By Erin Huffstetler | 11/14/2013 | 4 Comments
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This is our first winter with chickens, so we’ve been busy making preparations to ensure our girls will be comfortable all season long. Here’s a look at what we’ve done:
Inside the Coop
Remember when I told you we were using the deep litter system in their coop? After doing that since spring, we now have a nice thick layer of litter composting in the coop and generating free heat for our feathered friends. We opted to do this instead of adding a heat lamp, which tends to stress chickens out and can be a real fire hazard with all of that dry bedding in there.
To help keep the heat in and eliminate drafts, we hung a thick piece of plastic over the door to their coop, and cut it into strips, so they’re still able to come and go as they please. It took a couple days for them to get used to it, but now it’s business as usual.
Chickens prefer to sleep on a roost, so we’ve had one in their coop from the beginning. Now that it’s cold, it will also help to keep them warm. They like to be up off the ground when its cold to keep their feet warm, and will snuggle together to generate heat (five fat hens packed on a roost is quite the sight).
While we’ve done a lot to keep the cold air out of their coop, we haven’t closed it up completely. To maintain good air quality over the next several months and to prevent moisture build-up in the coop (which can lead to frostbite), we left a vent open for fresh air to circulate through the coop.
In the Run
To keep their water from freezing, I knew we were going to need a chicken water heater, but they go for $30-$50 a piece, and that just pained me. I did some research, and found plans to make a chicken water heater on the-chicken-chick.com
Basically, you drill a whole in the side of a cookie tin, insert a lamp kit, screw a light bulb in and put the lid back on.
Then, you stick their waterer on top of the tin, plug it into a GFCI outlet, and the lightbulb generates enough heat to keep the water from freezing.
Pretty smart, and very affordable. We found our light kit and cookie tin at a church rummage sale, so we only have $1 in our water heater.
We also changed their feed for the winter. They’re still getting layer pellets and veggie scraps (and that will remain their main source of nutrition), but we’ve also added cracked corn or scratch to their diet. This gives them extra calories to help them bulk up a bit.
Aside from all of these preparations, I’m still debating whether we should wrap their run in thick plastic to turn it into a mini greenhouse for them. We shall see.