A hen keeper for more than 20 years with a 300 strong flock on her Hampshire / Surrey smallholding, chicken expert Suzie Baldwin from Hollywater Hens offers her advice and December tips for keeping chickens:
This month, egg production is still really good in the hybrid barn, so I'm making lots of homemade puddings - great comfort food after a long day in the cold.
Spending a few minutes observing your chickens is essential in winter, as it is a trying time for them. Any behavioural changes could indicate illness, boredom or stress: all of which can easily be dealt with if caught early, but problems can quickly worsen if ignored. Hens really appreciate an afternoon feed of corn (combine with rolled oats and just enough cod liver oil - a good all-round tonic - to coat the mixture) for an energy boost, which will help them through the long chilly nights.
Sorting all my pure breeds for next year. This involves choosing those of either sex that best fits the features required by the breed standard - from leg colour to weight and size - and putting them in the pen where I can see them to ensure they're in tip-top condition. I've picked out some gorgeous Salmon Faverolles, Pekins and Buff Orpingtons, which will produce wonderful offspring next year.