Winterizing Your Chickens


If you got chicks this spring, you probably asked the question, “How do I take care of the hens over the winter?” Bringing them into the house is not a great idea, and unlike dogs, chickens generally aren’t given to wearing sweaters and booties. Nor are they given to fluid replacement.

Here are some tips for helping your chickens ride out the winter.

Coop Environment

  • Move your coop to an area out of the wind.
  • Cover the run with tarps or heavy-duty plastic to prevent drafts.
  • Ensure that the coop is well ventilated but not drafty. Moisture buildup leads to frostbite.
  • Clean poop from the coop often. Chicken feces add to the moisture content of the air in the coop.
  • Stack strawbales around the run to hold in the heat and prevent snow from blowing in.
  • Minimize moisture in the coop. Moisture leads to frostbite. It’s more important to have a dry coop than a warm coop.
  • Provide lots of bedding or straw. Bedding should be dry and fluffy so that it traps the heat.
  • A heat lamp is optional. Beware of fire hazards, especially with the dry bedding, and use a red, rather than white, bulb. A reptile heat emitter can also help.
  • If you want your hens to continue laying during the winter, supplement white light in the morning (not evening) so that the hens get 14 hours of light. You can also let their bodies rest and give them the winter off from laying.
  • Provide wide roosts that allow the down feathers on their bellies to cover their feet.

Food and Water

  • Provide fresh, unfrozen water and be sure they have continuous access to food – their bodies need it to stay warm. You can keep two waterers – one in the house and one outside – and swap them out as the outside one freezes.
  • Provide extra protein for the birds during the winter months. A handful of dry cat (not dog) food will give an extra protein boost.
  • You can provide a handful of scratch grain in the evening, before they head to the roost for the night. This will help keep their metabolism going during the night.
  • Provide a head of cabbage, hung from a string or chain to keep them engaged and prevent pecking.
  • Use a bird suet basket as a treat box.

Frostbite

  • Use Vaseline on combs and wattles to keep them from freezing.
  • Watch feet, combs, and wattles signs of frostbite – they will look swollen and puffy at first. They will eventually turn black and fall off. Infection is a possible risk of a bad case of frostbite.

Contact Home to Roost if you’d like an in-home winterizing consultation.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Marie brown on November 14, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Can u come inspect my coop to
    Make sure my chickens don’t freeze. I live in Salem wisc

    Reply

  2. Jennifer, I believe you provided me with advice on a chicken tractor on Facebook the other day. I appreciate your help. And thank you so much for providing this information. This is my first year raising chickens and I have been reading and researching all kinds of sources on how to prepare my chickens for winter. Everything you have provided I am doing. We’ve already experience below freezing temperatures this fall and the chickens did just fine and they’re still laying eggs every day. So they are still happy and healthy. Thank you again, Jackie.

    Reply

    • Hi, Jackie.
      Thanks for letting me know. I’m glad the information was helpful. Most breeds do just fine in the winter. Good luck, and let me know if you need an in-home consultation in the future.
      Best to you!
      Jen

      Reply

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