How To Take Good Care Of Your Chickens During Winter

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If you haven’t noticed yet, the days and nights are getting colder. And if you’re raising chickens, this means that you are going to need to take extra care of them birds. It’s important for you to pay special attention to your chickens’ needs during winter in order to ensure that they stay healthy and safe throughout the cold season. Here are some valuable tips on how to take good care of your chickens during winter:

 

 

Keep Your Chickens Warm

Just like you, chickens get cold. While they have a very high internal temperature of 105 to 109°F and have feathers to insulate their bodies, they will still need help staying warm. That’s why it’s important for you to provide an extra source of warmth for your chickens during the winter season.

 

1. Provide a cozy shelter

If you just started or are planning to raise chickens, you should understand the importance of a proper shelter. A chicken coop is necessary for a number of reasons. For one, it keeps them safe from predators. It also provides a place for your chickens to roost, lay eggs, and nest. A chicken coop helps keep them clean, as chickens are known to be messy birds. Most importantly, proper shelter keeps chickens warm, especially during the cold winter months.

 

2. Lessen cold drafts

Sealing any air leaks in your coop is especially important as the nights get colder. And wind chill can increase the rate of heat loss. If your chicken coop is new, you shouldn’t have many gaps to worry about, but if it’s more than five years old, chances are that parts of it will have started to rot and will need to be repaired.

Inspect your coop for any gaps or cracks that may let in drafts. If you find any, seal them up with caulk or insulation. For large holes, cover them with pieces of plywood. You can also cover them with a tarp or plastic sheet. Also, make sure the door to the coop fits snugly and is weather-stripped to keep out the cold air.

Don’t forget to leave the coop with proper ventilation. Hot air rises so it’s best to place your ventilation near the top of your coop. A well-ventilated coop will prevent the air inside from becoming stagnant and too moist, which can lead to a build-up of moisture and ammonia. This can increase the risk of mold development, respiratory infections, and frostbite. Maintaining good ventilation and low humidity levels will help prevent these issues.

 

3. Insulate the coop

In addition to making sure the coop is well-sealed to prevent cold air from coming in, add extra insulation and thermal mass inside to better trap their body heat.

As mentioned, chickens produce a lot of body heat. You want to trap that body heat inside the chicken coop. That’s why it’s essential that you insulate your coop. A well-insulated coop will help keep the heat in and the cold out.

To attain this, you’ll need to install some insulation panels. These panels can be found at most hardware stores. Place these panels on the walls, roof, and floor of the coop. Make sure that the insulation panels overlap so that there is no cold air seeping in.

 

4. Provide warm bedding

Another way to care for your chickens during winter is to provide them with warm bedding. You will want something that will help keep them cozy and comfortable throughout the winter. Straw, wood shavings, and pine needles are all good choices for bedding material. You can also put bales of hay around and inside if your coop is large enough. Be sure to change the bedding regularly, especially if it becomes wet or soiled. this will prevent the buildup of bacteria and parasites.

 

5. Make sure you have roosts

Even if you have warm bedding to keep your chickens from sleeping on the cold ground, it’s important to have a roost in your coop, as well. Roosts are poles or bars where chickens can rest comfortably and stay off the cold floors. Also, chickens tend to snuggle on the roost so they keep each other warm. The recommended height is 1 to 2 feet off the ground, but it may vary based on the size of your coop.

 

6. Use a heating pad

If you have a particularly cold winter, you may also want to consider using a heating pad in your chicken coop. Just make sure that you get a pad that is specifically designed for chickens. Check the temperature everyone once in a while to be sure that it doesn’t get too hot for your birds.

Heating pads and other heated devices require electricity so they should be used with caution. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and keep a close eye on your chickens while they are using the heater. Also, use the heater only when necessary to conserve energy.

 

7. Install additional lighting

Chickens need 12 to 14 hours of light per day to lay eggs properly. As the days get shorter, you may have to provide additional lighting in the coop. An artificial light source can help your chickens get the necessary amount of light they need to stay healthy and productive during winter.

 

8. Prepare the chicken run for the cold weather

You should avoid letting your chickens free range during winter so they wouldn’t suddenly die from exposure. They should spend most of their time inside the coop. The best chance for them to get some sun and exercise those muscles is to move around the chicken run.

However, snow can ruin their fun. So, you should make some adjustments to the run before winter arrives. Add insulation materials around to keep the area warm. You can also place a tarp or plastic sheeting to help keep the run dry and clean.

When it snows, do your best to remove the snow from the run. If it gets too bothersome to shovel the snow, use a snowblower or leafblower to get rid of some of the snow. You can also spread a layer of straw, sand, or wood chips over the snow. This will help to keep the run dry and your chickens warm. All these will help keep your chickens warm in the run and prevent their feet from getting frostbite if they are exposed too long to the snow.

 

9. Provide a steady supply of warm water

Chickens need plenty of fresh water during winter just like they do during other times of the year. Make sure that their water dish is always full of clean, warm water and that it doesn’t freeze over. Change the water in their dishes or waterers every morning. If necessary, bring out fresh water twice a day.

Place the water containers inside the coop or winterized run. It should be warmer in these areas so the chances of the water freezing are lower. You can also wrap the water dishes in towels, wool caps, or other things that can provide insulation. If necessary, place the water dish inside a heated birdbath or run a small electric heater under it to keep it from freezing over.

 

10. Give them enough food

Chickens also need plenty of food in order to stay warm during winter. Feed them a good quality layer feed that contains all the nutrients they need, including protein, vitamins, and minerals. You can also give them some supplemental feed like scratch grains or corn kernels as a special treat.

 

11. Feed them corn in the evening

Giving your chickens a nice feeding of cracked corn before bed gives them something to digest during the night, keeping them warmer. It’s their favorite food, and they’ll be happier with full bellies.

 

12. Hang a cabbage inside the coop

No, this is not some weird superstition. Hanging a cabbage inside the coop will actually provide your chickens with extra warmth. The birds will keep pecking at the cabbage, which will help keep them active and produce more heat. This activity is also a good form of entertainment for your chickens.

 

 

Protect Them from Winter Predators

Even with the extremely low temperatures and snow, predators are still out there looking for a meal. The most common predators of chickens in winter are coyotes, foxes, and raccoons. These animals can easily climb or jump over fences to get to your chickens, so it’s important to take measures to protect them.

 

13. Put up a predator-proof fence

One way to protect your chickens from winter predators is to install a predator-proof fencing system around the coop. This fencing should be at least six feet high and have a top that is angled inward so that predators can’t climb over it.

Electric fencing around the coop will also work. The fence should be placed around the entire coop and run, and it should be turned on all the time. Make sure the fence is properly grounded and that the voltage is high enough to deter predators.

 

14. Hang predator-proof netting over the run

If you’re not able to install a predator-proof fence or roof on your coop, you can hang predator-proof netting over the run instead. This netting should be made of sturdy materials like metal or wire and it should be at least six feet high. It should also be angled inward so that predators can’t jump over it.

 

15. Fortify your coop

Another way to protect your chickens from winter predators is to add a predator-proof roof to your coop. This roof should be made of durable materials like wire or metal and have a tight-fitting lid. It should also be covered with a heavy material like tar or plastic to keep animals like raccoons from tearing it off.

 

16. Install a security light

Installing a bright security light around the coop or in the run will also help deter predators from coming around. These lights should be motion-activated so they only turn on when there is movement in the area.

 

17. Check on your chickens often

Finally, it’s important to check on your chickens often throughout the winter. Make sure they’re healthy and safe from predators. If you find any signs of a predator, take steps to protect your chickens immediately. If you don’t know what to do, contact a wildlife expert for advice.

 

Other Tips to Care for your Chickens During Winter

Here are other steps to take or things to know to make sure your chickens will be fine during the winter season:

 

18. Help molting chickens

Before the winter months, chickens will start to molt or shed their feathers. While molting is a natural process, it can be stressful for chickens. There’ll be times when some of your chickens won’t regain most of their feathers in time. These “half-naked” poultry will have a difficult time with the cold temperature.

To help them through it, feed your chickens extra protein to encourage feather growth. Make sure they have plenty of warm, dry bedding to keep them comfortable. You can also place these birds between other fluffier chickens at night.

 

19. Know the signs they’re freezing

There are a few signs that chickens are freezing in winter. One is that they will huddle together in a corner of the coop or run. Another is that they will stop laying eggs and may even start pecking at each other. Their combs and wattles may also start to turn black, which is a sign of frostbite. If you see any of these signs, take measures to warm them up and get them some food and water.

 

20. Be wary of frostbite

The combs and wattles of chickens are especially sensitive to cold weather and larger ones are more prone to frostbite. Check your chickens regularly to see if the tips of their combs or wattles are turning dark. Watch out for blisters, too.

If you notice that your chickens have frostbite, you should take some steps to help them recover. First, double-check the coop and make sure it stays warm inside. Give them plenty of fresh water, too. You can also give them a warm bath to help them feel better. If the frostbite is bad, you may need to take them to the vet for treatment.

Your best move is to prevent frostbite altogether. Aside from keeping the coop dry, you can also lubricate their combs and wattles with vaseline, petroleum jelly, or coconut oil.

 

21. Place a thermometer inside your coop

Keep an eye on the temperature and humidity in your coop by investing in a thermometer! We recommend this indoor/outdoor thermometer with a remote sensor. By placing it inside the coop, you’ll be able to see if your insulation is effective and if the water is likely to freeze — all from inside your home!

 

22. Don’t force chickens to lay eggs during winter

Chickens need some days off from laying eggs. They naturally stop laying eggs or slow down egg production in winter because of the shorter days and less light. This is their body’s way of taking a break from producing eggs and conserving resources instead.

Let nature take its course and don’t force your chickens to lay eggs during winter. Some chicken farmers add more light inside the coop for that purpose. It’d be better if you let your chickens be and if you have to add lights, it should be to add more warmth to protect them from the cold.

If your hens do lay eggs during the cold season, you want to collect them as quickly as possible. If left in cold conditions, they will freeze and become unusable. Eggs that have been frozen can still be eaten once defrosted, but they often expand and crack while freezing – making them less than ideal.

 

We hope these tips will help learn a thing or two about how to care for your chickens during winter. With these precautions in place, you should be able to enjoy happy, healthy chickens for many years to come!

Check out Gentleman Pirate Club for more tips on raising chickens and keeping your homestead in tip-top shape. From gardening to livestock care, we’ve got your back!

 


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Gentleman Pirate Club aims to share valuable knowledge and tips on how you can prepare and survive emergencies and other dire situations. We think of different scenarios and show you the many ways you can survive them. We also believe in self-sufficiency as a way to prepare for whatever lies ahead. As our ship sails in these waters, we look for valuable treasures. When we spot one, we tell you where it is.

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