter lies ahead, this is actually a great season for chickens. There are lots of juicy bugs to scratch for in the still-soft ground and leaf litter. If you have any fruit trees, there are rich pickings for the birds in the shape of windfalls.
Hens often moult at this time of year, so they need a good diet to help them stay healthy and grow new feathers. Extra vitamins and minerals will help, and a little apple cider vinegar in their water will help ensure a healthy, glossy new plumage.
As the days lengthen, your hens will start laying more eggs. The garden comes back to life, and the chickens will find things worth scratching for in the ground.
Foxes will be hungry after a long, lean winter, so make sure your coop and run are secure. Automatic doors will ensure the hens are in and out at the right times, and will prevent predators from gaining after-hours access. The door will also let your chickens out in the morning, so that you can enjoy weekend mornings in bed as the days get longer.
With the warmer weather, the red mites start to gather… mite-proof your chicken shed before the situation gets out of hand!
This is the most challenging time of year for any animal living outdoors. The cons outweigh the pros, but with a little bit of help from their human friends, chickens can shrug off the excesses of the season.
Although chickens cope well with the cold, they don’t thrive when it’s both cold and raining. Protecting the run with extra weatherproofing will help enormously. Keeping the birds in an insulated Eglu is a good place to start.
Keep the hens’ feet dry in wet weather by lining the run with wood chippings.
Chickens usually return to the coop at dusk. But in the winter you may find your birds trying to get more pecking time from the short days. If your hens are prone to wander in the dark, a high visibility hen coat will help you locate them – and also ensure they’re visible to anyone else, should they stray from the garden. The coats also keep the birds cosy, so it’s a double blessing in the winter.
Roosting perches enable chickens to cuddle up in the cold – something essential on a cold night. Roosting also prevents their feet from becoming too cold.
In sustained sub-zero conditions, rub petroleum gel (e.g. Vaseline) on the hens’ combs and wattles, to prevent them becoming frostbitten.
Keep an eye out for coughs, sneezes, lethargy, or other signs of illness. A chicken with a weak constitution may be vulnerable when the cold weather kicks in.
Egg numbers will drop – this doesn’t mean you’ll have no eggs for breakfast, though. Three hens should till deliver eight eggs a week in the coldest months, but this will vary somewhat.
Make sure the hens’ diet remains healthy, and add some extra vitamins and minerals to keep their immune systems up to scratch.
Their water will freeze, so be prepared to break the ice, and have some spare water dispensers ready in case things freeze up entirely.
On the upside, winter might kill off any lingering red mite in coops and runs!
Chickens are a year-round commitment. Fortunately, they make it easy for you – these wonderful birds are pretty much happy whatever the time of year.