Late Winter in the Chook-yard

Each season brings a new slant to the chookyard. In late winter, the ground is often saturated, the air cold and light is low. We are called to ensure our chooks have access to dry outside space and that their need for fresh ground continues to be met.

Fresh ground

chooks in the berryhouse

So easy in summer and autumn – not always so in winter and spring. Fresh ground means more than fresh greens – it means bugs and critters and parasite free ground too – ie not a muddy or dusty worm infested soup. Don’t be down on yourself if this is the case, just keep evolving your fresh ground rotation and in time you’ll be doing right by your birds.

What spaces are up for grabs on your property or immediate surrounds? Imagine!

  • Create a neighbourhood chook run in the stellar weedy mess between you and the park next door and reduce the weeds incoming into your gardens. The council wont mind – surely?! It ticks quite a few objectives on the community plan – community building, cleaning up the environment via reducing sprays, less money spent on sprays and improved employee health through not having to use said sprays … brilliant all round.
  • Remove a section of fence between you and the neighbour to easily access more ground and in doing so share the care of the chooks.
  • Create a simple chook size door into the greenhouse, or corale them under fruit trees or berries for a reduction in over wintering grubs.
  • Set them up over an area you’d like to clear for new beds in spring
  • Get them in the bug laden, sheltered ground under trees – out of the rain and wind. Their jungle ancestors will applaud you.

Go as temporary as you can while you work out the system that works best for you – its unlikely you’ll get it right the first time round. My containment system is a mixture of permanent wire fences + mobile birdnet screens that are pegged to overhead wires so I can easily enclose a variety of spaces. Keep your fencing simple but robust ie chicken proof.

Go high or heritage: For low fences like electranet, heavy heritage breeds are your best bet – though there is always one with itchy feet. All our chook fences are about 1.8m in the event hylines or shavers are in the house – they’ll be over top of anything less.

Go low: Focus on the bottom. I lay planks along the bottom of the nets. The static wire netting has a wooden board along the bottom to keep the tension alive and prevent dogs or some pushing under in as much as the chooks getting out.

If you cannot imagine or create more land, bring the goods to them. Fill their area with whatever organic matter you can find – sawdust, leaves, grass clippings, food scraps, seaweed, pond weed, wood chips and keep topping it up. You’ll get some awesome compost in the process.

Top up the sawdust in the house

If the chook house is the only dry space your chooks have, be sure to keep the floor in fresh shavings (or whatever it is you use.) A shovel full on top the nights doings, each morning or second morning is what I’m talking about. I do this once a week because apart from egg laying, my chooks aren’t inside during the day. Then once a season, I muck the house out for an awesome pile of organic matter for the garden, and begin all over again.

Dust bath


We shower, chooks dust bath! Its how they self manage lice and mites and keep their feathers clean. In the dry seasons, chooks can easily find dust bathing spots, but when its wet and they are contained, its not so easy. Sometimes impossible.

A rooved over area just off the chook house is the bomb. For dust bathing as well as food storage, rain proof wining and dining and oyster grit too.

If your chooks are missing a dust bath zone, can you find a way to create a simple undercover area? Prop up the canopy off an old ute? A bit of second hand iron running from the chook house to an existing fence?

A question I am often asked is how to make a dust bath and the good news is, you don’t. the chooks do. So long as they have somewhere dry.

Waning egg production


Light triggers egg production, therefore less light = less eggs. Theres nothing wrong with your girls! As daylight hours increase again, those eggs will come on back, unless of course your chook is getting on in years.

The option is there to force them into more eggs with artificial light, but I say go with the natural flow and give the girls a break. I have the same attitude to protein rich treats which are often recommended when its cold and access to fresh ground has run out. Its really easy to overfeed chooks – far better to provide them a wide range of different environments – leaf litter, trees, herbs, greencrops, other organic matter and let them source what they need themselves.


moulting chooks

Let this question resonate at the heart of your chicken set up.

Can your chickens express their chicken-ness?”

Joel Salatin

Chicken-ness is bright eyed and cheeky, curious, on the go, in your face and an all round enthusiasm for life – especially of the microscopic variety. A need to flap, stretch, explore and dustbathe.

Have you got all the bases covered?


  1. Lisa Horlor says

    You are seriously awesome, and clearly have a great connection with all that is. Your info is soooo good to read, as it is aware, and conscious. Thank you for considering the whole of the eco system when you share your gardeining expertise!

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