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  • Caring for Chickens in Every Season

    December 22, 2023 19 min read 0 Comments

    Free ranging chickens scratching in soil under a maple tree with changing leaves.


    When it comes to chickens, you never stop learning. Part of the reason I got my first flock three years ago was to learn how to raise livestock. I wanted to own a farm some day, but I was starting in a backyard, so chickens seemed like the best choice. I had no idea how much I was going to learn from six chickens. 

    Over the past few years I’ve raised three flocks and every time I learn a little more. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that chickens shift with the seasons. What they need in the summer will differ from what they need in the winter and the same can be said for spring and fall. 

    Let’s talk about some of those different needs and how to care for chickens throughout the seasons so you can keep your flock happy and healthy through the year!


    When you think of chickens, you think of Spring! The mama hens are laying their clutches of eggs and preparing to brood. Soon new chicks will arrive just in time for warm weather and new blooms. 

    This is one of the busiest times of the year for chicken owners. Whether you’re bringing home chicks for the first time, getting more chicks to add to an existing flock, trying to break broody hens, or all the sudden eating six eggs a day. You can expect your chickens to keep you busy during the spring months.

    Three baby chicks standing in the grass. They are a week old and fluffy with grey, black and yellow feathers.

    Bringing Home Chicks For the First Time

    Bringing home chicks for the first time is both exciting and a little daunting. Let’s go over the supplies you’ll need to be ready for your new additions. 

    • Chicks
    • Brooder
    • Bedding
    • Heat source
    • Feeder 
    • Waterer
    • Feed
    • Grit

    Chicks: Obviously you’re going to need to find some chicks to raise. Start by researching what breeds may be right for you. Most breeds offer something a little different. Some chickens are very pretty to look at, some lay beautifully colored eggs, some lay eggs every single day. 

    You can choose different breeds depending on what you want out of your flock. You’ll also need to figure out where you’re going to get your chicks. Typically chicks are purchased from large scale online hatcheries, farm stores, local farms, or small scale hatcheries. 

    Brooder Box: Chicks will spend their first 6-8 weeks of life in a heated brooder. This gives them the time to grow big and get their down feathers to be hardy enough to move outside to their chicken coop. 

    You can use many things for a brooder, such as a plastic tote, a galvanized tub, a stock tank, a rodent enclosure, a wooden box, or even a premade brooder kit. My personal favorite is a plastic tote because they are super simple to set up and very easy to clean. 

    Bedding: You will use bedding in your brooder and in your chicken coop, so it’s a good idea to experiment and find a bedding that you like! My all time favorite is hemp bedding. It’s a little more expensive and can be harder to find, but it is worth it because it’s very absorbent, low dust, and has no smell. 

    I have found pine shavings to be the next best option. It’s quite absorbent but produces a lot of dust, so be sure to keep up with cleanings to keep dust to a minimum. Straw or hay is another option for bedding but I find them to be the least absorbent which leads to a strong smell. 

    Heat Source: Your chicks will need heat to survive. You can provide heat a few different ways. Use a heat lamp, a heat mat, or a brooder heater. The heat lamp will go overhead and provide heat throughout the brooder. Whereas the heat mat or brooder heater will provide direct heat in one area of the brooder. The brooder heater is supposed to simulate a mother hen and provides a dark warm area for chicks to “nest.”

    Feeders and Waterers: I prefer to keep it very simple with feeders and waterers. There are many out there available for purchase, but a classic red feeder and waterer works perfect for raising any number of chicks. 

    Feed and Grit: Finally, you want to find a good quality starter feed and chick grit. Starter feed is needed to provide your chicks with the proper amount of protein to grow into laying hens. Feed should always be provided free choice, available at all times. 

    Chick grit is needed to aid in digestion and should be added to their food until they move outside around 8 weeks. At this time you can offer it free choice as chickens know when their bodies need grit.

    Be ready for baby chicks

    Be sure to purchase all of your supplies before you bring home your chicks. The brooder needs to be set up where you want it and the heat source turned on before the chicks arrive. Travelling is stressful for chicks so you want to be sure they have a warm place with food and water to go to immediately. 

    When introducing your new chicks to their brooder dip their beaks in the water source and set them down next to their food. Monitor them closely to make sure all of them are eating and drinking. 

    Dealing with Broody Hens

    There’s nothing quite like forgetting to collect eggs and finding a raging broody hen in the nesting box the next morning. When a hen goes broody she is ready to stop her normal day to day as a chicken and move to the nest where she can sit on a clutch of eggs until they hatch. 

    Broody hens can be great if you have a rooster and are planning to hatch more eggs. But they can be a little problematic if you have backyard chickens with no rooster and a city limit for livestock.

    If you don’t have a rooster and you do want to hatch more eggs or get chicks this spring, you can assist your broody hen in becoming a mother. You can either buy fertilized eggs or slip some baby chicks underneath her and see how she adjusts to motherhood. It’s important to know that just because a hen goes broody doesn’t mean she’s going to make a good mother. 

    If you don’t want more chickens, it’s best to break your hen out of her broodiness. This is necessary because a broody hen who's not actually going to hatch any eggs is really only a danger to herself. She will spend all day on that nest, she may not even leave every day to eat and drink, and she’ll pluck feathers off of her body to fluff up the nest. A broody hen also stops laying eggs and influences the rest of the flock to brood as well. All around, it’s not what you want as a chicken owner. 

    Here are 5 simple steps to breaking your hen from being broody: 

    1. Catch it Quick: Typically if you can catch it early on the same day all it takes is pulling her off the nest, walking her around the yard for 5-10 minutes and then putting her back with the rest of the flock. 
    2. Block the Nests: If your hen is still feeling broody after pulling her off the nest, lock her out of the coop or put something in the nesting box to keep her out of it.
    3. Distractions: Use the best distractions you have! Put them out to free range, give them an extra tasty treat, put a fun new item in the chicken run.
    4. Water Bath: Fill up a bucket or tub with cool water and gently put your chicken into the water up to the base of the neck feathers. Hold her in there for 30-60 seconds. The cool water can shock them out of broodiness. However, this doesn’t work for all chickens. My chicken Waffles will sit on a nest completely soaked, never bothers her. 
    5. The Chicken Day Spa: Below you can see what I like to call the Chicken Day Spa. It’s basically a really nice way of saying broody jail. You put your chicken in a small dog crate with her own food and water and you leave her for 24-72 hours depending on how broody she is. You have to elevate the crate off the ground so that air flows underneath it, this is key in breaking them from the broody behavior. 

    Broody hen in a small wire crate suspended off the ground by boards. She has a small foo and water dish.

    Adding chickens to an existing flock

    Chicken math is very real, so you may be thinking about or have already got some new chicks that will join your existing flock. Chickens have a hierarchy system called the pecking order, so when introducing new chicks to an established flock you need to have a plan. 

    Your chicks will need to be big enough to defend themselves, but not so big that they are a threat to your current hens. Typically a good introduction age is between 8-10 weeks. During that time I like to take a two week approach to adding new members to the flock.

    Week 8 of raising baby chicks

    At eight weeks, start getting the chicks used to the coop. Let your hens out into the run or to free range and let your chicks have the coop to themselves. What you're trying to achieve is letting the hens and chicks become aware of each other while giving the chicks some stress free time to learn the new environment.

    Week 9 of raising baby chicks

    Once the hens and chicks are aware of each other you can set up a 'look don't touch" situation. Here's what it looked like for me: My chicks moved from their brooder to a dog crate outside. The crate was located in the predator proof chicken run so the chicks were safe. They had their own feed, water, and roost. The hens could see and hear them, but they couldn't peck them. 

    This begins the process of establishing the new pecking order. The hens will begin strutting around the chicks, fluffing up their feathers, flapping those wings, and squawking up a storm. The chicks will learn their behaviors and begin to understand where they fall in the pecking order. 

    Week 10 of raising baby chicks

    At ten weeks old, it’s a great time to fully introduce everyone. I like to wait until night time when the hens have gone to roost and then I’ll sneak the chicks in. When they wake up it’s like they have always been one big flock. There will still be an adjustment period after this so it’s best if you can provide them with a good amount of space to free range as they get used to each other. 

    Provide hiding spots for the chicks to run and get away from the hens if needed. There will be pecking, that’s why it’s called a pecking order. Typically you will not need to intervene, it’s best to watch from a distance and let the chicks learn how to interact with the hens. If injuries are happening, that’s when you may need to further help them adjust, however I have always had success taking it slow!


    If chickens have a least favorite season, I think it is summer. They do not fare well in the heat and typically do better in cooler temperatures. Once it reaches 80 degrees a chicken becomes uncomfortable with the heat. 

    Since heat causes stress, there’s a higher risk of disease. Typically summer is when you’ll see diseases or parasites such as worms and mites infect your flock. The one thing that chickens seem to enjoy about the summers are the flies, but of course that’s my least favorite part. 

    five chickens of different colors are gathered around a bowl shaped ice block with vegetables frozen inside of it.

    How to keep chickens cool in the summer

    If temperatures are going to be 80 and above, it’s a good idea to provide some relief for your chickens. Here are ten ways to keep your chickens cool in the summer. 

    1. Shade - It seems so simple, but easily gets overlooked. Your coop should go in the shadiest part of your yard. If you don’t have natural shade, make some! You can purchase shade cloth. Buy a pop up canopy. Or plant some young trees that will eventually provide shade for years to come! 
    2. Dust Baths - A necessity year round for chickens, but especially in the summer! Chickens don't bathe in water, they bathe in dust. You can make a dust bath with regular potting soil and add whatever you like to personalize it. 
    3. Frozen Treats - You can freeze berries, chunks of melon, and other fruits and veggies to give as a nice cool treat
    4. Mist - Wet the ground with a hose or misting system to cool down their area. Cover the dirt, grass, trees, and roof of the coop/enclosed run. As the water evaporates it will continue cooling the area down. 
    5. Kiddie Pool - Chickens usually don’t like being completely wet. But they do enjoy stepping into a puddle of cool water on a hot day. They will also dunk their heads and combs on a really hot day. You can use anything shallow and keep the water below their feather line. 
    6. Pecking Ice Blocks - Freeze some different fruits, veggies, and herbs in a big chunk of ice and give it to your ladies to peck at throughout the day. BONUS: Use mint! It has a calming effect on chickens and can help reduce heat stress.
    7. Cold Water - Another one that seems simple but is necessary to keep chickens cool in the summer. Provide fresh cold water every morning when temperatures are high. Midday you can add a block of ice to keep the water cool through the hottest part of the day. Use a large plastic food storage container, fill it with water, and freeze overnight. The big block will last much longer than ice cubes!
    8. Proper Coop Ventilation - Make sure you have plenty of ventilation. If it’s too warm in your coop at the end of the day you may want to consider installing some windows you can open up for more ventilation during the summer!
    9. Freezing Feed - You can put their feed in the freezer for a couple hours and they will love it! Keep them cool without too much effort. 
    10. Dunk a chicken - If your chicken is showing signs of extreme heat stress (panting heavy, not laying, not eating/drinking, wings far away from body, lethargic) then you can dunk a chicken. Not literally!! Get enough water in a tub or bucket to immerse your chicken up to the base of her neck. Use cool/room temperature water, not freezing cold water. Gently lower her into the water for about 15-30 seconds or as long as she’ll allow.

    Natural Disease and Parasite Prevention for chickens

    With stress comes disease and chickens are more susceptible to disease in the hot summer months. When it comes to diseases and parasites it’s important to know the signs of a sick chicken and infected flock. As well as the natural approach you can take to preventing these issues. 

    Potential signs of a sick chicken or flock: 
    • Lameness or Lethargy
    • Reduced or Increased Eating
    • Reduced or Increased Drinking
    • Reduction in egg laying
    • Weight loss
    • Droppings on vent feathers
    • Pale comb or wattles
    • Unusual droppings

    Knowing the signs can help you notice issues quickly and act fast. The best method is always prevention. The first step to prevention is closely watching your flock. Check in on them daily, know how your chickens act and respond to certain things. That way if one of them becomes sick you’re likely to notice immediately because you know exactly how this chicken typically looks and acts. 

    I like to use natural preventative methods, especially in the summers to keep my flock healthy. 

    • Dust Baths: Having a dust bath will provide enrichment as well as keep mites, lice, and other parasites off of your chickens. You can add whatever you like to your dust bath. I like to use a small amount of Diatomaceous Earth and Sulfur along with potting soil. 
    • Apple Cider Vinegar: Adding Apple Cider Vinegar to your chicken's water helps maintain good gut health and can help prevent certain bacterias. Add 1 TBSP of ACV per 1 gallon of water. I usually give my flock ACV water once a week throughout the summer. 
    • Garlic and Herbs: Some of the best things you can give to your chickens to just boost their health is garlic and herbs. You can add a couple cloves and herbs to a gallon of water, add it to their feed, or make them a special treat with the garlic and herbs. Some of my favorite herbs for chickens are oregano, lavender, rosemary, mint and parsley. 

    Dealing with Flies Around the Chicken Coop

    With chickens comes poop and with poop comes flies. The best way to keep the fly population down is to increase cleanings and use highly absorbent bedding. Even with frequent cleanings it’s possible to have a large fly population. Fly traps on the outside of the coop or chicken area will work best. It will draw the flies away from your chickens and create a cleaner environment for your flock. 

    CARING FOR CHICKENS IN THE FALL (September-November)

    Fall is all about change and you will see your chickens go through a big change this time of year. After the first year of a chicken's life, they will have a yearly molt. We will dive deeper into molting and how to care for your chickens in the fall.

    While your chickens are changing, so are the trees! Soon leaves will begin to fall and can be used throughout the season for your chickens. Finally, the weather will begin to change as well. With this shift you will want to be sure you make changes to your chicken coop to keep your chickens protected from the elements.

    Molting Poultry

    If you’re seeing a bunch of feathers on the ground and in your chicken coop, your flock is likely beginning their molt! To put it simply, molting is a loss and regrowth of feathers. This typically happens every fall for chickens once they are past one year of age. As we move into fall, the hours of sunlight begin to decrease. 

    The changing light is a sign to your chickens that it is time to start preparing for winter. Their focus shifts from laying an abundance of eggs to regrowing fresh down feathers to keep them warm through the colder months. 

    Regrowing feathers is no small task, it takes a lot of protein and calcium to produce new feathers. Some chickens will stop laying all together so every ounce of calcium and protein goes to new feather growth. Since we have control of our chickens' diets, we can assist them during this time. We know that they will need a lot of calcium and protein to grow new feathers, so we can supplement their diet.

    Here’s how you can help your molting chickens:

    • Offer Chick Feed Instead of Layer Feed: Chick feed is higher in protein and provides the extra protein needed for feather regrowth. 
    • Provide Extra Calcium Supplements: Oyster shell or broken sterilized eggshells are a necessary component of a hens diet regardless of molting. During a molt  provide additional calcium supplement. For example: I offer their own eggshells back to them as calcium. During a molt I will offer the eggshells and oyster shell together.
    • Feed Grubs Daily: Give your chickens extra grubs! Be sure to feed grubs and not mealworms, they lack calcium. Grubs are a great way to get your chickens more calcium and protein. Plus they love bugs so it's a fun enrichment activity for them to scavenge around for the grubs.

    Molting can be a stressful time for chickens and there are also a couple things you can avoid doing to make their molt a smoother process. Molting is usually an 8 week process and during this time they will go from beautiful and fully feathered to a scraggly mess. They will have bare skin showing and it can be very tender to the touch. Try to avoid picking your hens up during this time. 

    Since your flock will already be under stress from molting it’s important not to add more. This includes adding more chickens to the flock or making big changes to their chicken coop. This will help keep the stress levels in your flock under control.

    How to Use Fall Leaves for Chickens

    Fall provides an abundance of leaves that you can use to your advantage. Chickens love playing in the leaves, and it’s also really fun to watch them play in the leaves like little kids. For this you’re going to want to use dry leaves. I like to make a big pile and throw a tarp over it to use throughout fall and winter. 

    Every couple weeks I’ll give them a pile of dry leaves to mess around in. Chickens hate piles and will spend hours destroying one. The leaves are teaming with bugs so your chickens also get to feast like royalty while they sift through the leaves. I’ve found that saving leaves is a free and easy way to keep my chickens busy during the short rainy days that come with fall.

    Chicken coop with blue tarps covering the walls. The door is on the right and only covered with chicken wire.

    Draft and Rain Protection for Chickens

    Depending on where you live, fall is when the rains begin to come. I live in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) so there’s really no “escaping” the rain, but fall is definitely worse than summer. Most chickens are not big fans of water and that includes rain. 

    My chickens have lived their whole life in the PNW so I thought they would just get used to it, but really they are just big chickens (lol). They prefer to stay out of the rain, so providing a covered area where they can stay dry is really important. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, even a large tree where they hang out would be enough. 

    Since we have decently cold temperatures in the fall I also like to provide draft protection at the beginning of the season. I do this by covering up the windows on their coop and putting tarps up on the side of the chicken run. Be sure your coop and chicken run still have plenty of ventilation and are not completely closed in. 


    As a chicken owner, winter is my least favorite time of the year to care for chickens. It’s wet, and cold and can be a little miserable for both you and your chickens. But with proper preparation you can make winters much more manageable. Since chickens are extremely cold hardy they will need little help from you day to day, however you will need to properly winterize your coop. 

    With the days being so short, most chickens go through a dormancy period where they are laying very little or stop all together. This time of year can be a little boring for a chicken, the days are short, they aren’t laying, they’re avoiding the cold and rain, and plants aren’t as lush as they are in the warmer months. But that’s where you come in, you can provide some fun winter enrichment for your flock.

    Why Do Chickens Stop Laying In the Winter? 

    Depending on the breed of chicken, they will lay anywhere from 100-300 eggs a year. On the higher end you have breeds that typically lay through the winter but still slow down in egg production. A chicken needs a solid 12-14 hours of light to lay the optimal number of eggs. In the winter when we are only getting 8-10 hours of daylight in the PNW, we see it affect our overall egg production drastically. If you live somewhere similar to Arizona where daylight hours stay relatively consistent throughout the year, your egg production rates may also stay consistent. 

    You may be thinking, I’ve definitely eaten eggs in the winter, so where did they come from? Well, you can trick a chicken into laying by providing artificial light. However, I wouldn’t recommend going this route unless you absolutely need to continually feed your family eggs through the winter. There are many storage methods for eggs such as water glassing, freeze drying, preserving in salt, freezing yolks, etc. If you need eggs through the winter I’d suggest using a preserving method rather than supplementing with artificial light. 

    The reason for this is you will get less laying years from your chicken. A chicken is born with all the eggs they will ever lay. By giving your hens a break in the winter you are prolonging their laying years up to 5-7 years. Whereas chickens who are forced into laying year round usually cap out after 3-4 years. 

    It’s also very stressful for chickens to be under artificial light, there is a huge difference between artificial light and natural sunlight. It can cause sleep deprivation, feather plucking, and may pose harm to their internal systems. While I personally wouldn’t recommend it, I understand it is crucial to some families to have this ongoing food source through the winter so utilize it only if you need it.

    Winterizing a Coop for Chickens and other Poultry

    Chickens are quite cold hardy, withstanding temperatures below freezing. During winter you want to provide a nice warm coop and a day area where they can escape harsh elements like snow, hail, and rain. When temperatures get below freezing, their water will likely freeze overnight. Be sure to change their water daily so they always have a water source.

    To warm a chicken coop, you do not need to add supplemental heat such as a heat lamp. They can be dangerous and pose a risk of fire. They also do not allow for your chickens to self regulate and keep themselves warm. Instead, they will rely on the heat lamp for warmth. Chickens do a great job at keeping themselves warm by growing thick down feathers during their molt. They will huddle together to build body heat as a group. 

    Providing a roost that is at least three inches wide is crucial in the winter. Chickens need to be able to put their feet flat so that they can squat down over them to keep them warm. If they are perched and have their feet wrapped around their roost, they won't be able to keep the whole foot warm potentially leading to frostbite. 

    I only do two things to winterize my coop in the Pacific Northwest, where we see temperatures below freezing throughout the winter. The first happens in Fall when I put up tarps to cut down on draft. 

    Deep Bedding Method for Chicken Coops

    The second thing I do to keep my chickens warm is the deep bedding method. It’s a natural insulator for your chicken coop! You take your bedding of choice and add a nice thick 4-6 inch layer. Then each week instead of fully cleaning out the coop and removing all the bedding you simply leave it and add a fresh layer on top.

    You do this each week for about six months and then clean all the bedding out at once and give your coop a nice full cleaning. Typically I do a full cleaning each spring after a long winter. The deep bedding method is great for insulating your coop and helps cut down on cleaning time, a win win! 

     The interior of a chicken coop with a 12 inch deep layer of fine wood chip across the floor. A roosting board is 2 feet above the wood chips. 

    Adding Enrichment for Your Flock

    Winter can be a boring time for chickens, especially backyard chickens. They are typically limited in what they can do. This is your chance to provide some enrichment for them! I find that this is one of the funnest parts of keeping chickens. I like that they push me to be creative and come up with solutions to different problems. Below are some fun ways that I’ve kept my chickens busy in the winter.

    Add Chicken Swing or Perch: 

    Chickens love to perch and will often perch together so provide a couple perch’s so the whole flock can get in on the fun! Some chickens enjoy a little swing. I like to make mine wide enough so the chickens can have flat feet on them, they seem a little more stable and willing to use it versus a perching swing. 

    Growing Chicken Fodder: 

    Six chickens eating microgreen fodder from a pink 1020 bootstrap farmer tray.

    Fodder provides a fun scratching activity for your chickens and adds good nutrients to their diet. It’s fun and easy to set up and only takes a week or two to grow your chickens anything they desire. You can plant wheatgrass, oats, barely, broccoli, sunflowers, marigolds, rye, alfalfa, etc. The list goes on and on and each different tray of fodder can offer a new makeup of nutrients to be added to your chickens diet. Read More About Growing Your Own Fodder Here!

    Homemade Flock Block Chicken Treats: 

    A block made of all things chickens love, grubs, seeds, eggshells, oats, etc. You can make up your own recipe or use mine below! 

    A glass pan of baked treats for chickens being held by a woman with long black braids and red beanie.

    The Chicken Chaser Flock Block


    • 2 cups Chicken Feed
    • 2 cups Grubs
    • ½ cup Whole Wheat Flour
    • 1 cup Sunflower Seeds
    • 1 cup Oats
    • ¼ cup Crushed Eggshells(from your flock, or use oyster shell)
    • 3 Cloves Chopped Garlic
    • 1 Cayenne Pepper or 1 Tbsp Red Chili Flakes
    • 2 Tbsp Cinnamon 

    Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl.


    • 1 cup coconut oil
    • 3/4 cup molasses
    • 1/2 cup of sourdough discard

    Mix all wet ingredients together. 

    Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well until there’s no more dry patches.

    Add to a pan greased with coconut oil or lined with parchment paper.

    Pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for 35-45 mins

    Pull it out and cut it if you want while it is still soft! I usually cut mine in half!

    Let it cool completely in the pan. As it cools it will harden and become crispy.

    Now you know how to better care for your chickens throughout the seasons! As they change, so do our chickens' needs. We want to be able to adapt and assist our chickens when necessary. To continue learning about chickens and how to care for them, follow me @chickenchaserbri on Instagram.

    Smiling woman with afro has a chicken sitting on her shoulder.