The cold briskness of winter is fast approaching. We thought it would be a great idea to talk about how to care for chickens in cold climates. You might feel overwhelmed by this thought. But cold weather is nothing to fear. Chickens are hearty creatures. With a few adjustments, you will be well prepared, and your chickens will do great.
Weatherproofing Your Coop
The best place to start with how to care for chickens in cold climates is the coop. Below we have some of the best ideas to adjust your chicken coop in winter.
The first thing you should check for before winter is drafts. Getting down on the floor and looking at the baseboards of your coop will help identify any drafts. If you find drafts, you will need to cover them to the best of your abilities.
Depending on your location, some people choose to stuff the drafts with newspaper or strips of cloth. But if you are looking for a more permanent solution, you could use calking. If you have a new coop, there shouldn’t be any drafts. But you should check every winter to be sure that the coop hasn’t settled. If the drafts are too much, you might consider getting a weatherproof coop. Coops like the Petsfit Weatherproof Outdoor Chicken Coop with Nesting Box are perfect for cold climates.
One draft that many people don’t consider is from the coop door. Using something like the ChickenGuard Standard Automatic Chicken Coop Pop Door Opener & Door Kit will help keep the wind from whipping through the coop. Your hens will have to get used to it, but there are no issues after showing them how to use it.
Summer ventilation is low to the ground and provides a nice cool breeze. But these will lead to frostbite, and a draft will constantly whip at your hens. You will want to close these low vents off and block them from any drafts for the winter. You can do this with magnetic vent covers or covering with towels or plastic.
But don’t get rid of all ventilation. Chickens in winter need ventilation is necessary to prevent moisture and ammonia buildup. Without it, your coop is a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. Where do you put winter ventilation where it won’t create a draft?
The best place for winter vents is along the top of the coop. Fumes and moisture will rise out of the top of the coop to create the perfect winter conditions. And if you worry about below temperatures at night, you could always close them off temporarily.
Deep Litter Method
The biggest worry for chickens in winter is getting too cold. Most of us don’t have climate-controlled coops. But did you know that there is a way to heat the coop naturally? Using the deep litter method is a way to compost feces within your chicken coop. Composting generates a natural warmth that can keep your coop a few degrees warmer inside.
One way to trap heat into your coop is by having large windows. Strategically placed windows that face the sun for most of the day can trap a lot of heat in the coop. Though this only works if your cold climate areas have sun during the winter. In areas where there is an overcast for most of the winter, you can’t count on windows.
If your coop only has a small window, you could also modify it with a larger window. You can find windows for reasonably cheap.
In cold weather, chickens will want to roost fluffed up and huddled together to conserve energy and trap heat. You will want to make sure that your roost is large enough for every hen in your flock. Each chicken will need at least 10 inches of space on the perch. You also might want to check on them at night to make sure that they are all roosting together.
Another hint is to use a 2×4 as a roost. Flat roosts will allow your hens to sit on their feet to keep warm. Unlike rounded roosts where your hen will need to balance themselves and can’t comfortably cover their feet.
But no matter what type of roost you have, height is critical. When using a deep litter method, keeping the roost two feet off the ground will provide some heat at night. Anything higher and your hens will feel a slight draft from the overhead ventilation.
And of course, don’t forget the insulation. For older coops, you might want to add more insulation to the coop. Newer coops should already have insulation sufficient enough for the first winter or two. But you will need to check it yearly to make sure that it is up to date and in functioning order.
Can Chickens Stay Outside In The Winter?
In the summer months, we allow our chickens to run freely in and out without worrying. If this is your first winter, you might be wondering how to care for chickens in cold climates. Will chickens freeze to death out in the cold? It might surprise you, but chickens are a hearty creature. But they can be a little picky in some cases. Below we have some of the best ways to get your chickens out of the coop and exercising.
Create A Sunroom
If your area gets too cold in the winter, you might want to create a warm place for them to roam in. You can do this by attaching a temporary sunroom to the coop. A basic frame covered in polycarbonate will suffice well for chickens in winter. Polycarbonate is a fantastic material used for greenhouses. So your greenhouse will be warmer than the run at any time. And you can easily remove it for the spring.
Some chickens fair well all winter. But have you ever seen chickens in the snow? Some chickens don’t mind the snow at all. But others hate the feel of ice on their feet. Laying a thick layer of straw will give your hens something to walk on. It’s a cheap fix that will keep your chickens happy.
The final concern that you will have is keeping the water from freezing. To prevent this, you can go one of three routes. The first is to place the water dishes inside the coop, but be prepared to clean it regularly of bedding. The other is to insulate the bowls with towels or blankets, but they will still freeze over time. And finally, the easiest way to keep the water warm is to use an electric bowl warmer.
What Temperature Is Too Cold For Chickens?
Most chickens in winter can tolerate temperatures below freezing. Some people even say some breeds can survive in temperatures below zero. But it’s not without being uncomfortable. We recommend keeping a hygrometer and thermometer inside the coop to keep a good eye on the humidity and temperatures. Ideally, you want the coop to stay above 20 degrees and 50% humidity. And if all else fails, you could always use the Wal front 100-300W Safe Chicken Coop Pet Heater. These heaters are safer than heating lamps, and with low medium and high settings, your hens won’t overheat.
Cold Weather Chicken Breeds
For those of you who have colder climates all year, you might consider chickens bred for it. These chickens not only do better in cold temperatures, but some of them even lay eggs throughout the winter.
- These dual-purpose hens are fluffy little things that will add some calm and serenity to your flock. Their large and puffy appearances make for practical uses of insulation throughout the winter. Most of them even continue to lay all through the winter.
- Being feathered from head to toe makes the Silkie a great winter-ready bird. Their feathers keep them warm, and since they don’t have combs, they won’t get frostbite. The only downside is that Silkies don’t lay eggs throughout the winter.
- Another fluffy winter bird is the Cochin. These large birds have feathers that cover their sensitive feet and small combs. You will love how friendly these chickens are and their quiet nature. And to top it all off, they produce delicious eggs in the winter.
- And our final cold weather chicken breed is the Plymouth Rock. These hens come from cold weather breeding and survive the most frigid winters in Massachusetts. The only downside to these calm birds is that they don’t lay eggs during the cold of winter to conserve energy.
What To Feed Chickens In Winter
Now that we know all about how to care for chickens in cold climates, we need to talk about food. In warmer weather, your hens have access to all sorts of grains and foraging materials. But in the winter, all of these things are taken away. So what should you feed your chickens all winter?
To keep up with conserving energy, your chickens will need less protein and more healthy carbs. Giving a nice cracked corn treat can give your flock the power they need to keep sane and stay warm.
On incredibly chilly mornings, you could give them an excellent warm oatmeal breakfast. And to fill in what they are missing in insects, you can buy mealworms and crickets purchased at any pet store.
And Above All Else…
Keep an eye out for frostbite. Wattles, combs, and feet are prone to being frostbitten. So you will want to keep an eye on them and even use a little petroleum jelly on these areas. And that is everything you need to know on how to care for chickens in cold climates. If you do all of these things, you will find keeping chickens in cold weather easy.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!