Do you raise chickens and want to make sure they stay safe and warm during the cold winter months? Here’s how to keep your chickens warm in the winter!
We love our chickens, and while they are very hardy animals there are some special considerations to think about when it comes to caring for them in the winter. Such as how do you make sure they stay warm when it’s freezing or snowy outside?
Here are 9 tips to help you keep your chickens warm in the winter- so they stay happy, healthy, and cozy until spring comes again!
9 Tips for Keeping Chickens Warm in the Winter
Reduce Drafts in Your Coop
One of the hardest things for chickens to handle in the winter is not the temperatures but drafts caused by gusting winds or cold air.
If your coop has open windows, gaps in the siding, or holes that will allow for drafts be sure to seal them up before winter hits to help keep your chickens warmer.
Provide Good Ventilation
On the flip side, you don’t want to OVER seal your coop. If you seal up every gap and hold in your coop you can create a very unhealthy environment for your chickens.
An over-sealed coop will be filled with moist, stagnant air and ammonia will build up inside.
Ventilation is one of the chicken coop must haves– especially in the winter. Ventilation is important to create air flow and allow the “soiled air” out and fresh air in.
The best place for your ventilation holes are around the top of the coop so that any cold air won’t hit your chickens directly.
Use the Deep Litter Method
Bedding is a great way to add additional heat to your chicken coop. Bedding adds additional padding between your chickens and the cold ground.
And since manure heats as it breaks down, the deep litter method is perfect for helping keep chickens warm in the winter!
So instead of cleaning out your coop regularly in the winter, simply add clean bedding on top of the old, soiled bedding regularly. As the old bedding breaks down it will add heat to your coop.
Plenty of Roost Space
Chickens always need roosts, but it’s even more important that there is ample roosting space in the winter.
Roosting keeps the chickens farther away from the cold ground and allows your birds to fluff up and snuggle together.
They do a great job of keeping each other warm at night!
Keep Water from Freezing (or Serve it Warm!)
Like all animals, chickens need water to survive. In many locations water troughs will freeze in the winter making it hard for chickens to get the water they need.
We don’t have electricity in the coop or run, so we use jugs of warm water and refill the chicken’s water daily- sometimes 2 times per day! The hot water both melts the ice and gives them something warm to drink for a few minutes.
If you do have access to electricity, consider using a heated poultry waterer.
Winterize Your Coop
While reducing drafts and adding bedding also falls under the umbrella of ‘winterizing’, there’s also a few other things to consider when winterizing your coop that will help keep your chickens warm and healthy in the winter.
First make sure that you offer the essentials inside. In the summer we only have water outside and they get their daily feed outdoors as well, but in the winter it’s important to offer both water and food indoors as well.
Most chickens don’t like to come outside when it’s very cold, and especially not if there is snow or ice on the ground. So make sure they don’t have to come out for food or water.
Keep Your Coop Dry
Moisture levels can soar inside a chicken coop in the winter- and no one likes to be cold AND wet!
Since your chickens are more likely to be spending time indoors during the winter there will be more droppings which can cause a lot of moisture in the air.
Water buckets inside can also lead to high moisture from spillage (especially if you raise ducks in the same coop!)
Keep your coop dry by cleaning out very wet bedding and adding additional clean, dry bedding as needed.
Watch for Signs of Frostbite
Chickens do pretty well when it comes to keeping themselves warm in the winter. Their feathers are very insulating! But their most sensitive areas are those not covered by feathers.
Places like combs, wattles, and feet can be especially prone to frostbite.
For the most part if you follow the above advice and keep your coop ventilated and dry, you shouldn’t have an issue with frostbite, but if you live in a very cold area, be sure to know what to look for and how to prevent it.
Here’s more on how to identify and prevent frostbite in chickens.
Give Good Nutrition
And finally, like most animals, good nutrition is key to being healthy. And that goes for keeping warm in the winter too!
Chickens often need more supplementary feed in the winter due to less forage.
Feeding grains like corn in the evenings can also help keep them warmer as they digest overnight.
If you really want to spoil them, you can also try feeding your chickens a warm mash in the morning to warm them up and get the day started right!
Common Questions for Keeping Chickens Warm in the Winter
Do Chickens Need Heat in the Winter
The short answer is no. Chickens don’t really need a heat lamp in the winter.
Unless you live in a very, very cold location heat lamps can actually cause more trouble.
Besides being a fire hazard they can interfere with a chicken’s ability to regulate their temperature and acclimate to the cool outdoor temperatures.
What is the Best Bedding for Chickens in the Winter
Straw is one of the best bedding options for chickens, especially in the winter. You can even stack full bales along the walls for extra insulation.
You can also use pine shavings, but avoid cedar.
Will My Chickens Be Warm Enough When They Molt?
Many chickens will go through molt before the coldest winter months start, but if it’s very cold and you have a molting chicken, don’t worry too much.
As long as you’ve followed all the advice for keeping your chickens warm in the winter, she should be fine as she molts and grows back her new feathers.