Most places in the world will have some sort of winter, just varying degrees of it. Can your chickens adjust to the cold temperatures? Is there special care needed for chickens during winter? Let’s get into “Keeping Chickens in the Winter – Tips for Success”!
Our chickens serve such a big role on our homestead! I simply cannot emphasize how many purposes they serve!
The Winter Chicken Coop
Despite what you may think, chickens are very hardy animals and can easily make it through winter, with a few essentials in their corner.
First off, let’s address air flow.
My chickens like to come in the horse barn at night.
So much so that I finally put up roosting bars for them.
During the day, ventilation is important. Chicken manure releases a lot of ammonia that can be toxic, so your coop needs a way to air out.
However, in the evening, you need to close up your coop for the night.
Your Chicken Coop Needs to Be Dry
While your chickens can endure cold winter temperatures, they cannot do it wet.
Your coop MUST be dry and leak-free!
Water also turns to ice and can cause injury.
Before winter, take a good look where your chickens are housed and look for any wet spots on the floor and repair the culprit.
Do Chickens Need Heat in the Winter?
If your chickens have housing that keeps them dry and draft-free, they do not need a heat supplement.
What I have found to be very effective is to line the walls of my chicken coops with bales of straw. Straw holds heat and acts as insulation for your coop.
Actually, I find adding an electric heat source for your chickens to not only be unnecessary, but dangerous.
It doesn’t take much for wood bedding or straw to catch fire.
NOT worth the risk.
How Chickens Keep Themselves Warm
During the winter, you might see your chickens standing on just one leg.
This is their way of warming up one leg while standing on the another.
Chickens also “fluff” themselves to keep warm.
Please do not inhibit their ability to “fluff” themselves by dressing them in chicken sweaters or other clothing!
Should I Put Lights on My Chickens to Keep Them Laying?
We do not put supplemental lighting on our chickens.
Their bodies are designed to rest during the darker months (it’s the lack of sunlight that slows down their laying, not the temperatures).
Here’s what I want you to understand.
Chickens are born with all of the eggs they will ever lay in their ovaries, similar to female humans.
If you put additional light on them during the winter will keep them laying, but shorten the years that they will lay.
I prefer to let nature do it’s thing and let the “girls” rest.
Consider storing away some eggs using the “water-glassing” method can give you enough eggs to make it through the winter, while letting your hens rest.
Make Sure Your Chickens Have Access to Food and Fresh Water All Day
Chickens are able to regulate their body temperature by staying hydrated.
If you don’t have an electric chicken water-heater (I use this one), try adding a bottle of salt water to your water and see if that works for you.
Chickens also generate body heat while they are digesting food. By offering cracked corn or other cracked grain, food that takes longer to digest, will help to keep your girls warm all night.
Can My Chickens Free-Range in the Winter?
My girls love to be outside, albeit, there isn’t much to forage for.
If it snows more than a couple of inches, I clear a path for them so they can get around easier.
Take extra care of your chickens during the winter, they’ll serve you well next year when it’s warmer!