Winter Chicken Keeping, Tips and Common Concerns

Lets get one common question answered first… whether or not to add heat. Chickens have over 8,000 feathers offering them a nice cozy coat. They fluff up those feathers trapping air under their down and stay toasty warm even in temperatures below freezing. So, the answer is no, chickens don’t need added heat in the coop. However, it’s important they have a dry, draft free shelter.

Silkie 103115

Windy conditions will ruffle their feathers and compromise their ability to stay warm. Even a spot heater in the coop defeats it’s purpose in the long run, not to mention it’s a major fire risk. Chickens would indeed huddle under a heat lamp, but when they move away from it their feathers are not fluffed up and they’ll be cold. They do better in a consistent climate, not fluctuating temps. So you have a choice, either confine them to a totally heated shelter all winter, or don’t provide them any heat at all.

Your chickens will roost together at night to keep each other warm, make sure they have enough space to do this. Check on them at night, you shouldn’t see any birds on the ground, or roosting alone. This is an indication they couldn’t find a spot with the others. If you only have one or two chickens, rather than providing a heat source, do them a favor and get another chicken.

Good Housekeeping

Keep the coop clean, change litter weekly. Damp conditions from droppings not only compromise chickens ability to stay warm, but contribute to the risk of respiratory illness. If your chickens are free roam during the day, it’s a wise decision to keep their water outside the coop. It isn’t necessary to provide water at night, it only increases unwanted moisture in the coop. Ventilation is good, drafts are bad. If there’s gaps in the coop walls, patch them. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, be creative! Save those empty feed bags, they’re a great way to insulate a coop!

Broody Silkies 10-23-14

Bedding


My personal choice is deep pine shavings. Many people use straw, but it has a tendency to mold, be brittle, and pokey, which can cause irritated vents on your birds.
Grass hay is nice, it stays soft, but it’s a bit pricey. All hay or straw is bulky and takes up a lot of space in the trash can. This is something to consider if you are an urban chicken keeper.

Diet for Winter Health and Warmth


Greens are just as important in winter as in summer. A good way to introduce greens and break the boredom in the coop is to hang a cabbage. This will keep them busy and healthy at the same time. Offering your birds a little scratch feed before bed will help them stay warm, but remember, scratch feed should be considered a treat, not a complete food for chickens.

More Resources for Cold Weather Chicken Keeping:

Raising Chickens in Cold Country
Cold Weather Care
Chickens in the Cold

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Preparing the Coop for Winter

I learned a lot myself from this article… mostly that I wouldn’t ever have chickens if I lived in a cold climate! I reach for a ski jacket, hat, and gloves when it’s 40 degrees and I’m still freezing to death! It was 80 here the other day, I turned off the AC because I was cold. Being raised in Chicago, I know just how silly that is, nevertheless, living in Arizona for so long  seems to have messed up my internal thermostat!

Hat’s off to all you guys that trudge through the snow to feed, tend to watering, pick eggs, and do chores in the bitter cold. You are my heroes!

It’s almost that time again and it’s time to get the coop ready for the cold weather. Right now is the perfect time to gather the materials you’ll need and prepare a plan.
Dealing with winter is strange territory for me, simply because here in Phoenix we barely have one!  It never snows, and rarely drops below 40 at night. But I’ve done the research for you and found an article that will walk you through the proper steps to keep your chickens happy and healthy through the winter.

Winter with Chickens

Read Article

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Phoenix Winter Chicken Coop

Cooler weather is on the way and that means it’s time to prepare the chicken coop for inclement temperatures. Arizona winters are mild, I use an elevated dog house packed with hay for their shelter from wind and rain. As an added measure of protection I hang tarps on three sides of their run. They are free run during the day, but come night they all return to the coop and the gate is closed behind them till morning.

This is coop is considered adequate for mild winters where temperatures rarely drop below freezing.

South coop with new tarps…
and of course, new fall flowers!
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