6 Ways to Get Your Chicken Coop Ready For Winter

When it starts getting cold, the chickens need a little extra T.L.C. to keep up egg production. Winterizing your coop can help keep the chickens happy, healthy and producing.

How you winterize your coop depends on your geographic location. For instance, those that live in the Midwest will see temperatures dip into the negatives, and their coops will need more care compared to those who live in the Pacific Northwest or the South. No matter where you live, you will have to do some winter chores to keep your chickens clucking merrily along.

6 Ways to Winterize Your Coop

1. Clean Bedding

Ensuring that the chickens have fresh bedding such as straw or wood shavings to lay and roost on will prevent frostbite. For our coop, we like to use hay for our bedding, especially in the wintertime because it retains heat better. This will keep them more active during the day as well as control the smell of chicken droppings until your Spring cleaning. Move all soiled bedding to the compost pile to compost down for Spring or Summer gardens.

2. Coop Inspection

Check out the coop to ensure that predators have not found an entry in. Predators are usually more desperate to find food during winter and you want to protect your flock. During this time, I also like to check the roof of the coop to make sure there aren’t any cracks or holes.  As well, check out the roosts and any other furniture to make sure it is still in good condition.

3. Batten the Hatches

During the warmer summer months having vents and hatches on the coop’s roof and floorboard assist with airflow, help to reduce humidity and any toxic ammonia from the hen house. During winter it is best to fasten the vents and hatches to reduce any cold drafts. Another solution is to wrap a portion of the coop with a tarp or plastic sheeting. This keeps moisture out of the coop, protects it from wind and further insulates it. 4-mil polyethylene film is low cost and readily available. Secure it to the chicken coop to ensure that moisture and wind cannot get through. Again, we want to ensure that the chicken’s body temperature stays at an optimum temperature.

4. Heat Lamps

Keep in mind that young chickens will require more body heat compared to a fully grown chicken. Further, the avian reproductive cycle, which is how a hen produces eggs, is stimulated in poultry by increasing day length. 14 hours of light is what a chicken requires to lay eggs and usually get these results during the warmer months. Having a light bulb hooked up to a timer can assist in continued egg laying. An added benefit to this is it creates added warmth to the flock. To provide some warmth, but not too much light, we use a 250-watt bulb in our coop. One heat lamp per 30 chickens will be sufficient. Light fixtures in the coop should be placed above feeders and watering container, and care should be taken to avoid having areas in the chicken house that are shaded from light.

5. Continued Flow of Water

For those of you who have to deal with frozen water trays in the coop, you’re not alone. This continues to be an issue for many keepers of chickens. One solution is to purchase a heated base for the water system and run a heavy-duty extension cord into the chicken coop. Another solution is to check on your chicken’s water more frequently. Bringing warm water out to replace the frozen water will be very welcomed.

6. Dietary Supplements

Adding grains such as corn in addition to their regular diet can add more fat to their bodies and at the same time provide more insulation and energy during winter. Grains shouldn’t replace their entire diet. We usually do 70% scratch and 30% corn. We also continue to supplement their diets with fodder as well as vegetable and fruit scraps for added nutrition.

Signs of Trouble

Check on your flock a few times per day to ensure the outside temperatures are not too harsh. If your chickens are huddled in a corner or making a lot of noise, take some time to make them more comfortable. Further, if chickens are lethargic or not moving, they may be ill and should be cared for.

Frostbite of the feet and combs are very common in the winter months. If signs appear, thaw the affected area with cold water, slowly warming it to room temperature. Then apply a coating of petroleum jelly to isolate it from direct contact with the cold. Reapply two to three times during the day. Warming lights are especially helpful to prevent this.

Another sign to look out for during the cold months is a condition called “pasting.” This occurs when their anuses are blocked with droppings. If caught early enough, you can prevent the chicks from dying by slowly and gently removing the blockage with the help of warm water.

With a little extra attention, your coop will stay very happy during the cooler months. All it takes is some time to get it all prepped and ready.

 

Chicken coops need a little T.L.C. during the winter months. Here are 6 ways to winterize your coop and keep your chickens warm and cozy.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published November 19th, 2013
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One Response to 6 Ways to Get Your Chicken Coop Ready For Winter

  1. Stephanie says:

    While I do appreciate you efforts on chickens there are a few things I disagree with on your article. Please consider this information.

    Heat lamps are a dangerous and inefficient way to keep a chicken coop warm. Most adult chickens do not require additional heat will do just fine in winter, even in cold climates. They may not enjoy it all the time, but they are very adept to it. Some breeds are more cold hardy than others, in our climate I keep only cold hardy breeds. Your chickens will huddle together and stay quite warm all night, one chicken puts out something like 10 watts of body heat, so if you have 10 chickens huddled together in your coop, it’s the equivalent of running a 100 watt light bulb in there all night.

    Coop fires started by heat lamps are not uncommon and the chances of your chickens surviving even a small coop fire are slim. Also chickens who are used to supplemental heat tend to go outside less, and suffer from inactivity. If there is ever a sudden power outage in the middle of a cold snap and the chickens are used to supplemental heat, they could be in real trouble. Insulating and closing the coop up at night, combined using a thermostat regulated water heater (like the base heater you mentioned) to keep their water thawed is a much less expensive and safer way to go.

    Might want to cut back on the scratch grains too. Yes they warm the chickens up but the general rule of thumb is never to feed your chickens more scratch than they can clean up in 20 min. Scratch grains, (usually cracked, rolled, or whole grains such as corn, barley, oats, or wheat), are relatively low in protein and do not provide balanced nutrition. In fact, if too much scratch is added to an already complete feed ration, nutrient levels can be diluted. Therefore, it is recommended that scratch be fed sparingly. A general rule of thumb is to feed only as much scratch as the chickens can clean up in about 20 minutes. (this can be found on Tractor Supply Co site – seeings that they make money selling scratch and it now costs more than regular chicken feed, it speaks volumes that would advice chicken owners not to feed too much of it).

    Scratch Grains can be fed to adult chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys to encourage natural pecking and feeding instincts. Scratch Grains is a grain supplement, not a complete feed and should not comprise more than 10% of the birds’ diet (this can be found in the animal nutrition section of the USDA site).

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