The cold, snow and sleet are coming, and that means its time to prepare your chicken coop for winter!
Protecting chickens from the harsh elements of winter’s fury is important to keeping a flock safe, happy and healthy.
And contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take a lot of work. In fact, with a just a few simple steps, you can prepare your coop and your flock for the upcoming cold and snow.
5 Keys To Preparing A Chicken Coop For Winter
It is important to understand that it is not the freezing temperatures that are most dangerous to a flock. In fact, chickens actually handle sub-freezing cold in stride.
What does cause problems to their health, comfort and safety is dampness and cold drafts.
Chicken’s feathers protect them quite nicely from cold. But not when they become wet and moist. Or when drafts enter the coop and keep them from drying out.
Concentrating winterizing efforts with this is mind goes a long way in keeping a flock safe.
Here are 5 big keys to prepare chicken coop and your chickens for winter.
#1 Shut Out Drafts & Precipitation
Keeping out open air flow not only keeps the coop more comfortable and warm, it also keeps out any precipitation.
And that includes rain, snow, sleet – and also blowing and drifting snow. Once moisture enters the coop, it becomes hard to get it out in the cold of winter.
Cover window and door openings to keep out drafts and moisture. Old glass windows are a great option, as is clear plastic. Plexiglas, although it can be expensive, is another great alternative.
Using a clear material allows both light and warmth to enter the coop. And, of course, keeps out wind and snow.
But it serves another purpose as well. All of that light is also extremely important in helping to keep hens laying through winter.
A lack of light can make chickens decrease or all-together stop laying. So the more light, the more chance your chickens keep laying through winter.
#2 Vent The Coop
When closing up windows and doors, it is still important to provide fresh circulation in the coop. And that is where a vent is a must!
Make sure your coop has at least one vent near the top portion of the coop. This allows for fresh air to enter and stale air to exit.
The vents should be covered with small mesh screen to prevent mice and other pests from seeking refuge in the coop.
#3 Use The Deep-Litter Winter Method To Provide Heat
Most visitors to our coop are always surprised we don’t utilize heaters or warming lights during the winter.
Instead, we use what is known as the “Deep-Litter” method to provide needed warmth for the chickens. And when it comes to preparing your chicken coop for winter, it is the easiest chore of all!
After cleaning the coop in late fall, we place a deep 6″ to 10″ layer of clean straw in the coop. For the duration of winter, we do not clean the coop out.
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.
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!
#4 Maintain A Fresh & Unfrozen Water Supply
When it comes to preparing the chicken coop for winter – this is a big one!
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. You can also use water devices with built in warmers to keep water from freezing. (pictured above) Affiliate Product Link : Heated Water Unit
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.
#5 Protect The Coop From Mice
Preparing the chicken coop for winter means securing your coop against the onslaught of mice too.
Understandably, mice are looking for a warmer to place for shelter as well. And a coop is a perfect choice – if they can find a way in!
Although cute and furry, if allowed to multiply, mice can become a health issue to your chickens.
Be sure to caulk all holes and fill any openings where mice can enter. And if you have a dirt floor, it is a good idea to place down a heavy mesh screen to keep mice from digging their way inside.
So get that coop prepared for winter – and keep your flock of chickens safe and happy!
And if you don’t have chickens – what are you waiting for?
Check out Why Raising Backyard Chickens Will Give You The Best Garden Ever – and see what you are missing! Happy Gardening – Jim & Mary.
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