Winter will be here before most of us is ready for it, so it’s important to start thinking about your winter chicken coop and how you’ll be preparing your chickens for winter.
Chickens are generally pretty hardy, though some will need a bit more care than others. So how do you make sure your winter chicken coop is ready for the cold months ahead? We’ve compiled our top winter chicken care tips to make sure your flock thrives this winter.
What Temperature Is Too Cold For Chickens?
Chickens can handle very cold weather, some experts believe that they don’t begin to be cold sensitive until -22F. For all of the southern chicken keepers out there, this is good news.
Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds
When prepping your winter chicken coop, take into consideration the breeds you keep. If you experience freezing temperatures, it’s a good plan to start with cold-hardy chickens. Most birds that can handle the winter, are medium to large wait with small combs (but with some help larger combed birds will make it through just fine). Try these:
- Barred Rocks
- Salmon Favorelles
- Rhode Island Red
- Easter Eggers
- New Hampshire Red
- Plymouth Rock
- Black Giant
- Blue Andalusian
- Russian Orloff
- Speckled Sussex
Egg Production In A Winter Coop
Your flock’s egg production will halt during their annual molt, after that the shortened daylight hours will cause you to get fewer eggs. Once your chickens have finished molting you can stimulate egg production by artificially extending the number of daylight hours your birds are exposed to.
Your winter chicken coop should include a light or two with a 40-Watt lightbulb attached to a timer. Your flock only needs about 10 hours of light each day. Make sure they are properly installed so that it isn’t a fire hazard.
Throughout the winter, you should collect eggs regularly, especially when you are experiencing freezing temperatures. Keep your nesting boxes clean and filled with fresh bedding.
Preparing A Winter Chicken Coop
At the end of summer or the middle of fall, I like to deep clean my coops to prepare for winter.
- Remove any shavings, straw, etc. and remove everything that you are able to from the chicken coop.
- Scrape/scrub the chicken coop down, remove and cobwebs, or dried manure and then sweep out the bottom of the coop.
- Mix together a coop cleaner and wash down your coop to kill the bacteria that has built up and remove any stubborn pieces you weren’t able to remove before. You can use boiling water to help kill the rest of the bacteria or parasites. Make sure you wash down the perches and nesting boxes.
- Rinse the coop down with fresh water.
- While your coop is drying, wash down the feeders and waterers with vinegar.
- Once your coop is completely dried add fresh bedding and replace your feeders and waterers.
Insuring Your Flock Is Warm In Your Winter Chicken Coop
While it’s important to avoid drafts in your coop, you don’t want to insulate your coop to the point that it limits the airflow. This causes the humidity and ammonia to build up inside the coop and can cause frostbite and damage to their lungs. Fresh air is very important to your flock’s health. A screened window that can be opened during the day and shut at night to keep in the warmth is a great idea.
Make sure your winter chicken coop’s roof and floor are waterproof. Any wet living condition can bring disease and death within just a few days.
Most times your birds will be ok huddling together to stay warm during the cold nights. If your region has very cold winters, and your flock is particularly susceptible to the cold you can add a heat light to your winter chicken coop. Temperatures only need to be slightly above freezing to prevent your birds from getting frostbite and keep them comfortable. Overly warm temperatures can actually make it for your birds to handle the cold weather.
How To Care For Chickens In Winter
Ensure your chickens have access to water throughout the day. Check the waterers regularly and break any ice. On very cold days you may need to use a heated base for your chicken water to keep them free from ice. I like to use a bucket instead of a traditional chicken watered in the winter because they are easier to break the ice on.
Feed your chickens more then you would in the spring or summer, your flock expends more energy in the winter staying warm. We like to give our flock a handful or two of mealworms or our homemade chicken scratch at night just before we lock everyone up.
It’s important to make sure your chickens are locked up at night, especially in the winter when it’s cold out and predators may have trouble finding food. We lock our birds up at dusk and don’t let them back out until the sun is out.
If you have birds with large combs, or roosters you’ll need to take an extra measure to help them get through the winter. Apply petroleum jelly liberally to the combs and wattles, massage into the red skin of the chickens. Leave a thick coat on them. This will help to prevent your birds from getting frostbite. Before applying the petroleum jelly check the combs and wattles for black spots, this can mean they have already gotten frostbite. Be very careful when applying the petroleum jelly to this area of the skin around it. Reapply as needed.
Before you go, check these out!