Reprinted with permission from Murray McMurray Hatchery Blog.
As the weather turns cold, it is time to start thinking about winterizing your coop so your chickens stay healthy and produce eggs through the colder months. To help you, we have compiled a list of basic winterizing tips.
- Prevent frost bite of the feet and combs by checking your chickens frequently. Make sure that they have fresh bedding to lay and roost on. Consider going to a heavier bedding, like hay, for the winter months, as it retains heat better keeping your chickens warm.
- In the winter, chickens need protection from cold weather, which their feathers provide by keeping an insulating layer of warm air between their feathers and their body, trapped in their down. If they are situated directly in the wind its impossible to stay warm. On the other hand, they need ventilation in the coop, not only to let in fresh air, but also to let out moist air that accrues from their respirations and droppings. In the winter, moist air inside a coop can lead to frostbitten combs and wattles, and an airtight coop can also cause respiratory illnesses if the air is too wet to let the droppings dry out. In those conditions, the droppings can begin producing ammonia or hydrogen sulfide gases. So be sure your coop is well ventilated and kept dry, but that your chickens are protected from direct drafts.
- Check the coop frequently to ensure that predators have not found entry. They are more desperate to find food and water during the winter months.
- Check on your chicken’s water more frequently during colder weather as it can quickly freeze depending on your geographic region. Use a heated base for the waterer to keep water flowing, or bring warm water in to replace the frozen water.
- Consider adding more grains to their regular diet. This will add more fat and insulation to the chicken’s bodies as well as energy. Continue to supplement your chickens’ diet with food scraps for additional nutrition. Check out this high protein snack.
- During the colder months, chickens are more susceptible to a condition called “pasting.” This occurs when their vents are blocked with their droppings. Check the birds frequently, and gently remove the blockage with the help of warm water if needed.
With these tips and a little extra attention, your chickens will stay very happy during the winter months.