Chickens can be pretty resilient animals (just don’t forget to clean out their water and coop regularly), but that doesn’t mean before the winter you don’t have to take some steps to make sure your chickens last through the winter.
The tips for winterizing your chickens include insulating the coop, ventilating the coop, checking and fixing any drafts in the chicken coop, moving and turning on a heat lamp in the chicken coop, providing more bedding in the chicken coop, checking the chicken coop for vermin, cleaning out the chicken coop, providing a water heater, checking the fencing for any holes or gaps, cleaning out debris from the yard, providing extra scratch for your chickens, clearing out any snow that falls, making a dust bath, and locking up the chickens at night.
Read on to find out if there is anything you might have been missing in winterizing your chickens.
Insulating the coop
Chickens are actually pretty sensitive about a few things.
If their water feeder isn’t cleaned out regularly, or if their chicken coop is too dirty, then they won’t give you eggs.
The same thing goes for how they feel during the wintertime.
And if they are too cold, then they won’t lay any eggs for you.
So it becomes so very important to make sure the coop is a nice and warm place for your chickens.
You can do a few things to insulate the coop during the wintertime.
One way is by using foil insulation, which you can find here.
This insulation helps to keep the heat within the coop if you have a heating lamp or something of the like inside the coop.
Simply line it up inside the coop where you want it and then use a staple gun or hammer and nail to put it into place.
You can also add additional layers of plywood on the inside of the chicken coop to insulate it.
This means that you might have 6 inches or more of insulation to the inside of the chicken coop.
These thick walls mean it is going to be harder for the cold air to get in, thus insulation your chickens.
Lastly, you could use spray foam to insulate the inside of your chicken coop.
This will be a highly effective solution, but just keep in mind that your chickens might be tempted to pick at it.
And if they pick at it too much, they could die from it.
So spray foam should probably be your very last solution.
Ventilate the coop
Now that you have your chicken coop insulated, you will want to make sure it is ventilated.
This is important because for some weird reason chickens poop where they sleep and eat.
That poop during the winter is going to build up and that means eventually the chicken coop is going to smell like ammonia from the poop.
So if you have some ventilation in your chicken coop, then the bad air can be taken out and the clean air is brought in.
Typically, you are going to want to have the ventilation portion in an area where the chickens won’t be.
This could mean it is going to be at the top of the chicken coop.
So at the top of the chicken coop, cut a relatively small hole (maybe 6 inches wide and an inch or two tall) on each side of the chicken coop.
This means that the air can come in on one side and then leave on the other side.
And then this will keep away all the buildup of bad smells.
Check and fix any drafts in the chicken coop
Now, there is a big difference between ventilation and drafts.
As mentioned previously, ventilation is going to be in a place where the air won’t go directly on the chickens.
Drafts, on the other hand, are unexpected holes that will directly affect the chickens and their temperature.
So walk around the outside of the chicken coop and look/feel for any holes.
If you find any drafts in your chicken coop, you can cover up that hole with either cardboard, feed bags, or you can use silicone sealant if you want the solution to be more permanent.
The cardboard and feed bags are great options if you are in a pinch or maybe the hardware store isn’t open at the time you find the drafts.
Simply put the card or feed bags over the affected areas and then staple them in place.
The silicone sealant is a better long-term solution.
Simply find the hole that is creating the draft and apply the sealant and allow it to dry.
Then, as you cover up the holes, your chickens will be a lot happier and warmer.
Move and turn on a heat lamp in the chicken coop
As mentioned a few times previously, chickens are creatures of habit.
They don’t like things to change on a day-to-day basis.
So the change of weather is going to affect how many eggs you are getting each day.
If the chickens are cold, then they won’t lay eggs.
This is also the reason why we take care of any drafts in the coop.
So placing a heat lamp in the chicken coop allows the chickens to stay warm almost as if the sun is out all day.
And that is how they are going to be the most comfortable.
Find an electricity source for your heat lamp.
This could be from your house if it is close enough.
Make sure to use a heavy-duty outdoor cord (you can purchase one here).
Also, make sure the end of the cord is going in the upward direction and hidden away from any rain.
We had an experience where our chicken coop caught on fire because 1) the cord was going in a downward direction and 2) it was out in the open, so rain could get caught on it.
The rain caught onto the cord and got to the heat lamp, which then burst and caught on fire.
Luckily it was a coop made out of pallet wood we got for free, so we weren’t out any money.
And also luckily my wife was able to put the fire out.
Now, our chicken coop has a small hole in the bottom of the chicken coop, so the power cord comes up from below and is hidden away from any rain.
You can turn the lamp off at night, but I would suggest leaving it on all day.
Thus giving you more eggs throughout the week.
Provide more bedding in the chicken coop
There is a pretty good chance that your chicken coop is set up for your chickens to lay the eggs there, not just as a place for them to sleep.
In that case, you probably have some kind of bedding in there for your chickens to sit on.
This makes them comfortable so they feel good enough to lay some eggs.
During the wintertime, the bedding will also serve as a place for them to stay warm.
In the spring or summer, you probably trade out the bedding for new bedding, since again the chickens don’t care where they poop.
But during the winter, you’ll want to keep the bedding in there and pile it on top of the old bedding every few weeks.
This will give the chickens plenty of bedding and also warmth for them to sit on.
Check the chicken coop for vermin
Now you’ve set up a nice and warm chicken coop for your chickens.
But that also means you might be inviting other guests into your chicken coop.
Do a check-in your chicken coop to make sure there aren’t any vermin hanging out in there, like mice and rats.
It should be pretty easy to tell if there are vermin.
Their poop looks completely different than chicken poop.
Chicken poop looks like little gobs of pooh.
Mice and rat poop and really little and typically black.
If you see rats or mice poop, do what you can to find them.
But avoid using traps, as you might end up hurting your chickens in the process.
Clean out the chicken coop
As mentioned before, the build-up of poop in the chicken is going to cause a build-up of the smell of ammonia, which won’t be good for the chickens.
So while you are making sure there is plenty of bedding, you will also want to make sure you are regularly sweeping up the inside of the coop.
This would include chicken poop, chicken feathers, and any other debris that the chickens might bring into the coop.
Get in there on a regular basis, maybe weekly, and clean out the chicken coop.
Make sure that if you are feeding the chickens from the chicken coop, that you clean out the feeder of any debris and then put in more food.
And if the water is in there as well, make sure the water feeder is cleaned out so the water is nice and clean for the chickens.
Provide a water heater
Now depending on how cold the temperature gets, you might get to the point where your water is freezing over every night.
This means that the next morning you’ll have to chisel out or dump out the now ice and replace it with new water.
Or, you could purchase a water heater.
You can purchase a water heater here.
This means that you won’t have to check out the water a few times a day and that your chickens should be pretty happy with you.
Just like the heat lamp, this is going to be something you need to plug in, so be very careful with how you set it up.
But once you have it set up, then you place your (metal) waterer on the top of it and the water heater will keep the water just warm enough so it doesn’t freeze over.
Check the fencing for any holes or gaps
Once you have everything around the chicken coop all taken care of, the next thing you are going to want to do is to make sure you keep the chickens around.
If they wander, then it might be hard to get them back.
So it is better to keep them around where they are going to feel the most comfortable.
Walk around their chicken run area and make sure there aren’t any gaps in the fence.
It might not be the prettiest option, but something you can use to close the gaps is zip ties.
These are nice because they are pretty strong and depending on the size of the hole, you might be able to use two or more zip ties to close up the hole.
Clean out debris from the yard
Before the snow comes, make sure you walk around the yard and clean up any debris that may be laying around.
This is the best so you aren’t leaving anything lying around that doesn’t need to be there.
Or something that you may need later on in the year.
It’s also good to not leave anything in the yard that might decompose and make the chickens sick if they get at it.
Provide extra scratch for your chickens
It is pretty natural for us as humans to feel a need for more food during the wintertime.
This is because our body is working harder to keep us warm.
The same thing is true for most animals, especially for chickens.
So just before wintertime and during winter is a great time to provide more feed for your chickens.
And if you feel comfortable doing it, you can provide corn or other grain to your chickens as well.
This will help fill them up and keep them warm during the winter.
Clear out any snow that falls
As we’ve discussed, the most important part of winterizing your chickens is to make sure they are staying warm.
So while you might think that keeping the snow around might give them padding of warmth, but it could actually make them colder.
That means it is important to get rid of the snow when it falls.
A shovel is a good option for removing the snow from your chicken area.
Be careful that you don’t hurt any of your chickens while you are shoveling the snow.
It isn’t important to get all of the snow, but at least the vast majority of it.
Make a dust bath
Dust baths are very important to chickens.
They help to keep the chicken’s feathers clean and they can get all the bugs off of them with the dust bath.
Throughout the year, they will jump over your fence if they can’t get a dust bath.
So, if possible, it is a good idea to provide the chickens with a dust bath during the winter.
This might take having a covered area where you can keep the bath.
If you decide to do this, then first get yourself a small pool from the hardware store.
Then go home and fill it up with dirt from around your yard.
Lastly, place the pool in your covered area so the chickens have a place they can go to roll around in the mud.
Lock up the chickens at night
Throughout this whole article, we’ve been talking about things to get your chicken coop nice and fixed up for your chickens.
It would be a shame if they didn’t take advantage of their nice and warm chicken coop at night.
So you might have to coerce your chickens into the coop, but get them in there and then lock up the chicken coop.
Not only does this force them to stay in a nice and warm coop, but it also keeps other animals/predators out of the coop.
With the coop being warm, other animals might go there to get the warmth.
And when they get there, they will probably see your chickens as their food.
So make sure to get the chickens into the coop and then lock them up to keep them safe for the night.
The wintertime is a time when it becomes very important to keep your chickens warm.
There are so many things you can do, including fixing the drafts in your coop, insulating the coop, providing ventilation in the coop, cleaning out the coop, providing a water heater, providing more food for your chickens, and more.
If you do enough for your chickens, then they will continue to give you eggs during the wintertime.