Keeping your chickens happy and healthy during winter can be a challenge! There are some important care considerations that you will need to keep in mind during the colder winter months to help your flock thrive. In addition to providing high-quality feed and constant access to water, you can help keep the winter blues at bay by following these five practical winter care tips:
Chicken Winter Care Tip 1: Create a sunny spot
There’s nothing better than basking in the sunshine on a cold, winter day! Capture passive solar heat and create a sunny spot for your chickens this winter by repurposing old windows. Old windows can be found for free or cheap in many areas! Line a corner of your chicken run with repurposed glass windows to create a mini greenhouse. The windows capture the sun’s heat and create a warm area for the chickens on sunny days. This is my chickens’ absolute favorite spot to hang out during the winter!
Chicken Winter Care Tip 2: Keep the coop clean & dry
Keeping the coop clean and dry over the winter is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of frostbite. This is a common condition that chicken keepers must deal with during the cold, wet winter months. Frostbite can range from mild to life-threatening. It appears as black spots on soft tissue areas like combs, waddles and feet.
Frostbite most commonly occurs overnight when temperatures drop below freezing. It most commonly occurs in coops with poor ventilation and damp bedding. One way to combat it is to use the deep litter method in your coop. Over the winter, continue to top-dress the coop with a layer of fresh, dry bedding. The layers of bedding will absorb moisture and add extra insulation to your coop.
Chicken Winter Care Tip 3: Air it out
We all know that it’s important to circulate fresh air through the coop during warm weather, but it is equally important during winter! It may seem logical to seal the coop to prevent cold drafts, but this will also trap moist, stagnant air inside the coop. Airing the coop out and providing as much ventilation as possible will help reduce the risk of respiratory infections that can spread easily in stagnant air. Circulating fresh air will also help reduce ammonia build-up that is produced by droppings.
The coop shouldn’t be drafty, but it should include some openings for ventilation and air circulation. You can do this by airing out the coop during the day when temps are warmer, installing a turbine-style ventilation fan, installing a screened window that can be opened/closed, or creating screened openings in the coop walls.
Chicken Winter Care Tip 4: Provide roosts for night-time warmth
Roosting poles are a winter essential! Roosts give chickens a place to sleep that is up off the cold ground/floor. They also allow the chickens to fluff up their feathers and snuggle with their buddies for extra warmth. Make sure your chicken coop is equipped with enough roosting poles for all your chickens. You will also want to make sure that your roosting poles are wide enough to allow your chickens to tuck their feet up under their feathers. This keeps their toes from hanging over the side of the poles which could expose them to frostbite.
Chicken Winter Care Tip 5: Help them get out and about
Just like us, chickens need to get out and be active, even in the winter! Fresh air and exercise are essential to maintaining a healthy flock. If you are able to safely let your flock outside, they will enjoy getting out, even if it is only for a couple hours a day. If snow is keeping your chickens indoors, try shoveling a small area near their coop or creating some shoveled “trails” for them to explore.
If it isn’t safe for your chickens to go outside, you can provide some extra entertainment inside the chicken run. Provide fun treats and add some new roosting poles, logs or other items for your chickens to explore. Not only will this encourage them to be more active, but it will also help combat winter boredom and blues!