How to Care for Chickens in the Winter

How to Care for Chickens in the Winter

By Erin Huffstetler | 11/14/2013 | 2 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.

Coop Door

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.

Coop Roost

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).

Coop Vent

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

Closeup of Homemade Chicken Water Heater

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.

Inside Chicken Water Heater

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.

Homemade Chicken Water Heater

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.

Chicken Winter Feed

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.

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