The winter months can be a time of colder temperatures and dry, dark days if you live in the northern states of the U.S. Keeping backyard chickens safe and healthy during the winter months can take some special care, but it’s possible to do. There are a couple factors and tricks to keeping chickens safe in the colder months, and making sure they are happy during the winter season.
Have the Right BreedMake sure you have a breed that can withstand the cold weather. Some breeds do better than others in the low temperatures of winter, so if you live in an area that experiences cold winters, start off by getting the right breed that can handle this climate. Explore cold winter breeds here:
Keep Them EntertainedJust like humans, chickens can get bored and stir-crazy in the winter. Make sure they have entertainment to keep them stimulated. Try using a Treat-Dispensing Toy or hanging their favorite treat in their coop with a Fruit and Veggie Basket.
Don’t Insulate your CoopChickens put off a lot of moisture with their breathing and their droppings. Insulating your chicken coop completely can cause moisture to build up, freeze, and cause frostbite. The increased humidity can also put your chickens at risk of respiratory disease if mold starts to grow or ammonia gas builds up from poor ventilation and high moisture. Keep your coop well-ventilated but not drafty to ensure the health of your chickens.
Chickens keep themselves warm naturally by roosting together. Adding a heating component prevents them from naturally getting used to the changing temperatures. As long as there is enough space in the coop (up off the ground) for them to roost together, they don’t need a heater. Heaters are also winterfire hazards, which is not worth the risk. Keep your coop up off the ground to provide a space away from the frozen earth for your chicken to live. Leave the coop open like you would in summer months and let the chickens decide when they want to wander outside. They will stay in if it’s too cold, but they need to be able to adjust to the cold and decide for themselves naturally how to adapt to the temperature change. The only time coops might need heating is during drastic changes in temperature if the flock hasn’t had time to adjust to the slow season change.
Don’t Heat your Coop
Keep the Coop Clean
Because of the shorter days, your chickens will be spending more time in their coop, which means there will be more droppings. Keep the coop clean and remove excess droppings to keep your flock healthy in their safe area away from the winter elements.
Gather Eggs Regularly like you Would any Other SeasonCheck for eggs regularly all year long. Keeping eggs in the coop longer than necessary puts them at risk of freezing in the winter. When an egg freezes, its contents expand, which can cause hairline fractures in the shell. This can cause bacteria to get into the eggs, making it potentially unsafe to consume. It can also cause a mess if you bring in frozen eggs only to find them defrosting and leaking all over your fridge later. While some chickens won’t lay eggs as regularly in the winter, it is important to collect the eggs that are laid.
Provide Fresh WaterDuring the low-temperature winter months, water will freeze. Access to fresh water is critical to a chicken’s health. Make sure your flock has access to clean, fresh (not frozen) water by refilling it often or adding a running water component.
Protect Them from the Elements
While most chickens aren’t affected by the cold temperatures, the part of them that can get dry, cracked, or frostbitten is their combs and wattles. Apply a light layer of petroleum jelly, no more than you would apply a layer of chapstick on your lips. Some chickens also don’t like walking in the snow if it gets down to freezing temperatures. Help your flock by shoveling a clearing and laying down hay to provide a shallow clearing for exploring where they can get fresh air outside the coop.
Top 10 Tips for Keeping Chickens in Winter by The Spruce
Cold weather chickens – 8 things NOT to do to in winter by My Pet Chicken Blog
The Definitive Guide To Keeping Chickens In Winter The Happy Chicken Coop