Even though chickens are sturdy animals, laying hens will stop laying eggs if they aren’t kept warm sufficiently, and sick birds will have a hard time recovering in the cold.
Several farmers utilize heat lamps in their coops to keep the animals comfortable, but these devices pose a fire hazard if they break down or aren’t kept in good working order. If you want to keep your birds warm during the winter, here are some things you can do.
Choose the Appropriate Chicken Breeds for Your Environment
Starting with cold sturdy chicken breeds is the best way to ensure your hens are comfortable all winter long. Smaller combs and wattles are characteristic of chilly breeds, causing them less vulnerable to heat exhaustion. They have a stouter build, making them more comfortable in cold environments.
Choosing the best chicken breed for your area can do wonders in keeping your chickens warm during the colder months. We have raised almost every variety of chicken imaginable. We found that naturally skinny chickens with sizable combs often perish during the colder months.
However, we found that protecting these birds by applying petroleum jelly to their braids and feathers on cold nights didn’t do much good, and it’s much simpler for you to get cold sturdy breeds to start with. Our chickens have been cold hardy breeds, so we haven’t had to worry about frostbite this winter. It’s easier to avoid future heartache by selecting the appropriate breeds from the beginning.
Winterizing the Chicken Coop
The temperature within a secure coop will rise by 10 degrees or more due to the chickens’ body heat and respiration, based on the size of the cage. To prevent the chickens from being chilled by drafts, sealing off cracks and closing windows is the first step in overseeding the chicken coop. A few high exhaust holes should be left open to relieve the build-up of excess humidity.
Bales of hay positioned under the roosters or around the outer walls of the coop can be used to provide some bioheat if necessary. Covering small coops with blankets or tarps during the colder months can help keep the heat inside. If your chicken house is too big, you can make it more manageable by lowering the ceiling or adding temporary walls.
Finally, biodegradable bedding should be provided to ensure a warm, dry floor. Feathered-footed animals experience extreme discomfort and risk of frostbite when walking in the snow because their feet build up ice.
Improve your Coop Insulation
Understanding the need for insulation in keeping hens (and other animals) warm throughout the winter is a vital skill. There are plenty of cheap ways to prepare your chicken coop for the winter. Foam insulation, such as Styrofoam, is great for keeping the heat in during the winter, but many chickens find it attractive and will peck it to pieces.
That’s bad news for two reasons: first, their ability to retain heat will decrease, and second, consuming large quantities of foam can’t be healthy. Foam insulation can be dangerous to your chickens because it can cause gastrointestinal blockages.
A less hazardous alternative to chickens is cardboard, which will likely be eaten. It might also rain, raising the relative humidity inside the coop. Cloth, such as old curtains, blankets, or plastic sheeting, can be swathed over the coop to provide insulation and airflow.
Make Use of the Sun
Most coops are situated in shady areas to avoid overheating during the summer. However, the sun can be helpful in the winter. Even though daylight hours are brief, some sun will shine during the day. If you have a chicken loader or a portable, heat-retaining coop like an Eglu, position it so that the sun will warm it for the maximum amount of time each day.
You could also put the coop inside a large garage or barn. You can double up on insulation in that spot. If you haven’t already, invest in a mobile coop that can be relocated for the different seasons.
Ventilate the coop to Avoid Moisture Build-up
In the winter, chickens are more vulnerable to the dangers of wetness than to cold. Your flock will freeze to death if its feathers get wet, as they cannot provide the necessary insulation at this time of year. Spending more time indoors in the winter means your chickens will poop more frequently, creating a build-up of ammonia that can harm your chickens’ health and the respiratory system even if there is no moisture.
However, if there is nowhere for the moisture to retreat, the warmth from the droppings and the chickens will combine to create an oppressive atmosphere. Moldy bedding, spores, and respiratory difficulties from this build-up equal a very sick flock.
Ensure plenty of airflow over the birds’ heads to prevent that from happening. It lets the damp air ascend and out of the coop without making the birds uncomfortable.
Double Check Roosting Bars
To avoid frostbite in the winter, chickens must be capable of covering their feet with their body. It’s important to ensure adequate spacing between the roosting bars. Chickens prefer to sleep with their feet tucked under them, so a 24-board makes a great roosting bar. The side with the extra 4 inches should be facing up so that their feet are not injured.
Make the Nest Boxes Cozy
Curtains in front of the nesting boxes can make the area feel homier. Chicken curtains are a curious addition that I’ve never understood, but they perform their job of keeping the boxes toasty. We chicken caretakers must have warmer boxes to prevent our fresh eggs from freezing in the winter. Adding more pillows and blankets to the package shouldn’t hurt, either.
The Final Thoughts
When winter comes, finding a strategy to keep your flock safe from the elements might be challenging, particularly if you are a small farmer. A chicken can die from the cold during the winter, but this is quite unusual. Most of the time, a sick or injured bird is already in poor health. Many people who raise chickens take the precaution of winterizing their flocks.