Chickens in the cold! Winterizing the coop. | Blogs

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Chickens in the cold! Winterizing the coop.
Blogs, Home & Garden
Chickens in the cold!  Winterizing the coop.

A lot of people ask me, "What do you do with your chickens in the winter?"  With a few modifications to the chicken coop itself a chicken can be kept quite comfortably outside all winter long.  First and foremost a chicken must be kept in a coop that is free of drafts and moisture.  Without this your chickens will not do well in the winter.  Second it is important to note that a chicken, especially one that is cold weather hardy, possesses all the neccessary equipment to survive the cold temperatures.  They have a remarkable ability to fluff up their feathers and conserve heat.  When they roost they cover their toes with their feathers but the roost itself shouldn't be narrower than about 1-1.5 inches or their toes will actually hang too far below their feathers and get cold.  The chicken will also borrow heat from her fellow flock members and they almost always bunch up on the roost to get the full effect of group warmth.  The only thing a chicken cannot protect is their comb and their wattles(cheeks).  I have had chickens with frost bitten combs once in my tenure.  The temp was -10 F and windy and I had not added a critical component yet to the coop.  That component was a small amount of insulation in the ridge vent area to prevent drafts in the top of the coop where they were roosting.  After adding the insulation I also added a small, red 25 watt light bulb up in the top of the coop just above where they roost.  This bulb is red so they can still sleep but it also adds a small amount of heat to the coop.  After making these changes I've never had an issue with frost bitten combs again!  You must also contend with their water and in my case I had to add a water heater to keep the water from freezing.  I have the water heater turn on in the morning on a timer and then go off at night.  That's when I dump the water and bring the waterer inside.  Finally I buy a few bales of hay each year to give the chickens something to scratch and peck at.  I scatter a flake of hay every week or so and they really seem to like it.  They will aslo eat a certain amount of the hay as well which translates to richer colored yolks!  So that's a quick summary of how I manage my flock in the winter.  Egg production WILL drop off as it gets colder. That's normal.  It will pick back up in the spring!

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