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5 Tips for Keeping your Chickens Warm This Winter

While chickens are generally pretty cold-hardy, here are my top 5 tips for keeping your chickens warm this winter. 

Keeping your chickens warm in the winter can seem daunting, especially if you live in the far north, but  in reality it's not difficult nor expensive to do. 

Chickens, like most animals, do far better in the cold than the heat, but will appreciate and benefit from a bit of extra care when the frigid winter months arrive. 

Interestingly enough, heating your coop isn’t one of the things I recommend.

Each winter, heat lamps in chicken coops are the cause of many completely avoidable - and heartbreaking - coop fires. 

Besides the fire risk, if you heat your coop and then lose power, your chickens won’t have been allowed to gradually get acclimated to the cold and when their heat source is suddenly removed, they can freeze to death.  

So instead, why not rely on a few old-fashioned ways to help your chickens get through the cold months.

Here are five easy, inexpensive ways to make your chickens more comfortable this winter.

5 Tips for Keeping your Chickens Warm This Winter

Bales of Straw

Straw is my preferred coop bedding choice, especially in the winter. The hollow shafts in the straw trap and hold warm air, effectively insulating your coop floor. 

A layer of straw up to a foot deep will help keep your chickens warmer at night. Likewise, straw bales stacked along the inside walls of the coop provide natural insulation and take up some of the dead air space. 

In the spring, you can use the straw in your garden as mulch, or through the spring and summer as coop bedding. 

Straw scattered along shoveled paths in your yard or in the chicken run can also help entice your flock to venture outdoors on nice, sunny winter days for some exercise and fresh air.

Coop Ventilation

Many chicken keepers have the natural tendency to want to close up all the windows and vents in their coop when the winter winds start to blow. But that is counterproductive. 

Ammonia fumes created by chicken manure will build up in the coop and can cause respiratory and eye issues if they can’t escape. 

Also, frostbite (which targets chickens’ combs, wattles and feet) is caused more by moisture in the air than by the cold itself, so it’s very important to have good airflow in your coop year round.

In the winter, the open vents should be located high up in the coop, well above your chickens’ heads when they roost, for maximum effectiveness, and of course covered with ½” welded wire to prevent even the smallest predators from gaining access to the coop. 

Lower air flow will cause drafts that aren’t beneficial, so any windows or small openings situated lower on the walls can be closed for the winter.

Wind Block

Creating a wind block in a sunny corner of your run will also encourage your chickens to spend more time outdoors. Fresh air and sun are good for them, so anything you can do to make an area where they can get out of the wind and stay a bit warmer is a good idea. 

Wrap a corner of your run with a tarp or piece of heavy plastic, or use sheets of plywood to create an area protected from the worst of the wind. 

Protect Those Feet

Chickens are covered in nice, warm, soft downy feathers, but their exposed feet can get cold in the winter. Try scattering some straw on the ground over the snow and ice to entice your chickens outside in the winter. 

Set up some logs or stumps, outdoor roosts made of branches or even a ladder or bench for them to perch on to get up off the cold ground.

High Fat/High Energy Treats

In the winter, offering your flock treats packed with good fats help them stay warm. Just before dusk, toss out some scratch grains, cracked corn, peanuts or other unsalted nuts for your chickens. Their bodies will generate heat throughout the night as they digest the high energy treats. 

Homemade suet cakes made with cooking grease, nuts and raisins are also great winter treats.

Using these few, simple tricks should help your chickens make it through the winter with no problem... and no heat!

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Like my hanging suet treat? It's just one of more than 100 tips in my book 101 Chicken Keeping Hacks

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