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Preparing your chickens for winter is an important step to ensure they keep warm and healthy during the cold months. The winter can be a scary and intimidating time for new chicken owners. You may be fearful about how to keep them warm enough and if your hens will still lay eggs. Well, with these simple tips, you won’t have to worry about your chicks this frosty season.
Keep your chickens warm during the winter by ensuring proper insulation, ventilation and using the Deep Litter Method. Also, use sunlight to trap heat, make a sunroom, and feed your hens cracked corn and protein. Lastly, ensure the chickens have unfrozen, fresh water and quality roosts.
As winter approaches, it can become somewhat challenging for your chickens to keep warm. But, as tempting as you may be to knit wooly sweaters for your hens, there are more straightforward and more effective ways to protect your flock − here are twelve tips that will ensure that your chickens keep warm during the icy winter months.
How To Keep My Chickens Warm During The Winter
While chickens are hardy birds, they can stop producing eggs, become sick, and the weaker flock members will struggle to recover if they aren’t warm enough during the winter season.
While some farmers may recommend using heat lamps to warm their chicken coop, they come with the high risk of starting fires if they accidentally malfunction − think about all that bedding that can light up!
Fortunately, our favorite ways to help keep chickens warm during the winter are easy enough for every novice owner and small flock holder to follow. It’ll also help heat the coop while cutting down on your work.
Here are our twelve best tips to ensure that your hens are well-protected from cold winters:
- Ensure the chicken coop is properly insulated
- Minimize drafts by installing vinyl flaps over the coop’s doorway
- Keep your chicken coop well ventilated
- Use the old-school Deep Litter Method to keep your chickens warm
- Use sunlight to trap heat in the chicken coop for a more extended period
- Create a cozy sunroom for your hens to roam around
- Feed your hens snacks as supplemental feeding to keep them warm
- Hang a cabbage head to get their circulation up and running
- Ensure that your chickens always have full access to fresh, unfrozen water at all times of the day
- Roosting helps chickens stay warm during winter
- Slather on a salve to keep the chickens’ combs and wattles safe from frostbite
- Use lights at night to add warmth to the chicken coop while increasing egg production
Let’s briefly discuss each method to give you a better overview of applying these valuable tips at home.
Ensure The Chicken Coop Is Properly Insulated
If your budget allows it, you can use fiberglass or foam insulation in the chicken coop walls and cover it with plywood. Note that you’ll want to ensure its insulation is fully covered to prevent the chickens from picking at it.
For a thriftier approach, insulate the chicken coop by hanging horse blankets on the wall to help keep the chilly wind out. Alternatively, stack straw bales against the walls to help insulate the chicken coop.
If the icy drafts creep through the walls of your chicken coop, you’ll want to ensure that you cover those too. Consider using large pieces or feedbags and staple them along the coop walls to block the drafts. Using staples will allow you to pull them down effortlessly as the summer weather approaches.
As you can see, there are many ways to insulate your chicken coop to ensure that your hens stay warm during the winter no matter what your budget is.
Check out my recent article on chicken coop insulation for more details
Minimize Drafts To Keep Chickens Warm In Winter
My favorite solution is to install vinyl flaps across the opening. Your chickens will gradually become used to walking through the flaps by leaving a gap in them initially. You can then progress to cover the gap over to reduce the draft.
There’s not much we do about the small door in the chicken coop during the daytime. Your chickens will need to come and go to lay eggs, feed, and roam around outside. However, this opening can allow cold airflow into the coop.
Due to the hens typically spending most of the day inside the chicken coop to steer clear from the wind and snow, they are in the precise spot to catch the cold draft rushing in through the small door.
It’s critical to prevent cold air blowing on your chickens while they are asleep in their coop as the chilly wind rapidly increases the rate of heat loss. So, you will want to ensure that the chicken coop is well-sealed and free from air leaks to reduce those icy drafts.
Keep The Chicken Coop Well Ventilated
You will want to place your vents towards the uppermost area of your chicken coop’s roof to prevent the breeze from flowing directly onto the birds. Ideally, you will want to install mesh vents with a hatch that you can easily open and close, allowing you to properly vent the coop during the daytime and close it up during colder evenings.
Although you should cover up large holes in the chicken coop to prevent cold drafts from blowing in, it’s critical to note that you should not reduce the airflow too much as it will lead to more severe problems.
You will need to ensure adequate ventilation in your chicken coop to allow the excess heat, carbon dioxide, moisture, and ammonia fumes to seep out while allowing fresh air to flow into the chicken coop. The chickens will quickly become ill if they stay in damp, stagnant conditions.
Venting out the moist, warm, and ammonia-rich air and replacing it with drier and cooler fresh air will help keep the humidity down in the chicken coop, preventing mold from growing in the hens’ bedding.
Keep the coop dry by removing the wet spots of bedding daily and providing additional bedding in comparison to the other seasons to ensure that the birds have enough places to burrow and keep cozy.
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Use Deep Litter To Keep Your Chickens Warm During Winter
The Deep Litter Method consists of repeatedly turning over the chickens’ soiled bedding, adding a fresh layer of bedding, and allowing the droppings to decompose on the floor all winter. At the same time, it creates heat that will naturally keep the coop warm.
The Deep Litter Method is an old-timers’ yet highly sustainable method of managing the droppings while insulating the coop. This approach allows the chicken manure and bedding to accumulate and decompose in the chicken coop throughout the winter.
As an additional bonus, the beneficial microbes that naturally grow will aid in controlling pathogens, making your hens less susceptible to common diseases.
Use Sunlight To Trap Heat To Keep Your Chicken Warm
Use well-insulated windows as a sun trap, to help warm the bedding of your Deep Litter Method. Increasing the ‘thermal mass; in your chicken coop will allow the heat to release at a steadier pace after the sun sets. So, materials such as a compost floor, stone, or concrete will help retain more heat during the day, releasing the extra warmth slowly throughout the night.
Although the days tend to be shorter during the winter, you can use sunlight to trap heat during the day to help keep the coop warmer for longer during the dark evening hours.
Lastly, consider painting the floor of the chicken coop black to further aid in trapping sunlight to keep the chickens warm.
Create A Sunroom To Keep Your Chickens Warm During Winter
If you’re worried about the hens not having enough room in the coop, you can build a cold frame or greenhouse-style addition to the chicken coop. Of course, you’ll want to cover the structure with clear plastic to keep the girls protected from wind, rain, and snow.
As tempting as it may seem to keep your chickens locked away from the harsh winter weather, your flock will enjoy and benefit from roaming around freely.
The sunroom will provide an area to wander about and get fresh air without being exposed to the worst of the weather.
Feed Your Chickens Extra Snacks To Keep Them Warm In Winter
Give your girls (and boys) a tasty snack of cracked corn before bed during the winter. Not only will they be enjoying their favorite snack, but they will go to bed with full bellies.
Their bodies will break down and digest the yummy treats when the chickens sleep, generating additional body heat.
Consider feeding your chickens warm oatmeal or cooked potatoes during cold winter mornings. These foods are safe, healthy, and full of protein and amino acids that aid in healthy feather development.
Hang A Cabbage Head To Entertain Your Chickens In Winter
You can add a healthy snack and a fun entertainment piece to your chicken coop by hanging a cabbage head on a string.
The cabbage head will swing around like a tetherball whenever the chickens take a bite. Your chickens will go wild pecking at the bobbing cabbage head, providing amusement, exercise, increasing circulation, and filling their bellies.
Heat The Water To Keep Your Chickens Warm
Chickens need to drink lots of water, it aids in their digestion and helps with temperature regulation. So, if your chickens’ water source freezes, it affects their ability to regulate their body temperatures and stay warm.
Purchasing a heated water bowl or a water heater base for your hens during the icy winters will help keep them happy and hydrated.
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Roosting Helps Chickens Stay Warm In Winter
You’ll want to ensure that the roosting bars are large enough for all your chickens to roost comfortably and that they are raised at least two feet above the ground to help them feel secure. Use a flashlight to check on your chickens during the evening; if you find one of your hens on the floor, then you need to add more roosting bars to create enough space for all of them to fit snugly.
High-quality roosts are important to help keep your chickens warm during the winter. Roosting bars will help your hens and roosters stay warm by getting them off the cold floor and encouraging them to huddle together tightly and keep each other snug.
Lastly, move any roosting bars away from the door or windows to prevent the blowing drafts disrupting the chickens’ fluffed feathers or causing chills.
Slather On A Salve To Protect The Chickens’ From Frostbite
All chickens but especially those with large combs and wattles, are susceptible to frostbite or worse in the coldest winter months.
You can help protect your birds and minimize the risk of frostbite by slathering salve onto their combs and wattles. Excellent options include Vaseline or petroleum jelly; however, use coconut oil or bag balm for a more natural alternative.
Use Lights At Night To Add Warmth For Your Chickens
You may notice that your hens’ egg production decreases or stops altogether as the winter days shorten. However, artificial lighting will add warmth to the chicken coop and increase your hens’ egg production.
Ensure that the supplemental lighting is a low-intensity light and that you apply the light during the early morning hours to encourage the birds to roost at night. Consider using incandescent light bulbs instead of LEDs as they are a better heat source, releasing up to 90% heat.
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I hope these ten helpful tips will help put your mind at ease, but most importantly, keep your chickens warm and cozy during the coldest winter months.
Remember that proper ventilation is equally essential as insulation, and even though the days seem shorter during winter, the sun can work wonders if you use it to your advantage.
Lastly, ensure your ladies have enough space on the roosting bars, and don’t be too hesitant on fattening up with yummy snacks like cracked corn and warm oatmeal.