When winter temperatures roll in and the days get shorter, it’s time to winterize your chickens for the months ahead.
And if you do plan ahead, you and your chickens will be ready for the frost when it arrives.
Most importantly, your chickens will be happy, healthy, and laying eggs all winter.
So how does one winterize their chickens for the cold months ahead?
Well, we’ve got a few simple-but-necessary items to tick off your winter prep list.
So rest assured, your chickens will be cozy and comfy all winter long.
Prepping With Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds
Before we dive into prepping your chickens for winter, let’s first consider the breeds of chickens in your coop.
Do you know whether they’re cold hardy breeds? If so, there may be a bit less prep work for you to worry about.
Some breeds, like the Wyandotte for example, are suited well for colder climates.
Breeds like the Wyandotte are heavier, have shorter combs, and have dense, loose feathering that can handle a long cold winter.
On the other hand, breeds with large combs may struggle with ailments like frostbite. Similarily, breeds with tight, lighter, feathering will not insulate as well as the larger, fluffier breeds of chickens.
Other breeds that can stand up to the cold temps are:
- Buff Orpington
- Rhode Island Red
- Jersey Giant
So if you’re at the beginning of your chicken-keeping journey, take some time to research the breeds you’re most interested in. Then ensure your breeds of choice will tolerate the climate in which you live.
If Your Chickens Aren’t Cold Hardy
If you’ve got a few chooks in the coop that cannot tolerate the temps, you might need to consider adding a heat source to your coop.
Typically, artificial heat sources are discouraged because they can be dangerous fire hazards.
Additionally, heating your chicken coop could set your chickens up for failure if your electricity goes out. You see, your chooks won’t have had the chance to adapt to the cold winter temperatures.
So plan accordingly, and if possible, do your best to allow your chickens to manage their own body temperature.
With that being said, if you’ve determined that your beloved flock will indeed need a heater, you can find safer options like the PetNF Chicken Coop Heater.
Prevent Drafts in Your Coop During Winter
Even more dangerous than cold temperature is a draft during bitterly cold weather.
Drafts can cause otherwise hardy chickens to become chilled, get frostbite, and contract respiratory problems.
So before you even worry about the coop temperatures, test your coop to ensure your chickens are safe from rogue drafts. Look for nooks and crannies facing the direction winter weather most typically comes from.
With that being said, your coop should never be completely closed off. In other words, your chickens do need some ventilation.
The trick is to make sure there is adequate airflow, but not where your chickens roost.
Give Your Chickens Fresh Water During Winter
One of the biggest challenges for chicken lovers is to keep water fresh and unfrozen 24/7.
It’s a common misconception that chickens (or other animals for that matter) can eat snow and remain sufficiently hydrated.
Don’t make this mistake, or you’ll end up with sick chickens.
You can find heated waterers at your local supply store or online. And while heated waterers are generally safe, make sure you supply electricity to these waterers with fire safety and prevention in mind.
Chicken Litter Options for Cold Winter Months
When bedding your chickens for winter, you have the unique opportunity to consider different litter options.
You can simply choose to use straw or pine shavings (never use cedar as it is considered toxic for chickens).
But on top of your chosen litter, you can also employ the deep litter method in your chicken coop.
This is a newly embraced method of bedding, which includes the accumulation of absorbent materials over time.
In other words, you keep adding bedding to existing soiled bedding. Piling bedding, rather than removing soiled bedding, creates natural insulation against the frozen ground and a lovely compost for use later. A product that helps neutralize ammonia in the coop while remaining safe for garden use is Sweet PDZ Coop Refresher. We’ve included samples of this product in our Henny+Roo monthly supply and gift boxes for chicken keepers, and our subscribers have noted that it dramatically reduces odors.
The trick is to agitate the deep litter and add more clean bedding when needed so your chickens aren’t living in feces (which can create parasite and respiratory problems…among other things).
Speaking of parasites, since your chickens are all hunkered down together for the snowy months ahead, they are also more susceptible to sharing external parasites.
Routine fluffy-butt checks will help you identify and treat an external parasite problem before it’s out of control.
Frostbite Prevention for Chickens
Just because your chickens have big beautiful combs doesn’t mean they’ll contract frostbite during the winter.
But if you’re worried, you can find products like Green Goo All Natural Poultry First Aid to help prevent and treat frostbite on your prize-winning rooster’s comb.
Certain balms and salves help insulate your rooster’s comb so that it isn’t exposed directly to the bitter cold. Some even opt for a simple application of Vasoline if the forecast predicts sub-zero temps.
Extra Protein and Treats To Keep Warm and Busy
The cold weather takes its toll on farm animals during the winter. And that’s because more energy is needed to stay warm; thus, adding extra protein to your flock’s diet helps your birds stay healthy and warm through blustery winter months.
Provide chicken-friendly table scraps or scrambled eggs for your chickens as an extra snack to both boost energy and prevent boredom (which can also lead to pecking).
If you’ve done your due diligence and prepped your coop for winter, your chickens will come out the other side happy, healthy, and maybe even a little more portly than before.
At Henny+Roo, we’re here to help support you and your clucks with monthly boxes filled with treats, tools, and valuable info that can help you raise happy and healthy chickens all year long.