Winter is coming! If you believe the Old Farmer’s Almanac, we’re in for another cold, snowy, and icy winter across the Midwest. That means it’s time to start thinking about how you will keep your chickens warm this winter. There are several things you can do to make the winter much more pleasant for our feathered friends. Preparing now means you won’t have to brave the elements to make sure your chickens stay warm.
The debate on whether or not chickens need a heat source during winter is alive and well. Some people say absolutely no heat because they don’t want a fire danger in the coop. Other people think heat lamps or heaters are fine. The call is yours alone to make.
While you can certainly hang heat lamps or use some type of electric heater in your coop (and I do during brutally cold weather like the polar vortex we had last year), you can also make a few easy changes to help keep the coop warmer without added heat.
First of all, remember that smaller spaces are easier to keep warm. It might be possible to shut off part of your coop and keep your chickens in a smaller area while it’s cold. It’s also a good idea to check on the insulation in your coop. Your chickens will need good ventilation during the winter, but they do not need drafts and blowing snow. Empty feed bags make a nice, free source of insulation to stop cracks. I’ve also hung thick black plastic over large cracks in the coop, used sprayable foam insulation for smaller cracks, and sheets of foam on the ceiling. Luckily, we built a new coop this spring that doesn’t have any cracks so I don’t have to worry about blowing drafts this year! But if your coop has cracks, you’ll want to find a way to seal them up before winter.
Now is also the time to check on your supplies. Make sure you have heat bulbs or heaters on hand if you intend to use them. Check your heated watering system to make sure it works. It’s very important to keep your chickens hydrated in the winter. If you don’t want to use heated watering containers, make it a habit to check on their water several times a day when the temperatures drop below freezing to break up any ice that forms.
Finally, changing the way you feed your chickens in also a good way to help them stay warmer. Feeding them several times throughout the day and giving them a small snack before bedtime will get their metabolism working and that helps them stay warm during the night. They also really love a warm mush when it’s brutally cold or it seems their appetites need a little stimulating.
It might seem a little early to start the winter preparations, but I’ve been the person out there during the freak early blizzard making last minute alterations so my chickens don’t freeze to death in the coop. Making changes now will keep us all a lot warmer.
What do you do to keep your chickens warm in the winter?