Winter is a very critical moment for chickens. Temperatures plummet, the ground becomes frozen and every drop of water turns into ice. Keeping chickens in winter becomes a challenge especially for beginners.
New chicken owners may find it hard taking their feathered friends through to the next season. However, with the know-how, it becomes smooth even for baby chicks.
Have you ever tried keeping chickens in winter? What was the experience like? For me, I almost gave up until I found out these tips am about to share with you.
Let’s raise chickens even in winter.
1 Heat the coop
When I say you heat the coop, I do not mean that you go and light a fire. No! This can be dangerous and kill your hen breeds.
Chicken bedding can catch fire very easily. So, the means you are going to use to heat the coop should be very safe to avoid a catastrophe.
Infra-red light bulbs and sweeter heaters are a good way to provide some supplemental heat to your chickens. They only provide enough warmth to keep out cold.
Avoid charcoal stoves because a burning piece of coal is enough to ignite fire. In addition to this, burning charcoal releases carbon monoxide a harmful gas that is toxic when inhaled.
Running a network of hot water pipes around the inside of the chicken coop is a good way to provide heat.
However, care should be taken because the pipes can burst and spill water which will make the coop dump and later freeze into ice.
For baby chicks, let them remain in the chick brooder. Here, heated plates should be used to provide them with warmth until winter is over.
2 Use the deep litter method
Deep litter method in the coop is a very good way to keep chickens warm in winter. The winter chicken coop should have a thick layer of bedding preferably one foot thick.
When bedding material mix with chicken poop, decomposition starts to occur due to microbial activities. As this process takes place, it releases some heat which in turn warms the coop.
Although this is a cheap way to keep chickens warm, decomposing chicken poop releases ammonia a toxic gas to chickens.
When this gas is inhaled, it can lead to serious respiratory issues. So, watch out!
3 Treats will keep them warm
When these treats are being digested, the body will release some metabolism heat which will keep your chickens warm overnight.
However, do not feed to much treats to your chickens. Doing this will not make them hot! All treats should be fed in moderation.
4 Get them a boredom buster
One way to chase away cold from your winter chickens is by keeping them busy and occupied. So, how is this done?
A cabbage will not just supplement their diets but it will keep them doing something and their bodies will generate some heat.
When the hens are bored, they turn into cannibalism, bullying, feather picking and fighting.
5 Supplement light for them to keep laying
I know eggs are important for you even during winter. If you do not have winter layers like female Dorking chickens supplement the light.
In most winters, days are very short while the nights are longer. For chickens to lay they require plenty of light to make eggs in their bodies.
One way to maintain laying consistency is making sure that they get plenty of light. Supplement the light by using light bulbs.
However, this method may take a toll on their heath. Be considerate!
6 Have some heated waterers
Heated chicken waterers will spare you the agony of breaking the ice from the chicken water trough. These important chicken tools will keep the water in liquid form and a few degrees warm for your hens.
However, heated chicken waterers require electricity or solar power to operate. Extend a power cable to your chicken coop and fix the water issue once and for all.
This important chicken rearing equipment’s will keep the water clean, fresh and free from dirt. They come in various sizes and shapes depending on your pocket.
Heated bases will offer an alternative if you do not want heated chicken waterers. They are versatile and can be used on either plastic or metal waterers without the fear of fire break out.
7 Bring them to your garage
Sometimes, temperatures will fall to negative figures and you can no longer trust your chicken coop in winter.
Bring your hens in your garage where you can use heated blankets and pads without the fear of a fire break out.
Here, it is safe and even the mightiest predators like chicken eating bears will not dare harm your hens. If there is space in your garage, be kind and let your birds there for a short while until winter is over.
8 Roosts are important
Unlike ducks that prefer to spend the night on the coop floor, chickens prefer to roost because they are not afraid of heights.
Roosting is a good way to keep chickens above the frozen ground. This way the birds will hurdle together, generate heat and keep each other warm.
Use wooden sticks or thin pieces of timber that are strong enough to carry the chicken’s weight. Wood is a poor conductor and it will not be cold like metal.
9 Confine them in the coop
Perhaps you are out there wondering how to keep free range chickens warm in winter. Well, chickens do not like snow.
The extreme cold weather out there is enough to freeze them to death. So, ask yourself how cold chickens can tolerate and this will leave you with no other option rather than confine them.
When it is very cold, confine your birds in the chicken coop for winter you prepared for them. It will not take long before winter is over before they can roam out again.
Additionally, there are no enough weeds, bugs and insects that chickens can collect of the frozen snow. With this in mind, there is no need to let chickens out.
10 Utilize the few hours of sun
During the short winter days, the sun will only come out for a few hours before it disappears. Make good use of this time and let your hens get warmed up.
You can also create a sun room with polythene similar to a green house where chickens can enjoy the sun.
Under this sunroom, place their drinking water to prevent it from freezing. It will get warmed up a little bit to keep the chickens hydrated.
11 Insulate their combs and wattles
Chickens with single combs will face it rough during winter. Their exposed fleshy parts will suffer from frostbites which can lead to hypothermia and death.
To prevent frostbitten combs and wattles, apply Vaseline jelly to insulate your flock. Those breeds with rose combs are going to be lucky because frostbites are a non-issue to them.
What is the best food to keep chickens warm in winter?
During winter, your chicken’s diet should be a little bit special. Remember that there are only a few plants that they can eat and will mostly rely on what you give them.
The feeds they eat should be well-balanced to give all the nutrients they require for healthy growth and development.
A diet high in carbohydrates and protein will be very important during this cold weather. Some of the best foods for chickens include:
- Whole corn.
- Dried mealworms.
- Cracked corn.
- Chicken scratch.
- Bird seed.
- Indian corn.
Good foods for chickens in winter should help generate some heat of metabolism as they are being digested to help keep your girls warm.
Make it a routine to feed them before bed time or hang a treat to keep them busy. Some green vegetables like kale and spinach will be good because there are no weeds for them to eat.
Can chickens stay in the coop all winter?
Yes! Chickens can remain in their winter coop until this cold season is over. It is actually safer to confine the birds to keep them out of the cold weather.
However, if you prefer this method, be prepared to provide them with enough feeds and water for the entire period of time.
Chickens that are raised in winter coops will not suffer from frostbites. They will also not get hunted down for food by predators like possums, chicken hawks and wolves.
It does not make sense to let out chickens in snow when there is nothing they can forage on. Inside the coop, it is warm and safer than outside.
How to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity
Without electricity, it is still very possible to keep chickens warm. The only limitation is that you can use heating pads, heated blankets and heated plates to provide supplemental heat.
However, if you have a solar panel, you can utilize the few hours of light to use electric heating gadgets. Other reliable methods are:
- Letting your chickens live in your garage.
- Feeding them cereals before they roost.
- Insulating their combs and wattles.
- Using the deep litter method.
- Utilizing hours of sunshine.
- Hang a treat to peck at.