Chickens in the Winter: Caring for Your Coop
Chickens can be a fun pet or livestock to raise. Their funny mannerisms and personalities alone make for great entertainment. Chickens in the winter, though, require special care. Raising chickens in Minnesota has given us a great appreciation for keeping our feathered friends happy and warm during winter. Great feed, a dry coop, and run and available water are just the beginning. Whether it’s winter or summer, we offer great holistic products for your livestock animals. Find out more about our holistic commitment to animal nutrition.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
When the weather turns cold, the best place for your flock is a dry, well ventilated, and warm coop. Insulating your coop for winter should be addressed after cleaning out your cage thoroughly in Autumn. One natural and safe way to protect your chickens in the winter is the “Deep Litter Method.” That is, using composted chicken droppings to gain warmth without harmful materials. Here’s how:
- During the year, collect the droppings that fall into the bottom of your chicken coop.
- Keep in a composting barrel so that they break down over time.
- Line clean coop with organic materials such as wood chips or sand.
- Layer in composted droppings.
- Cedar chips: they are toxic to chickens.
- Straw or hay, as they hold in moisture and will mildew.
- Layering in fresh droppings is a no as well. All droppings that are kept for this should be thoroughly composted.
Take a BreathAlthough we want to keep cold air out of the coop, it is paramount that your chickens have proper ventilation. Without it, ammonia from droppings can build over time, causing danger to your flock. Let’s face it; the smell inside the coop is kept down with excellent ventilation. Addressing ventilation may seem counter-intuitive. However, it’s important to keep the air fresh, especially since chickens in the winter will be in the coop more. Vents are usually covered with chicken wire to keep the flock in a pen and safe from elements and predators. Any ventilation openings should be kept above their nests. This keeps cold wind from blowing on them and will not significantly affect the temperature of their home. In fact, this will keep your egg layers happy and healthy all winter. Draft panels placed over ventilation screens will also offer protection from gusts of cold air. Some farmers have also used clear tarping around their coop and run to break wind gusts. These panels are easy to find online or at any feed store. Something just as important as ventilation is insulation. While chickens do huddle for warmth and have a high internal temperature, insulation is still important. This insulation does not have to be fancy and can be created with natural and recycled materials. Safe options are:
- Scrap wood on the outside of the coop.
- Foam with plywood to cover it (also on the outside)
- If you can afford it, spray foam is also an option.