Chickens & Winter

Chickens don’t love the snow.

They tolerate the cold well but the snow turns them off.  They don’t like to walk in it.  This was the first snow my chickens ever saw.  They stayed on the only grassy area they could find under the big pine tree.  Of course every winter its the same — they don’t leave the coop if there’s even a dusting of snow.  Continue reading about Chickens & Winter below.

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Winter Modifications to the Coop

Typical winter modifications to the coop and run are easy. You need to:

  1. Block the wind using painters plastic (make sure you use a thick plastic, the thin will rip in the wind). I use a staple gun to attach it. In the spring I go around with pliers and pluck out all the old staples.
  2. Insulate if possible! Use hard types of insulation the chickens won’t peck at. If you use fiberglass insulation (the pink stuff) place paneling or plywood over it. I use the insulation below in the eaves of my coop. It works great to keep the heat in and is very easy to work with.
  3. Make sure their water doesn’t freeze. This bucket heater works amazing and keeps the water from freezing. You absolutely need a bucket de-icer if you live in a northern climate.  Works perfectly even in below zero wind chill temps.

Protecting Chicken Combs in Winter

During very cold temps you may notice your chickens combs becoming purple and become concerned about frostbite.  Many conflicting opinions online and many extreme ideas.  One book I read even said to surgically remove the damaged comb!  That seemed insane to me so instead I began putting Aquafor on their combs and wattles every morning for protection from the wind.  That seemed to help but for poor Anna the damage had been done.  You can see the black tips of her comb here:

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My chicken coop is insulated and relatively draft free around their roost.  I wrapped plastic around the barn door and the nesting boxes to prevent drafts.  Continue reading below about Chickens & Winter.

To heat or not heat the coop?

I researched and agonized over this decision.  Old school chicken farmers will say absolutely never heat your coop.  The chickens get too used to it and may suffer or die if the heat goes out unexpectedly.  But my thought is — in the old farming days the chickens were housed inside a barn where there were cows, horses, and pigs that generated a lot of heat.  Just because they are technically “livestock” doesn’t mean they should suffer frostbite.  My chickens are very beautiful and I would be sad if their combs fell off due to frostbite.

So I decided to give them some supplemental heat like they would have had from other animals in the old farm days.  I purchased a 400 watt ceramic flat panel heater and installation was a breeze.  It works perfectly.

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When it’s running it stays about 10-15 degrees warmer in the coop than outside.  Which is just enough to keep their coop more bearable and prevent frostbitten combs.  Next, I added a remote thermometer and use one remote inside the coop and one in the run so I can see the difference in temp. I can conveniently monitor the temperatures from my kitchen.  When the temp gets above 35 degrees I turn the heater off.  Chickens don’t need to be “warm” by our standards and their heartiness in the cold is important to maintain.

If you enjoyed Chickens & Winter, please read more chicken keeping tips click here: Chickens

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Rebecca is a mom, wife, real estate broker, decorator, party planner, chicken keeper, and gardener

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