Caring for backyard chickens during the winter months will require some additional work on your part, as cold weather can produce many challenges.
Here are some tips to consider to help keep your chickens happy and healthy during the winter season:
- Ensure that your coop has sufficient ventilation in order to prevent moisture from building up. A damp coop during cold weather can lead to frost bite on your chickens’ feet, combs and wattles. Some people will also cover their birds’ combs and wattles with petroleum jelly to help prevent frost bite during very cold weather.
- Don’t use a heater! This could cause a fire! Rather, provide your chickens with a thick layer of bedding to help keep them warm. Roosts are also helpful in keeping your chickens warm during the winter by keeping them off of the ground. Be sure that there is enough space for all of your birds to roost.
- Provide your birds with an additional light source, especially during short, dark days. Providing a light source for a few extra hours per day will help to keep your hens laying throughout the winter.
- Feed your chickens cracked corn. The addition of cracked corn will help your chickens to produce body heat. (As their body’s digest the corn, body heat is generated.)
- Watch for freezing water! Many individuals will use electric water heaters in very cold climates. If you are not using a water heater, be sure to check and change water buckets regularly to prevent freezing. Providing warm water will also help.
- The same is true for eggs! Be sure to collect eggs from the coop several times a day to ensure that they do not freeze.
Please note: While it is important to help your chickens stay warm during the winter, it is not necessary to entirely seal up the coop. Chickens will follow their natural instincts and will know whether they want to be inside or out. Providing your birds with an access door so that they can move in and out of the coop freely may be a good idea.
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