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.

winter chicken care
With a few simple winter chicken care tips – you can keep your flock safe and sound

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. 

winter chicken care
The flock pecking at a little snow on a clear day after a storm. The thick layer of straw keeps the coop warm

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!  

Cover Windows

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.

winter chicken care
Recycled Winter Chicken Care – we use old wooden windows to cover our mesh openings

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.



3 thoughts on “Winter Chicken Care Tips – How To Keep Your Coop & Flock Safe & Warm!

  • November 26, 2016 at 7:38 am
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    Here in rural Vermont, winterizing for the chickens is a priority. Because we have bold predators, I planned from the start to keep my dual-purpose flock contained, but I wanted them to have plenty of exercise and access to lots of greens. So I built a combination hen house and enclosed run as part of an equipment shed; it’s big enough I can house at least 20 birds without in the least crowding them. Currently I have 10 Speckled English Sussex hens and a rooster.

    The 6’x8′ hen house has a raised wooden floor that I cover with 8-12 inches of untreated wood shavings rather than hay, because wet hay can mold much more easily than shavings. The hen house is 6 feet tall, and is double-walled to about 5 feet to prevent our often-bitter east and north winter winds from hitting the chickens directly. The top foot of the walls are single-walled, as is the flat roof, to allow air flow. The hen house roof is actually the floor of a loft, and 5 feet above that is the shed’s roof.

    Aside from a person-access door, the hen house has a small door to the enclosed run, and a small window above that. The window can be more or less open; I tend to choke it down in the winter and keep it fully open in the summer. The door is almost always open. It opens onto an overly large (6’x24′) run that is single walled on three sides. One side wall backs up a firewood storage bin, the other two back up the shed, which in turn is open to the elements. The fourth side of the run is wire mesh. In winter I cover the mesh with old greenhouse plastic, which cuts the north wind but allows light through. The two shed-backing walls allow air flow through the cracks between boards, so the run is definitely more subject to cold winds than is the hen house; but the birds can choose whether to be outside or in the hen house, too.

    I built the run with a heavy duty wire (1/4″ hardware cloth) barrier under it to prevent critters tunneling in. Over that I annually shovel in a foot of untreated woodchips that come either from my local lumber mill or from my own chipping efforts.

    Like you, we harvest compost from the operation. The hen house collects the chicken’s waste; the combination of wood shavings and chicken droppings provides a rich source of nitrogen-enhanced carbon, which I remove in early summer and, after a summer of “mellowing,” spread particularly around my fruiting bushes (blueberries, raspberries, etc.). I use a blend of the chips and the “humus,” see below, for my fruiting trees, and in the herb garden. The shavings then have the winter to further decompose and to feed the soil in preparation for providing a spring growth and fruiting boost.

    The chicken’s run is our only compost pile. All year we toss every biodegradable “green” product into the run – all of our garden and greenhouse weeds and spent plants, and all kitchen waste, including all meat byproducts and leftovers, coffee and tea leavings, vegetable peelings and trimmings, old food from the refrigerator, even egg shells from the eggs our chickens provide. The birds consume what they will, and work it all into the “brown” woodchips. Over the course of 12 months ending in late fall, the combination, enhanced by the work and excretions of the chickens, decomposes into a nice, rich soil.

    In the late fall I use a frame made of 1/4″ hardware cloth to filter out the larger chips and undigested green material, and collect the rich humus that falls through into a large bucket. This fall I harvested 3 cubic yards of rich material that looks and feels a lot like forest earth. It goes into my greenhouse and garden soil in place of any normally-made compost. By spring planting time, it has mellowed and percolated its goodness into the soil well enough to provide an enriched, safe growing medium for my summer veggies.

  • November 20, 2016 at 2:21 am
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    In what way are the mice a health concern to chickens? In what numbers?
    Jana

    • November 20, 2016 at 7:59 pm
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      Jana – Mice carry a lot of disease – and if left to populate, can be an issue for the chickens. A few here and there will not harm the chickens – but if allowed to breed and multiply, they can be.

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