Even if you live in a climate that only gets cold in the evening hours, caring for and raising backyard chickens in the winter months will require some additional work. Don’t be surprised if your chickens stop laying or slow down during the winter months or, at least, during the height of the cold weather. Turn to the tips below to provide your chickens with the care they require.
Inspect The Coop
First, you must inspect your coop to make sure there are no areas in need of repair. Since your chickens are likely to be spending more time indoors, or all of their time indoors depending on your climate and winter conditions, maintaining your chicken coop will be extremely important during these cold months. Ensure ventilation is sufficient and designed to minimize drafts.
If you live in an area that often drops below freezing, then you will be required to inspect your chickens’ water source at least twice each day to ensure it is not frozen over.
Many urban farmers adjust their feed during the winter months. Since chickens will have less access to protein-packed treats, like worms and bugs, you might want to consider providing them with treats, like freeze-dried mealworms or sunflower seeds. This is, of course, in addition to their daily feed.
Heat or No Heat?
Heating chicken coops is a hot topic of debate for backyard chicken farmers. It is important to keep in mind that chickens will grow winter down to help keep them warm. Heating your chicken coop is not only expensive, but also, a potential fire hazard. If your chickens get used to the heat, a power outage will leave your chickens unprepared for the true temperature. In fact, the shock of going from a heated coop to little heat can prove fatal.
Depending on where you live, you may choose to seal your coop and keep your chickens inside all day to keep them warm. You must also insulate your chicken coop with bedding and litter to keep it as warm as possible. If you live in an area that experiences extreme cold, like the Midwest, you may choose to use heat bulbs on days when the temperatures are dangerously low. Which are typically temperatures below 10 degrees.
If you have baby chicks, you may need to provide a few heating bulbs, until they are a bit older. A sign that winter coop temperatures are too cold for chicks is if they are peeping loudly and non-stop.
Just like during the hot and humid summer season, caring for your backyard chickens during the winter months will require season-specific consideration.