Are you new to raising chickens? I bet there are tons of questions rushing through your mind right now. Will my chickens be too cold? Will they stop laying eggs? Well, have no worries because we’re here to put your mind at ease. Let us explain the process of wintering chickens so you can do it yourself and throw those worries away.
1. Chickens don’t need heaters or heat bulbs in their coop
Yes, it’s true! I know it goes against every fiber of your existence not to add a heater. Winter = cold, heater = warm right? I felt the same way. Learning this specific step really but my brain threw a blender for a while, I just couldn’t accept it.
So let me explain why.
You know how you build snow up around your house for added insulation in very cold climates? That’s wintering your house. Wintering chickens is basicly the same thing, except on the inside with their bedding and poop.
In combination, these 2 things give a chicken coop incredible heat retaining properties. It should also be noted that the chickens themselves are sort of like mini heaters all on their own.
They huddle up to keep warm, and in the process, this also keeps the entire coop warm, due to the insulation.
In fact, your first instinct is going to be shutting the coop up and sealing it as well as possible.
DON’T DO THAT
Your coop will need all the ventilation it can get, otherwise moisture will build up, causing mold and ice, and your chickens could get wet which will be detrimental to their health in the middle of winter.
A draft also keeps the heat circulating.
The truth is, Adding a heater to a chicken coop is not only unnecessary it’s also dangerous. It’s like lighting a match in a barn full of hay, it just isn’t a good idea.
Don’t turn your chickens into nuggets prematurely. Some dark humor 🙂
By the way, the chicken poop as disgusting as it sounds is a vital ingredient in keeping them warm, which I will explain below.
2. The deep litter routine
Ok so I have to insulate my chickens with.. there own poop? how do i do that? Well that’s where the deep litter method comes into play.
The deep litter routine starts off in spring when you slowly allow the bedding and poop to build up, and applying fresh bedding over top of it all the way to fall.
After spring fall and summer, You should have over 1 foot of potential insulation for the chickens to stay warm.
The poop and bedding will slowly decay and also put off a lot of heat (Remember ventilation is important here). This is the same mechanism you would find in a composting pile.
“What?! But i havent done that at all, i waited last minute to learn how wintering chickens works!”
That’s OK, don’t panic. Just start building up the floor now, add more bedding. The chickens will take care of the poop part of the deal.
3. Making sure they continue to lay eggs in winter
Most chickens will continue to lay eggs all year round. More interestingly, some species will lay eggs no matter what conditions they are in. But not all, so how do you get your chickens to continue laying in winter?
Basically, chickens lay based on the length of the day. Simply put, Adding additional light during the shorter winter days will cause your chickens to continue to lay eggs. Simple right?
Well there are some con’s to this.
Chickens get stressed easily and their body’s natural systems are built for the seasons. If you start supplementing light this can stress them out pretty badly.
This may lower their leg laying life span overall, Which isn’t good unless you can easily replace your chickens. And we all know what happens to chickens who don’t lay anymore… Nuggets.
So if you can do without eggs for the winter don’t bother with supplementing light. If not, Then you will need to consider what I’ve stated above.
4. Fatten them up
When I say fatten them up, I don’t mean make them rolly polly and round. All I mean is to make sure they are continually digesting something in their stomach as this will increase their body temperature.
A good meal would be chicken corn.
Corn is hard to digest so they will be doing so all night long. Best given in the late evening as a bedtime snack! Trust us, You won’t hear any complaints.
5. Give them toys
Did you know there are companies that make toys specifically for chickens to play with, mostly in winter?
It keeps the stress levels down, makes them active, which also increase heat.
Some other reasons you should give your chickens toys:
- Prevents cannibalism from boredom
- Stops fighting and bullying
- Stops them from eating their own eggs
- Removes stress response, such as plucking its own feathers
- Prevents obesity as you feed them corn all evening
So as you can see, Toys are an important part of wintering chickens and overall just happy chickens in general.
Here’s a few products you can check out:
6. Protecting your chickens from frostbite
Not everyone will have to deal with this specific step. It’s mostly for those in very cold climates and fairly large chicken breeds.
If you notice your chickens have started to get frostbite on their wattles or combs, it’s time to protect them properly.
A simple solution to this is to simply spread Vaseline (petroleum jelly) on-top of the troubled spots of the chicken.
This should prevent any future frostbite, just make sure to keep up the applications as needed. While the frostbite is only going to be on the tips and won’t hurt the chickens very much, it may be uncomfortable and also unsightly.
So it’s better to deal with it.
7. Protect their feet
There are a few things in the world chickens hate, Foxes, Coyotes, Dogs, KFC, But did you know they also hate cold feet?
Heh, don’t we all?
Well for chickens, if there is any snow on the ground or if the ground is too cold, they simply won’t go out at all.
To remedy this, Simply add some hay or similar substance on the ground or over the snow. This will make it a bit easier for your chickens to enjoy their outside time even when it’s bitter cold.
Oddly enough, if the outside temperature is higher but there is still snow on the ground, that doesn’t seem to bother them as much. It’s only around 20F that they start getting picky.
So if you find your chickens don’t want to come out of their coop, don’t worry, just keep this information in your head as the remedy to the situation is simple.
8. Don’t coddle your chickens when the weather gets bad
Your first instinct when a storm starts brewing is to put your chickens inside the coop. You don’t need to do this.
If the storm or temperature gets too bad, your chickens will simply go into the coop on their own. They don’t need to be told “if you stay out here you will die”, they have some survival instincts after all.
So just let them be themselves, if they go out during a storm, you can safely assume they just want to be out in the storm and nothing bad will happen. If they decide to go in then maybe it was too much for them.
Overall, trust your chickens own judgment.
Your chickens are fine on their own for the most part in winter. As long as you do your due diligence to their coop to keep the insulation thickness up, Really chickens don’t need much help.
Hang a toy or 2, leave the door open, and let your chickens do what chickens do best. Wintering chickens doesn’t need to be a complicated process because it simply isn’t.
Enjoy your future eggs and happy girls.
Update on 2020-11-27 API Pricing Subject To Change