Raising your own chickens can be rewarding in many ways. But there are a lot of dos and don'ts to keeping a happy, healthy flock. One of the most important "dos" is to keep them warm enough during the cold-weather months. If you follow a few tips and properly winterize your coop, they'll be OK when the temperatures drop. This guide will explain the basics of winter chicken care, including how to heat a chicken coop, what to do with chickens in the winter, and more.
Why Should You Protect Chickens From the Cold? Essential Winter Chicken Care Products
Although adult chickens don't require heaters or special lamps, they still need to stay warm enough. Some breeds are more prone to frostbite if they aren't protected from the cold. These are some essentials for keeping chickens warm and healthy in the winter.
Heated Water Bowls
When the cold-weather months arrive, it's important to have heated water bowls for chickens. Some stores may also sell a heated chicken waterer that's a similar concept. If you can't find one, you can use an electric dog bowl. These bowls are self-heating devices that keep water from freezing.
Wondering how to insulate a chicken coop? Stones and concrete are a few good chicken coop insulation materials. They attract and retain heat during the day and release it at night. Don't just focus on walls. An insulated chicken coop is more effective if its walls, ceilings, and floors are insulated.
Another important component of your winter chicken shelter is its windows. If you have a coop with well-insulated windows, the sunlight will help keep the area warm. This chicken coop heating strategy goes well with using prime insulation materials.
Supplemental light may promote warmth and can facilitate laying. This is usually something that
people who sell eggs do if their customers rely on them. Since using supplemental light for long periods can shorten a hen's laying life, weigh the pros and cons first. You can also connect a timer to control how long the light bulbs are on.
What to Feed Chickens in Winter
Many people wonder what to feed chickens during colder months. What you feed your chickens in the winter can make a difference in their body temperature. Fats, carbs, and protein help give them energy and keep them warmer. Also, leafy greens are helpful for nutrients. Fresh pumpkin and winter squash are some other delicious and healthy treats. You can make a warm and hearty puree for them or just throw these treats to them raw. They often eat the seeds as well. The good thing about this trick is that you can usually find plenty of cheap or free pumpkins. People and stores often throw them out during the fall. In addition to being good for their health, exercise helps keep chickens warm. If you want to tackle two goals with one task, hang lettuce or cabbage in their coop. They love to peck at it, and indoor exercise is good for them on colder days. These are some helpful commercial chicken feed products to consider.
Although some chicken owners use these all year, others use them only during the winter. Scratch grains provide plenty of fats and carbs for chickens to promote warmth. Since they're packed with warming ingredients, you don't need to use them a lot. You can sprinkle the grains on the coop floor to give them some pecking exercises.
Another source of warmth-promoting nutrients, a flock block is an excellent dietary supplement. It lasts quite a while and gives them a chance to get some exercise.
Cracked corn is a good source of fat. It's better to start feeding it to your feathered friends before winter arrives. You can spread it throughout their coop to encourage exercise as well. Alternatively, you can give it to them at night to help them stay warm.
Shelter Tips for Winter: How to Winterize a Chicken Coop
If you currently have a chicken coop, you may already have a chicken water heater or other accessories. However, there may still be some steps you can take to winterize the chicken coop. You can keep chickens warm in the winter with these tips:
- Make sure there's about a foot of composting material or litter on the coop floor.
- Put straw or hay on the ground where they walk outdoors around the coop.
- Ensure there's an adequate chicken coop ventilation system.
- Create a sunroom for the chickens if their coop doesn't have windows.
- Make sure they have stable roosting bars to keep their feet off the ground.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can chickens survive winter? When do chickens need heat in a coop? This section answers some common questions about how to keep chickens warm in winter.
How Cold Is Too Cold for Chickens?
Many types of chickens can tolerate temperatures below freezing. How much cold they can tolerate may depend on the breed and the individual health of the chicken. They thrive when temperatures are between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Many coops are in the 40s overnight during the winter. Chickens fluff their feathers for warmth in colder temperatures, and they can survive in a coop that's properly winterized.
Do Chickens Need a Heater in the Winter?
When do chickens need heat in a coop? Most experts recommend avoiding an electric chicken coop heater. This is because a heater could present a fire hazard with all the hay, straw, or coop materials. So, how do you keep chickens warm in the winter without one? If you follow the tips on how to winterize a chicken coop, it should stay warm enough.
When Do Chickens Need Heat in the Coop?
Heat lamps are only necessary for baby chicks. However, you should follow the tips in this guide for how to keep chickens warm in the winter. If you do, the coop should stay around 40 degrees overnight, which is a survivable temperature for them.
Can Chickens Live Outside in the Winter?
As long as healthy chickens have a coop that's properly winterized, they can usually survive. However, they shouldn't be outside roaming and pecking for long periods when it's below freezing. This is another important element of how to care for chickens during the colder months. If you want to let them out briefly for exercise, be sure they're protected. One way to do this is to apply petroleum jelly to their wattles and combs to prevent frostbite.
What's the Best Bedding for Chickens in the Winter?
Hay and straw are good bedding materials for winter. Straw is especially good at providing insulation. It's easy to maintain, and chickens love pecking and sorting through it.
Find Everything You Need to Keep Chickens Warm at True Value
Now that you know how to keep chickens warm, you're ready to winterize your coop. Find winter chicken feed, straw, and other poultry supplies you need at your local True Value.