How to Raise Chickens in Winter Months
by Dakota Storage Buildings, on October 26, 2022
Whether you’re new to raising chickens or already enjoy a household flock, it’s normal to have questions about raising chickens in the winter. Dropping temperatures bring concerns about keeping your chickens safe and warm. Luckily, there are lots of useful strategies to help your hens stay happy and healthy throughout the coldest times of the year. Learn how to keep your chickens warm in the winter, maintain a comfortable coop when it’s cold outside, choose the best winter food for chickens, and more.
Where Should Chickens Live In The Winter?
Chickens are hardy creatures that tolerate colder temperatures than you might expect. Their fluffy feather undercoat insulates against the chill. Along with increased food, a chicken’s main winter requirement is a winter-ready coop.
A good winter chicken coop offers these elements to your flock:
- Dry, draft-free environment
- Roof vent or high window for air circulation
- Extra bedding and straw
- Enough space for everyone to roost two to three feet off the ground
A draft-free coop will keep your chickens healthy throughout the season. A good shelter also helps prevent frostbite on wattles and combs.
Need a chicken coop?
What To Feed Chickens In The Winter
Chickens need more food during the winter to maintain their internal body heat. Your chickens use protein and carbs to make enough energy to warm themselves. Both protein sources and carbohydrates increase energy levels. However, carbs turn into energy faster than protein. This speedy conversion explains why scratch and corn are such popular chicken snacks. If you give your birds these treats, make sure it’s not more than 10% of their diet.
It’s also important that chickens to get enough water during the winter. This goal can be tricky when it’s below freezing outside, especially since chickens shouldn’t have water in the coop. Check your chickens’ water supply at least twice a day to ensure they can drink it. If their water keeps freezing, try moving it to a sunny patch, using a deep black watering tub, or add a heating element like an immersion heater or electric dog bowl.
Winter Egg-Laying Habits
Chickens don’t lay as many eggs in the winter as during the summer. Hens need between 14 to 16 hours of sunlight when they’re producing eggs. The shorter days of winter prompt hens to lay fewer eggs or even stop laying for the season. Think of this break as a valuable chance for your chickens to recharge.
Entertaining Chickens In The Winter
Just like people, chickens get tired of being stuck inside all winter long. Keeping your chickens active keeps them from being bored. It’s important to give them activities so they don’t show signs of stress or aggression.
Try these easy ideas to enrich your flock’s wintertime life:
- Tie a head of cabbage in the coop for them to peck at
- Fill empty plastic bottles with corn, poke a few holes in the side, and let them move it around to release the kernels
- Cover their run with a tarp to keep the ground dry during rain and snow
- Build a DIY sunroom or greenhouse addition to the coop
- Add outdoor elements like roosts, ladders, leaf piles, straw, and dust baths
You Can Keep Chickens In The Winter
Keeping chickens in the winter has very few risks if you prepare ahead of time. Make sure your flock has a dry, draft-free coop, enough to eat, and activities to avoid boredom. These hardy birds will handle the rest on their own. Click here for more tips on keeping a healthy flock year-round.