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Six tips for keeping your chickens warm in winter

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

After what seemed like a mild start to the season, winter is officially here at Harmony Hill Farm Sanctuary. With temperatures dipping below zero, we’re working hard to make sure our residents are warm and cozy.

Chickens are hardy birds. However, if not kept warm enough, they’re susceptible to frostbite and even disruptions in egg production.

With many a wintered chicken under our belt, we’re sharing our top six tips for keeping your flock safe and healthy this winter.

1. Food for Fuel

Upon rising and right before bed, fuel your flock with a bit of scratch (mix of corn, grains, and grit). Over a period of hours, their bodies will process this roughage as energy that helps to keep them warm.

Just this morning our house ladies, Gladie, Marilyn, and Winne got a special treat of bow tie pasta. Occasional meals of cooked pasta make a great source of energy on subzero days.

They LOVE spaghetti noodles, perhaps because they look like worms?

As always, ensure your flock has ample access to food and water during waking hours. A heated water source is a must to keep them from freezing. We use heated waterers like this one here at the sanctuary.

2. Warm Bedding

Depending on your coop size, ensure plenty of pine shavings or similar bedding in the coop. We recommend about eight to ten inches deep.

Another method for bedding is the Deep Litter Method. This involves allowing the poop to compost in the coop. When done correctly, this process can generate heat and warm the coop.

We do not use this method here at HHFS. If you’re considering the Deep Litter Method, make sure to do your research. When done improperly, nitrogen build up can be dangerous to chicken health.

3. Proper Ventilation

Ventilation is important to preventing frostbite. Ensure ventilation in your closed coop. If you see frost building on the windows, add a vent or crack a window. Chickens can tolerate some cold, but moisture and cold are cause for frostbite and respiratory issues.

Make sure to watch for frostbite, keeping an eye out for any blackening on the tips of their combs.

To soothe and prevent frostbite, apply a product that repels moisture like bag balm, cocoa butter, or shea butter.

4. Keep it Clean

As always, keep your coop clean. Take care to keep snow out of the coop run. To keep feet off the cold ground, maintain a layer of straw on the coop run floor.

A clean run means clean feet. Chicken feet are frequently overlooked. Keeping them clean and dry is very important as injuries and infections can develop under mud or poop-caked feet.

Inside the coop, we use 2x4 boards instead of narrower poles for roosts. A flat, wider surface allows your chickens to keep their feet under their bodies. This helps them to stay warm without having their feet exposed.

5. Supplemental Heat

A well-feathered bird has a naturally warm, down coat to protect them. If you’re following the tips above and providing adequate shelter from wind and elements, supplemental heat is not generally needed. However, a radiant heater may be used for very cold days. Just remember, do not use heat lamps in closed coops! As the bedding is extremely flammable, you risk fire.

6. Lots of Love

The best way to feel warm and cozy is with a little bit of love. Check every chicken’s wellbeing daily to ensure they’re handling the cold. If you have any birds with health issues, they may need to winter inside a barn, garage, or basement to better suit their needs.

Follow these tips to ensure your flock stays warm and cozy during these cold winter months. With the appropriate care, your flock should stay happy and healthy all winter long.

If you found this post to be helpful, consider donating to our sanctuary or sharing our tips with a friend so we can continue providing our residents with a second chance at a life of harmony.

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