Keeping Chickens in the Winter

When raising chickens naturally, there are three things chickens don’t need for winter. I know it’s hard to believe that chickens can and do make it through the winter months, even in very cold climates, without our help. It is easy to keep chickens in the winter, even if you do worry.

Keeping Chickens in the Winter - chickens eating snow with text overlay

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Keeping Chickens in the Winter

Chickens do not need heated coops, extra light in the coop, and warm winter clothing. While I wish I was joking about the warm clothing, I have seen some posts on social media regarding chickens and clothing. I do think the majority of the posts are in good humor.

Three Things Chickens Don't Need in the Winter

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You do not need to provide heat in your chicken coops. As long as your coop is well-built, has ventilation at the top, and is draft-free your chickens will be happy this winter.

Extra Lights

Adding lights to the coop should be done only for your convenience. If you need to visit the coop after dark to tend to upkeep, check on the flock, or do any number of chicken care duties, lights make the task so much easier. 

If you choose to leave a light on in the coop for higher egg production, go for it. We do, I have solar lights that I turn on early in the morning, giving them an extra hour or two of light in the day. It has not kept the production up to summer production, but it's good for your hens to take some time off from laying.

Clothing for Chickens?

Clothing for chickens is not to be confused with the fabric hen saddles used to protect the hens' backs from a large rough rooster. Those can be important and are made from cotton and only on their backs, not wrapped around their bodies.

It’s funny to see photos of chickens wearing the latest knitwear fashion, but in real life, wearing a sweater does more harm than good, when keeping a chicken warm. What actually happens is that the sweater will prevent the feathers from fluffing.

The fluffing keeps the chicken warm by trapping the body heat near the body. I know people mean well but don’t put clothing on your chicken to keep them warm. 

Keeping Chickens in the Winter - chickens eating snow with text overlay

Three Things Chickens Need in the Winter

Shelter, nutritious food, and freshwater are the keys to chickens thriving during the winter months. Spend some time cleaning the coop. Give the chickens a good thick layer of pine shavings and straw. You can line the nests with clean straw too. Clean out the cobwebs. Check the airflow.

Provide Shelter

The coop should not be air-tight, that would definitely lead to frostbite. The coop needs ventilation to carry the warm moist air up and out of the coop. Make sure they have access to the coop at all times.

Fresh Water is Important

Water is a necessary nutrient all year long. Making sure that your flock has a source of fresh water throughout the day is hard when temperatures drop well below freezing. There are a number of products designed to keep the water above freezing.

If you don't have a heated waterer, no worries, just make sure to check on their water throughout the day on really cold days to refresh frozen water. (We don't have a heated water dish, mainly because I would need 5.)

Nutritious Food

Nutrition is very important during times when your flock cannot forage for greens and insects. Feed a quality layer feed to make sure that the hens are getting the nutrients they need to sustain egg development. Supplement with healthy food from the kitchen or leftovers.

And don’t forget a healthy dose of mealworms or grubs to add some protein. Extra protein in the afternoon is great for getting their body temperature up a little before the cold night.

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