After you’ve checked all your coops and tucked your flock in for the winter, Michele Cook reminds you to do a little TLC for yourself.
This morning the temperatures hovered in the mid-teens and my nose hairs froze the second I stepped outside. I grumbled about the cold as I pulled the 12th layer of clothing over my body and wrapped a scarf around my face six times. Oddly enough, the chickens didn’t seem nearly as upset about the cold as I was. My entire flock of 22 chickens was still waiting at the coop door, begging me to let them out for their free-range time. They still ran to the dog food bowls looking for leftovers, they still ran between my legs as I filled their feeders, and they still happily pecked around the yard and garden. In short, they could give two figs about the cold. This led me to a great epiphany, chicken keepers need a lot more care in the winter than the chickens do.
Get Your Winter Gear Ready
If you are new to having chickens or have moved from Florida to Maine, you might need to head to your nearest store to stock up on your winter gear. There are a few essentials you will be thrilled to have when the temperatures plummet this winter. Here is a short list of my favorite winter gear.
- Compression long underwear – Under Armour is a popular brand but there are several good brands out there.
- A warm vest that fits under your coat – Keeping your chest warm will make a big difference in how warm you feel.
- Flannel lined jeans – Best invention ever!
- Wool socks – if your feet get cold you will never be comfortable. Invest in a few pairs of nice wool socks.
- A warm jacket with a lot of pockets – The pockets can hold your hat and gloves so you always know where they are. Don’t use them for eggs, it gets a bit ummm, messy.
- Ear covers and fleece-lined gloves – This is just my preference but you should have something for your hands and head.
This is my list, you may want to add a few things to yours or substitute a knit cap for a pair of ear warmers. One word of warning. If you are a fashionista, don’t look in the mirror when you put your winter gear on. This list will keep you warm but I make no guarantees on being fashion-forward.
Winter Skin Care for Chicken Keepers
Without proper care, winter can wreak havoc on a chicken keeper’s skin. Playing with water, being out in the wind and the just plain old dry winter air will make your skin drier than a desert in July. Some preemptive self-care will go a long way in keeping your skin soft through the dry winter months.
First, choose a good moisturizing soap. Look at the ingredients and avoid soaps with alcohol in them that can further dry your skin. I am going to give a big plug for goat milk soap here. It’s what we use and I make mine here on the farm. Huge difference from commercial soaps. If you don’t have milk goats at your house, check out Goat Milk Stuff to find some great soap.
Next, let’s talk hand lotions. If you’re anything like me, you end up taking your gloves off to do anything requiring a tiny bit of dexterity. That means your hands take the brunt of the cold. If you aren’t careful your hands will be red and burning after just one day out in the freezing cold. Find a good lotion and use it twice a day!
Finally, we need to talk about lip balm. There is a reason all of those chapstick commercials feature people on ski slopes, winter is hard on the delicate skin on your lips. A protective layer of some type of lip balm will keep your lips kissably soft. Even if you are only kissing your chickens.
Warming Back Up
There are some days in the winter you will come in and it feels like you just can’t get warm. You cuddle under blankets and keep your layers on but you still feel chilled to the bone. On these days you need to do a little extra winter self-care, and you need to start from the inside. Hot soup, tea or my favorite, hot chocolate will help you start to warm up. After you have warmed up the inside, it’s time for a good hot shower or bath. If you can add some essential oils to your bath you can warm up and relax at the same time.
If you are still cold after warming up your insides and outsides it might be time to take a hard look at your winter gear. You may need to add layers or change the fit of your clothes to be sure you are truly protected from the cold.
Chicken’s might not struggle in winter, but many chicken keepers do. It’s a tough time of year for us and a little special winter self-care is in order. If you would like to know more about keeping your chickens happy in the winter, check out this post from fellow Community Chickens writer Kaylee Vaughn.
Michele Cook is a farmer, author, and communications specialist for the National Federation of Press Women. She raises chickens, goats, and vegetables on her small farm in the beautiful Allegheny mountains of Virginia. If she is not outside caring for her farm you can find her curled up in a chair with her nose stuck in a good book.