Keeping Chickens Warm During Winter

| 1/11/2021 12:35:00 PM

Tracy LynnThere is nothing quite as amusing as seeing a chicken come out of the coop on that first cold and snowy morning of the year. More often than not, the flock will rush out the door only to turn tail and rush right back in again.

It can be tempting to keep your hens inside of the coop all winter where it’s warm and dry, but fresh air is just as important, if not more so, even in those very cold months.

Photo by Pixabay/geoff_beattie

Setting Up a Chicken Coop for Winter

It’s true that some chicken breeds are hardier than others, but luckily, there are a few things you can do to protect your entire flock when those temperatures drop down to the single digits.

Do a through clean out in the fall. 

Remove all the bedding, sweep out the cobwebs, wipe down, and sterilize the coop. By cleaning out your coop, you will remove any soiled dirt and parasites so you can start the winter season fresh. Watch my video to see this step by step. 

As you are cleaning, look for any holes or cracks in the coop, repairing as you find them. This will not only keep drafts out of the coop, but any nasty predators as well. Remember, it’s not just our chickens that want shelter from the cold but also mice, rats, weasels, and other unwanted guests—guests looking for a free meal by eating your chicken’s feed, their eggs, or even the chickens themselves. Stop them now by plugging up even the smallest of openings. 

10/31/2019 6:45:33 AM

Hello, fellow Pennsylvanian! We get some pretty high winds here ourselves, with the wind chills down in the negative 20's. And I do not use a heater of any kind. Remember to trust your birds, allow them to acclimate to the cold as the weather changes and they will do just fine. They know to get out of the cold and will stay in the coop most of the day just coming out here and there for a change of scenery. Amish construction is the best, isn't it? And I know your flock will do just fine. I would only use the heat sources when necessary so you are not relying on them. If they go down and your chickens are used to that warmth they will not be as prepared as they would have they never had it in the first place. Since you do have the extra heat, I would not add the bales especially if rodents are a concern. As far as water is concerned, I have tried everything and for me I find bringing out fresh water 3 times a day is the easiest way to go. Since I work from home this is a viable option and I realize it may not be for you. But I do not have any experience with heated water so I am afraid I cannot help there. I use rubber water bowls putting a gallon of water in each, I have 3 of them to give my flock plenty of options. I dump and refill in the winter at the morning feeding, once in the afternoon when I collect eggs, then again at the evening feeding. Even on the coldest of days their water stays thawed when I do this. To help with chores I also use a utility sled I purchased off of Amazon. I am older myself and this has saved my bag, however, we are on a flat surface so I am not sure if this would help you out? I hope this helps!

10/20/2019 12:32:48 PM

Thank you Tracy, excellent article! I live in the mountains of central PA and the cold is unbelievable, along with VERY high winds up here, almost every day in the winter. I have a new flock of 19 that I have raised since they were 1-day old, now 4 1/2 months old. They have never known anything but house and coop living and I purchased some beautiful and well-constructed coops from the Amish. They already had heated roosts installed but I am still concerned about the cold and relying on just the building itself and heated roosts. I have now placed 1-3 heating plates on the walls of the coops so my beloved guys won't get frozen- they are in the central wall and on the upper wall in one area where that coop prefers to roost; I was assured that these had zero risk of fire production. I was also planning on putting those heated "bucket" things in so I could place their waterers (the thick plastic with nipple kind) on top and prevent freezing. ***Are those ideas good? Will the heaters work with that type of water dispenser? I'm interested in knowing more\ about a few things you said: ***Do I still need to put straw or hay bales down when the floor is tight and doesn't have drafts? I have a feeling that would be a major rodent draw around here. ***We have sand floors in all the coops and love them as opposed to the bedding. I haven't had any issues but, when you mentioned the feet getting frostbite so easily, I was wondering if they would be more prone to do that in sand? It doesn't get wet inside, just in their outside runs as the rain blows sideways due to the wind. ***Do I need to replace their thinner perches? The ones from the builder are 2x4's but the narrow edge is what they were given as a roost, not the wide flat area. We subsequently put up more narrow roosts and they seem to like them, but I don't want to do anything to bother or hurt their feet. ***I don't have floor room in 2 of the coops that would allow so much straw against the walls. Any other ideas that might keep the floor warmer without adding any bulk? ***The nesting boxes I have are lined with the very soft "turf" they sell for that purpose. My only laying hen, who was thrown in with guineas I received, seems to love them for her nesting but I never thought about the possibility of hens getting so cold in their boxes. Do you think straw would be necessary inside these boxes, blankets, what would be your suggestion? ***Since they have enclosed runs with sand flooring, I'm assuming they would have your hens same reactions if they ran out into the freezing air and snow. I hate to put straw down since I have no idea of how I would ever get it all out and I'm also afraid the sand could start developing something funky if the straw starts rotting. Any suggestions? ***Water is a huge challenge for me since I have done everything with hoses we strung up and they will be impossible to use soon due to freezing. Because the coops are built on a mountainside, by our house, the back of them exits onto a sheer rock face where you can fall straight down. The coops also drop down the hill from the house, staggered by levels. I am older now and hauling any kind of significant weight will be very difficult, particularly since it needs to be done 3 times a day. Are you aware of any way to keep water next to my coops with a heater inside of it like fish tanks or bird baths use? That way my husband could fill it up every few days and I have less chance of falling to a very uncomfortable fate! ;-) Thanks again- I was so happy to find this!

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