Chicken owners wonder ever year how to keep chickens warm in winter weather. Keeping your chickens warm in extreme winter weather doesn’t have to be hard, or scary.
Here are some tactics, tools and things you can do in order to keep your chickens warm in extreme winter weather.
Tips for keeping your chickens warm in winter weather and extreme conditions.
Although chickens are capable of regulating their body temperature with their downy feathers, it’s still good to be aware of their comfort levels.
If your chickens are all huddled in one corner for extended amounts of time they might be trying to generate warmth. Your chickens will puff their feathers out in order to trap body heat, as well, when they’re cold.
Keep a close eye on your flock during extreme weather conditions. Be prepared to quickly address anything that looks off with these 17 tips on how to keep chickens warm in winter weather.
Keep a healthy flock.
Many people believe that if you have a healthy flock, there’s no reason to worried about supplemental heating. There are truths to that. For example, the reason chickens molt in the Fall is to prepare their bodies with warm, fluffy new feathers.
These new feathers act as natural insulation when the cool weather comes. Additionally, you’ll chickens decrease, or completely stop laying, as many eggs in the winter. During this time, chickens are channeling all their energy into staying warm. And giving their egg-system a rest, of course.
Provide them with unlimited feed
Chickens will burn calories quicker while trying to stay warm. To supplement these lost calories, consider using a gravity feeder to provide your flock with consistent nourishment.
You should find in the winter that your flock eats more than usual, especially if you don’t increase their protein intake. If for some reason the weather cools and your flock won’t eat, you might inspect them for illness.
Increase protein intake
It’s a good idea to increase protein intake during the cool months in general. Supplying additional amino acids help to maintain egg production and support new feather growth. But, if you can’t provide consistent feed for your flock, consider buying nicer feed with a higher protein count.
You can also provide a small cracked corn snack at the end of the evening and suet cakes. For the DIYers out there, you can make your own suet cakes for your flock while you’re snowed in the house!
Thermo emergency heat blanket
This might be one of my favorite suggestions from a social media group. If you’re worried about your flock, tent a thermo emergency blanket somewhere in the coop. This provides a warm place for them to go, with ventilation on both sides.
Additionally, it’s not a fire hazard in any way! Just make sure it’s secure so it doesn’t fall over anyone and suffocate them. If you don’t have any emergency blankets handy, try using a thick tarp.
Heat lamps (with caution)
I hesitate to suggest using a heat lamp because they can be extremely dangerous fire hazards. With that being said, I do know that folks still use them. In addition, I occasionally use them as well.
Heat lamps provide sufficient amounts of warmth, which is why they’re so popular when raising chicks. If you do make the decision to use a heat lamp in an enclosed space, do it responsibly. Check that there is the smallest risk of fire possible.
Your heat lamp needs to be away from anything flammable and secured to a base. If you have a small, enclose coop I do not recommend taking the risk of using a heat lamp. For more tips on heat lamp safety, read this post by Homesteading.com before making your decision.
The warmth of a heat plate is more centralized, making them a difficult option for large flocks and coops. If for some reason you had multiple heat plates, you could possibly suspend them higher off the ground. This way your flock could walk underneath for heat.
If you’re raising younger birds, I 100% recommend using a heat plate.
Crockpots for warming water
Another internet find, folks have been bringing their crockpots to the cool weather rescue. I don’t suggest leaving a crockpot plugged into over night in the coop (fire). But during daylight hours under superviison, this is a great idea.
All you do is plug in your crockpot, add water, and turn it on! It’s best to use a low setting so your flock doesn’t hurt themselves. In a pinch, this would be a great option to help keep chickens warm in extreme weather.
Here’s a quick old-timer tip from Google (can’t say if I recommend this or not):
“According to old-timers, cayenne pepper can be added to your chickens‘ feed in the cold months to help warm up your chickens and boost egg production. … Cayenne also helps with circulation, which can prevent frostbite in the winter.”
Bring them inside in a tent
Not for the faint of heart, but for the true chicken lover. This unique approach is sure to put your chickens in warmer conditions.
Just add some bedding and a roost and you’ve got a basement coop!
Seal off drafts very well while still assuring good ventilation
This is something that every hen house needs, no matter the weather. If you haven’t gotten around to sealing any drafting leaks in your coop, plan to before the cool weather comes.
Chickens need great ventilation, while minimizing or completely eliminating any drafts. Drafts have the ability to chill an animal. Pair that with snowy weather and you might have a chilly chicken!
Deep litter composting
Another controversial topic, deep litter composting is an old tradition used by many farmers to this day. By practicing deep litter compost, you’re practicing a form of hot composting.
If you do it successfully, your deep litter compost should provide natural, non-flammable heat in your henhouse. This is favorite how-to guide for deep litter compost if by Salt in my Coffee.
The most important point of deep litter composting is to add more carbon materials than nitrogen materials. This way you don’t end up with a soupy, stinking mess on the ground (or rodents).
Create a sunroom to trap heat
Another pre-winter project, but still a great suggestion. Consider adding a sunning room off the side of your coop to trap heat!
If you pursue this adventure, keep in mind you still must maintain a healthy level of ventilation to prevent ammonia buildup. Depending on the side of your flock, consider building a room with a glass or sturdy plastic ceiling.
You can insulate the walls and add a small door for easing comings and goings. If constructed well, this room will be able to hold some amount of heat. Providing warmth for your flock.
Provide sufficient bedding
Bedding is another form of insulation in a coop, and it’s not very easy to add too much. Most northern folk in the winter add a little extra cushion, regardless of the forecast.
If you’re worried about keeping your feathered friends warm, adding extra bedding to the coop is an affordable, simple thing to do to keep chickens warm in winter weather.
Insulate nesting boxes
If on the off-chance you have a broody winter hen, you can consider insulating their nesting box. By using materials you probably already have, you can provide extra warmth for mama and her eggs – for free.
Use cardboard, newspaper, and even extra straw in the nesting boxes for extra warmth.
Provide wind breakers
Your chickens still need sunlight in the winter. In fact, some folks supplement light during the shortest days of the year. The jury is still out on weather that is 100% healthy or not.
Either way, your chickens should have the option to get outside during the lighter hours of the day. Providing them a wind breaker means they can seek shelter from string winds.
You can stack bales of straw on top of each other or put up a tarp. Whichever method you choose, makre sure the strawbales are secure and the tarp is, as well.
If your chickens are reluctant to go outside the hen house, try putting bedding on the snow outside. Chickens have snow blindness and sometimes need a little “push”.
It’s recommended to shovel an area first, and then put bedding down. This gives you peace of mind protecting their cool feet. It gives them something to scratch out to generate body warmth!
Provide adequate roosting
All chickens need to be able to roost. In fact, you should teach your chickens to roost when they’re still in their brooder. Roosting bills strong leg muscles and a pecking order, depending on the roost setup.
Additionally, when chickens roost in the evening, it gives them the opportunity to get close to each other. By roosting closely to one another, they’re able to generate and share heat.
When providing roosts, you want to use the most beneficial shape. By choosing a flat-surfaced perch, your chickens can sit down completely and cover their lefts and feet with their fresh downy feathers.
Put petroleum jelly on their combs and wattles
If you’re worried about serious frostbite, adding a thin layer of petroleum jelly to your flocks combs and wattles might help. Depending on who you talk to, chickens are either very prone to frostbite or very cold hardy.
Either way, it’s best to be informed about frostbitten chickens. Be sure you educate yourself on frostbite in backyard chickens and what to do about it.
Get more chickens
When all else fails, just buy more chickens! More chickens means more body heat, right? 5 chickens roosting will generate more warmth than 3, so why not have 15 chickens?
Are you worried about how to keep chickens warm in winter weather?
It’s always great to have information at hand and tools in your toolbox during extreme weather. From frostbite to preventing eggs from freezing, the winter months can bring quite the challenge. Stay informed and stay aware, friends. How do you keep your flock warm in the winter?