If you have been raising baby chickens since spring and your chickens have started to lay, they are living the happy chicken life outside, but then winter is coming. You probably want to know the secret to keeping chickens warm in winter, right?
Our first year with chickens in winter we were really stressed out about how we would be keeping our chickens warm. Winters here are not SO awful, but it gets well below freezing for quite a while. We also get a good amount of snow a few times a year.
How To Keep Chickens Warm In The Winter
We wondered if we needed a chicken coop heater of some sort. We also wondered what other winter chicken care we needed to know about.
I mean, if its below freezing and WE go outside we need to bundle up, right? So, what would we need to do to be keeping chickens warm in winter? Chicken sweaters, a chicken coop heater, heat lamps?
The first thing we quickly learned about keeping chickens warm in winter is to NEVER use a heat lamp!
The first and most important reason that you should NOT use a heat lamp or other chicken coop heater when thinking about keeping chickens warm in the winter is that they are an EXTREME fire hazard. There are barn and house fires EVERY year in the winter due to people using heat lamps.
This is one of the rules of thumb for keeping goats in the winter as well.
And, quite frankly, chickens in winter do not need extra heat. Think about those nice (expensive), warm down comforters you probably love. What helps make them so warm? Feathers!
How Cold Can Chickens Tolerate?
Chickens can turn themselves into little heaters basically. Plus, if you have several chickens, they will all huddle together and combine their heat.
Chickens in winter will fluff up their already insulated feathers to trap more heat and this is a key to keeping chickens warm in winter. If it is SUPER cold, chickens will also cuddle together on their roosts to generate even more heat.
Do Chickens Get Cold?
We have had many winters where temperatures have dropped into the teens or even single digits. We were a bit worried about them at first but they don't really seem to mind.
I'm sure if they did not have shelter, food, or water, things may have been different. But as long as you have your bases covered, your chickens and cold weather should not be a problem.
If you only have a few chickens, you may want to consider introducing new chickens to the flock for the extra heat. Especially if you have Bantam chickens or Frizzle chickens, because they are smaller in size and sometimes their feathers are less insulated.
So, you can see that chickens do not need an added chicken coop heater even in the winter.
Need some help keeping your chickens health and care taken care of? Check out the Organized Chicken Keeper for an easy to follow system.
Winterized Chicken Coops
Another way of keeping chickens warm is to make sure they have a winterized chicken coop. You can do that by blocking out any drafts in their coop.
Not having any drafts in their coop does not mean to plug it up super tight though. It is very important to allow proper ventilation. But do make sure that there are not winds or drafts coming through especially at areas where your chickens will be roosting.
As you can see in the picture below, you can insulate a chicken coop as simply as nailing a few boards to their coop wall. We were able to block out any drafts directly next to where they roost.
There is still enough space to allow a good amount of ventilation, but the wind chill is cut down quite a bit. It is almost like a DIY insulted chicken coop.
As you can see, chicken care in winter does not have to be too difficult.
What To Feed Chickens In Winter
If you want to give a little extra comfort when thinking about keeping chickens warm in winter, you can also give them some special treats.
We usually give some warm oatmeal on the coldest mornings. Since chickens can eat apples, you can toss some of those into the oatmeal. You can also give some cracked corn as a treat chickens in winter to help them stay warm.
Any extra food, especially things like warm food or cracked corn helps them stay warm by increasing their digestion.
In addition to draft-free housing and some extra treats, there isn't much to do in terms of chicken care in winter.
Keep Them Hydrated
If your temperatures get below freezing, you will want to make sure your chickens have access to good, unfrozen water.
There are multiple ways to keep waterers from freezing in winter, the easiest is a heated chicken waterer. They are a perfect gift for chicken lovers. We got a set one year as a Christmas gift and they made our Winters soooooo much easier.
However, there are other ways even if you don't have electricity in your coop.
How To Heat A Chicken Coop
How can you safely heat a chicken coop without electricity? You use the previous suggestions, mix in a little science,and viola!
Make sure their coop has a good bedding of hay, straw, or pine chips. When your chickens eat and drink, they will then produce waste. This waste will start to build up in the bedding and decompose.
Essentially, they will turn their bedding into a large compost pile. When things start to compost they heat up. So that is how you can heat a chicken coop without electricity.
What About Chickens In The Snow?
Our chickens love to free range. Even as cute little snow chickens, they like to scratch around and see what they can find. After a while, they get tired of that and go back to their warm coop where they have a feeder and water.
As long as you have their other necessities met, your chickens in snow should not be an issue.
Now that you know the keys to keeping chickens warm in winter, you can rest assured that without too much extra care your chickens will stay safe, warm and healthy!
If you need more help with taking care of your chickens, check out The Organized Chicken Keeper for a complete system for managing their health through keeping their supplies stocked and coop clean.