Keeping your flock safe from the elements of winter’s fury is a prime concern for most backyard chicken enthusiasts. But with just a few simple tips, it’s actually quite simple to keep your chickens happy and safe through the cold winter months.
Chickens are bothered more by dampness and cold drafts than the actual freezing temperatures of winter. If you concentrate winterizing efforts to eliminating those two concerns, your chickens will stay comfy and happy all winter long! Here are a few of our best tips on winter chicken care.
Winter Chicken Care Tips
Use The Deep Litter Method To Generate Warmth In The Coop
Most visitors to our coop are surprised we don’t utilize heaters or warming lights during the winter months.
Instead, we practice the Deep-Litter method to provide needed warmth for the chickens. After cleaning the coop in late fall, we place a deep 6″ to 10″ layer of clean straw in the coop. For the next few months throughout winter, we opt not to clean the coop. Instead, we add in 3 to 5″ inches of new straw on top of the old every few weeks. The new straw provides a nice clean, damp-free surface for the chickens to roam about.
Meanwhile, the old straw underneath that is filled with chicken manure starts to slowly decompose. This generates heat, which in turn helps to warm the coop. As the winter progresses, we continue to add new straw over the old to keep the process going and keep the top layer fresh and clean.
In the early spring, we clean it all out and add the shredded straw and decomposed manure to our compost pile. A win-win for the chickens, and our garden!
As we said earlier, it is vital to your chicken’s health to keep out drafts and moisture from your coop during the wintertime months. That process starts by closing off windows and openings to keep out chilling winds and falling snow.
We use salvaged wood windows to cover our mesh openings. It allows the light and warmth to still enter the coop, while keeping out the winter wind and snow. Other great choices are plexiglass and heavy clear plastic.
It’s important to use a clear material to keep as much light coming into the coop as possible. Not only does it allow the sun to warm the coop during the day, the light will help keep egg laying to maximum levels. One vent we do not close is the small top ridge vent at the apex of our coop. We leave at least one small air vent up top to help circulate a bit of fresh air to the coop.
Check Water Supply Regularly
Chickens still need fresh water on hand at all times, so it’s important to keep your eye on their water supply to keep it from becoming clogged with ice. On extremely cold days and nights, be sure to check the water more often and replace when it begins to freeze. It is a good idea to keep to a second watering device on hand to make changing out easy. One can thaw in a warm place while the other goes in the coop.
Beware Of The Mice
Mice can be a big problem in the winter when allowed to become established in the coop. Understandably, they are looking for a warmer to place for shelter as well – and the coop is the perfect choice for that! Be sure to caulk all holes and fill any openings where mice can enter.
Each winter, we set a few mice traps in the coop out of the reach of chickens to help catch any unwanted creatures.
Although cute and furry, if allowed to multiply, mice can become a health issue to your chickens.
Here’s to keeping your chickens happy and comfortable all winter long! – Jim and Mary. To receive our Recipes, DIY and Gardening articles each week, sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. You can also check out our new book, Growing Simple, now available on Amazon.com.