If you are anything like me and my family, you depend on your chickens to give you eggs on a regular basis.
Any drastic changes to the environment around your chickens could affect how many eggs your chickens are actually giving you.
So, you should prepare for the winter months ahead of time so the chickens do not feel like things are changing for them.
To winterize your chicken coop use the deep litter method, set up the chicken coop with insulation, check and eliminate drafts, add ventilation, and add a heated waterer.
Why winterize your chicken coop
As mentioned previously, chickens can seem like they need things done a very certain way.
We had about a dozen chickens and they were not giving us eggs for the longest period of time.
It was not until I went back to our chicken area with our oldest child that I noticed their water container needed to be cleaned out.
Once we cleaned their water container out, the chickens almost immediately began to give us eggs again.
So, if you do not clean out their water container, they will not give you eggs.
It is the same thing with the winter, if the chickens feel like things changed negatively for them, they will not give you eggs anymore.
You need to make sure that your chickens are as comfortable as they can be during the winter months and that very little changes for them.
In some areas, winter will not be as bad for them, and you may not need to do as much, but it is always good to consider ahead of time what you might need to do to keep your chickens comfortable.
Use the deep litter method
Chickens like their warmth.
During the winter months, the chickens will be spending the coldest time (at night) in their chicken coop, so it is important you keep the coop as warm as possible.
This is where the deep litter method comes into place.
The general idea is that if you add more bedding onto the floor of the chicken coop, the chickens are going to stay warm.
To start off, you will want to clean off the floor of your chicken coop, so get out a broom or a rake and get all the chicken poop and bedding out of the chicken coop.
Either throw away or compost the chicken poop and bedding.
Then, once the floor of the chicken coop is cleaned, put in a fresh layer of bedding on the floor of the chicken coop.
Each week, move around the bedding (not throw away) and then add a fresh layer of bedding on top of what you already have.
Eventually, the older bedding is going to start composting in the coop, and when it begins to compost, it will give off a little bit of heat into the chicken coop.
The multiple layers of bedding also keep the floor of the chicken coop from getting cold, therefore helping your chickens stay warm.
Install some type of insulation into your chicken coop
Something else that can cause your chicken to get cold is excessive drafts in the chicken coop.
This can come for many different reasons, including cracks in the walls and corners of the chicken coop.
So adding some insulation in the chicken coop can help prevent any unnecessary drafts in the coop.
A good foam sealant might be good for a project like this to fill in the cracks.
If your coop is big enough, you might be able to do something as easy as putting some hay bales up against the walls.
The hay will then block out any drafts that may come into the chicken coop.
Really anything that will either block or slow any drafts in the chicken coop would be really helpful towards keeping your chickens warm.
Check for drafts
As we already covered in the insulation part of this article, drafts can do damage towards keeping your chickens safe.
And they might not be in the most obvious places.
So be thorough and check for any drafts in the chicken coop.
Doors into or out of the chicken coop are big sources for drafts as well.
Make sure those doors are closed at night when it is the coldest outside.
And fill in any holes with the sealant mentioned in the previous portion of the article.
It is important that there is proper ventilation in your chicken coop.
Without ventilation, the chickens will be dealing with the smell of their poop all the time and that is not healthy for them.
So with proper ventilation, the bad smells will go out and the good smells will stay in.
And there is a difference between drafts and ventilation.
Drafts are airflow that comes into the chicken coop and stays in the chicken coop, making and keeping the chickens cold.
Ventilation is strategically placed so that the airflow takes the bad air out and also does not make the chickens cold.
The best place for ventilation holes is where the wall meets in the ceiling in the chicken coop.
This makes it so it is high enough to keep clear of the chickens, but also takes out the bad smells.
So if you do not already have some ventilation holes in your chicken coop, make them so the chicken can get the proper ventilation during the winter season.
Install a heated waterer
Depending on how cold your winters get, you might find that you have to replace frozen water for your chickens on a regular basis.
A heated waterer, like the one here, will help to keep the water warm for your chickens so you are a) not having to change it all the time and b) the chickens can get all the water they need.
The heat from the waterer is enough to keep the water warm, but not enough to damage or burn down your chicken coop.
Should you add heat to the chicken coop?
A few years ago, I used to travel every few months to my work’s headquarters.
One of those times, I got a call from my wife late at night to tell me about how the chicken coop we had just built from pallet wood had just gone up in flames.
She had to run outside with a blender and throw water all over it to put it out.
It just so happened that it rained that night and some rain had traveled down the power cord for the heated lamp and created a short, which then started the fire.
From then on, we have been very careful about whether or not to put a heated lamp in our chicken coop.
Putting a light in your chicken coop is not absolutely necessary.
Chickens are pretty good at using their feathers to keep themselves warm if they need to.
According to BackyardChickenProject.com:
Chickens fluff up their feathers, creating an air pocket between the feathers and skin. This holds the warm air radiating from the chicken’s body and keeps them comfortable even on the coldest nights. Chickens also cluster together on the roost and cuddle to keep each other warm.
Even though it may not look like it, those birds are perfectly warm without your intervention.Heat in the Chicken Coop? (backyardchickenproject.com)
If you follow the 5 tips listed in this article, you may not have to do anything else for your chickens during the winter season.
If you are outside regularly checking on your chickens and can keep the heating lamp absolutely safe, it might be worth it to put a light out for the chickens.
But if the chickens do not need it, it might be safer to put the heating lamp away.
Chickens are pretty sturdy animals that can last throughout the winter without much interventions.
But it is always good to take a few steps ahead of winter to make sure your chickens are taken care of.
Check and fix drafts, install a header waterer, install insulation into the chicken coop, use the deep litter method, and add ventilation.
And if you take these steps to take care of your chickens, your chickens will give you eggs all throughout winter.