If you’re part of the growing numbers of homeowners deciding to keep chickens in their backyard, you are probably concerned about how to keep them safe and warm in the winter. And if you can keep their coop comfortable enough that they keep laying when the weather changes, even better! Here are some tips to help you care for your little flock of chickens over the winter.
It’s not the most pleasant of chores, but you’ve got to clean out your coop, nesting area, and change out old bedding and clean up any poop before winter sets in. A cleaner coop is a warmer coop!
2. Plug Holes
If there are any holes or cracks in your coop — even tiny ones — you’re inviting unwanted critters and drafts. Yes, your coop needs ventilation, but you’ll also want to make sure to cover those vents in sturdy netting. Check for any loose boards and secure them.
3. Add Fresh Bedding
Fresh bedding will always be warmer than dirty bedding. For winter, add an extra deep layer of bedding (straw, pine, leaves, or some combination). You’ll get better insulation with thick, clean bedding. Straw is especially good because it is hollow and provides more insulation than wood shavings or sand.
4. Block Wind & Snow
You’ll want to provide plastic sheeting, plywood, or plexiglass over your chicken wire run as protection against cold winds and snow. Don’t cover your vent holes, but do what you can to keep cold winds and snow from blowing in to your coop. Even in the run, chickens will need a good protected area.
5. Provide Heat
If your winter climate gets pretty cold, you might want to provide something tol keep your coop a few degrees warmer than it is outside. A safe, ceramic wall heater should only be used on the coldest days (like 0 degrees or below). A light bulb can also bring in a little warmth, and if your chickens get at least 15 hours of light per day, they may keep laying through the winter. It’s best to put your light on a timer so that it comes on before dawn, rather than staying on later at night or all night.