As the winter months approach, you might be wondering how you can keep your flock warm. While chickens are generally more at risk from the heat, all the elements can pose a threat to your birds.
You must understand how much warmth they need, so they can stay happy healthy birds.
If you’re new to the homestead life, and you’ve recently bought chickens, or if you want to double-check that your methods are right, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to discuss the best ways to keep your chickens warm in the winter times.
You might roll your eyes, and claim that chickens are fine during the wintertime. After all, those lovely feathers keep the interior body temperature to around 41-celsius degrees.
More than that, chickens are always huddled together, meaning that they’re sharing body warmth.
However, whether you should implement further measures to keep your chickens warm depends on where you live, and how cold it gets. You have to keep in mind that while chickens have a naturally high body temperature, they can still get cold. If your chickens are constantly cold, they’re going to get ill.
It is your responsibility to ensure the good health of any animals in your care, therefore you should do all you can to protect them. Sometimes, the chicken can get very ill, and the result is sadly in death.
Other times, the chicken will just stop laying eggs. Either way, your chickens should be kept warm and protected, there is no need for any illness when it can be avoided.
Insulate The Chicken Coop
The easier way to keep your chickens warm during the winter is to insulate the chicken coop.
As homesteaders, we quite often like to DIY ourselves. However, if you have no experience with insulation, or if you don’t feel confident that you can do a good job, please do get a professional in. That just ensures the lovely chickens are definitely kept toasty and safe.
If you can insulate the coop yourself, then you’ll already know it’s not too difficult. You can use foam insulation, or you can use fiberglass insulation in the walls of the coop.
Then, just nail the plywood cover the material, ensuring that all the insulation is covered. If all the insulation is not covered, then the chickens will peck at it, and that’s going to cause a whole other problem.
If you don’t feel comfortable with that challenge, and you don’t currently have the money to hire a professional, there are other, temporary options. You can nail thick blankets into the wall to help insulate the coop. While it won’t be as effective, it will still help keep the heat in.
One note is to remember that insulating the chicken coop does not mean ensuring that the chicken coop is airtight. Your chickens still need ventilation. So, just be mindful before you accidentally end up making an airtight container for your chickens.
As you know, roosts help chickens warm by allowing them to huddle together. They will also fluff up their feathers, to keep themselves extra toasty. Ideally, your roost should be two feet off the ground.
This is because it makes the chickens feel secure, and means that their feet don’t have to touch the ground, which could feel cold for them. You also need to ensure that there is enough space for all your chickens.
One good check for this would be to pop by with a flash torch on one late evening and check to see how they are huddling. If it doesn’t look like everyone can fit on the roost, then you should expand it.
Another thing to check for is if the chickens can completely wrap their feet around the roost. Their toes need to be able to go all around. Otherwise, they can get frostbite, which will be very painful for them.
Make The Coop ‘Smaller’
Okay, for this, you’re not going to make the coop smaller.
If you have a large chicken coop, one nifty way to make the chicken coop warmer is to close off a portion of the coop. You’re just going to hang blankets from the ceiling, all the way to the floor, in the unused section of the coop.
This is because the smaller the size of the chicken coop, the easier it is for the chickens to use their body heat to warm the room. Add some great insulation to the mix, and you’ve got some toasty chickens.
If you have a bigger space, then there’s more airspace to warm.
So, you can use these easy tricks to keep your chickens warmer.
Quality Chicken Feed
As you know, in the winter times, chickens eat more feed. They eat more in the wintertime to regulate their body temperature, and that extra layer of fat works as insulation.
Therefore, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re feeding the chickens the best quality chicken feed that you possibly can. You should also keep an eye on the chickens, to see if any of them are molting.
If any chickens are molting, then they will need extra protein in their diet. It will help their feathers grow back faster, which is crucial in the wintertime.
While you could feed them some extra mealworms, you can also put a chicken scratch on the floor. This gives them something to peck up, and will slowly help them gain a little weight.
Like any other animal, chickens need to have easy access to water. Now, ensuring that your chickens are hydrated goes hand in hand with keeping them warm (as well as healthy).
This is because having regular digestion helps with temperature regulation. In the winter times, it’s common for water to freeze. You do not want your chicken’s water to freeze. To avoid this, you can use a heated water bowl to avoid any mishaps.
Another key tip is to ensure that the floor is dry, and has good bedding. Ideally, use biodegradable bedding if, and when, you can. In the autumn time, it would serve you well to collect leaves and stockpile them.
This way, when it snows, or it is particularly frosty, you can place them outside the chicken coop. This means when they walk out, they won’t have to stand directly on icy ground.
You’ll notice that some days, your chickens just will not want to come outside. If it is cold and wet, then they make feel uncomfortable, especially having wet feet. You can use other materials to do this, it’s just a nifty homesteading option.
If you can, in addition to your coop, try to provide your chickens with a sunroom. This is a room that is akin to a greenhouse, or a cold-frame style, which will keep the inside room nice and warm.
This just means the chickens have an extra place to roam and run around in, allowing them to stretch their legs.
No one likes to go out in the cold, but no one likes to be stuck indoors, too. This just gives extra freedom to your chickens and will be good for their mental well-being. It means whether it’s raining, snowing, windy, or even just very frosty, your chickens have a safe space to roam.
It is a good point to add that the body heat of the chicken, and the respiration, will likely raise the temperature of the coop. This is on average, raised by 10 degrees.
This depends on variables such as how large the coop is, how many chickens there are, how well the coop is overall insulated, and so forth.
The point being, that you do not have to go crazy making sure your chickens are warm. If you follow the tips in this article and commit yourself to further learning, your chickens should be fine.
Frequently Asked Questions
I’m New To Homesteading. Isn’t It Pointless To Get A Professional To Do Work, That I Can Probably Do Myself?
No, it’s not. If it’s a DIY project around your house, go ahead and see what you can come up with.
When it comes to animals, you shouldn’t attempt to do something important as insulation, if you’re not comfortable and confident with doing so. This is because your chickens must stay warm, and if you don’t do a good job, you can make the chickens ill.
Now, you could ask the contractor to show you how it’s done, so you can learn a few tricks, but that’s up to the contractor. It isn’t that you can’t learn, but if you’re short on time, do risk your chicken’s health.
I Can’t Afford To Insulate The Coop. What Should I Do?
If you can’t afford to insulate the chicken coop, you should first try to put money away every month, to save money for the job. I know this is not ideal, nor easy, for everyone. However, we have a duty of care to our animals and have to look after them.
With that said, we included a section of temporary alternatives to insulate the coop. You can hang really thick blankets from the walls, to help keep the heat in.
Also, if you do most of the other tips in the article, your chickens should be okay. Keep an eye on them, and see how they’re finding the cold weather. You can always ask your vet, or other chicken owners if they have any tips.
To conclude, those are our tips for keeping your chickens toasty and warm during the winter times. It’s important to look after your animals, and we all have a duty of care.
While some disagree with needing to make chickens warm, given that their body heat can preserve the temperature, you must consider other variables.
Your chickens do have an excellent body temperature, but if your coop has drafted, if it’s too large, if they’re not fed properly, and if they can’t roost, then it doesn’t matter — they’re going to get cold.
Nothing is straightforward, but we should always do the best for animals, and people in our care. By keeping your chickens warm, you’ll ensure that they stay healthy in the winter months.