I love my chickens and I want them to be happy and warm in the winter. When I first got my chickens I would worry about them getting cold. Maybe you are worried about your lovelies as well. Here are some tips for keeping your hens warm all winter.
Remember hens have down coats on…
Sometimes I forget that my chickens have feather down coats on. My hens puff up a bit when they need to create a buffer of warm air around them. If you see your chickens moving slowly and puffed up for most of the day, this is a warning sign of stress. Check out any chicken exhibiting these behaviors. Make sure their nose it’s runny or that they aren’t sneezing. If so, take this chicken to a warm, dry and dark place alone with food and water until they are acting like themselves.
Keep pens closed, but not air tight!
Once I decided to stuff hay up in the rafter edges to keep air from coming in because I was worried about my hens being cold in the coop. This was a mistake! The next day when I entered the coop the hay on the floor was damp. The air was thick with moisture. Damp air in the coop is a bad idea; it can lead to respiratory infections quickly. Air flow is vital to hen houses. You don’t want too much moisture or ammonia fume build up. Having pop doors open and ventilation at the top makes hens happy and healthy.
Notes on a 3 sided coop…
I have seen plenty of three sided coops with snow on them. Chickens can do quite fine in three sided coops provided their roosting area and nesting area stay dry. Coops should be deep enough that a portion of the floor stays clear of snow, but if snow drifts in it’s fine.
The open face of your three sided coop should face the direction that wind typically does not sweep in from. Wind is no friend to chickens. Cold winds can kill a hen.
In places that are super cold…
Maybe you live in upstate New York or in the Canadian interior where it’s cold. If you do live in a place where temperatures are subzero you will want to have a four sided coop. This will allow body heat to build a little in the coop. In addition, the birds will always have a dry place free of snow to get into. Again, make sure it’s wind proof, but not air tight.
I would suggest using the deep littler method as well. The deep litter method allows for 12 to 18 inches of material on the floor that is composting. This creates additional heat and gives your birds a place to scratch in when conditions outside are impossible for them to navigate. There are a lot of pluses to the deep littler method which you can read about here.
Exercise, food and water for your hens…
Part of being happy is having your needs met. Keep your flock from getting stressed in cold weather by making sure these bases are covered:Keep water dishes clean and full. You can add some raw apple cider vinegar to their water to keep their intestinal flora healthy for optimal food absorption.
Keep water dishes clean and full. You can add some raw apple cider vinegar to their water to keep their intestinal flora healthy for optimal food absorption.
Feed the right amount of food. Your flock will need a little more food during this time. You should increase their food ration and even consider splitting their feedings into 2 sessions daily.
Keep hens moving. You want your flock to keep doing what chickens love to do, scratch. Think about purchasing some scratch grains for the winter this can be a perfect supplement to their regular ration. Sprinkle outside if condition permit or in their deep littler inside the coop to keep the littler from caking. Active hens are warm hens!
Don’t over think it…
I tend to think of my hens in human terms, but they are chickens. They were made with warm coats on. Their instincts keep them scratching the ground which generates heat for staying warm. Their little bodies stay warm from eating a little extra. Trust your chicken knows what to do and enjoy the season with them.