Chickens are fairly low maintenance and spend most of their time outside, but it's important to understand how to care for your chickens in the winter. Winterizing your chicken coop can protect your flock from cold weather hazards such as frostbite and hypothermia. With attention to a few details, your hens will be happy and continue laying eggs throughout the cold months. The poultry experts at Southern States® have some basic winterizing tips for your chicken coop that can provide a safe retreat for your birds this winter.
Prepare for winter by inspecting the outside of the chicken house. Check the structure's exterior for damage and make necessary repairs. Make sure the roof is solid and water-tight. Replace missing shingles and nail down loose boards. Caulk the windows to prevent cold air from creating a draft inside the coop.
Predators are not only a concern for your flock in the summer months, but all year long. Make sure the chicken coop is predator-proof. Repair any holes that make an easy entrance for predators. Also, check the fencing around your chicken yard and make sure it is secure. Ideally, the fence base should be buried 6 to 12 inches below ground.
The winter chicken coop should be dry and draft-free. Adult chickens can handle the cold, but not the dampness or sudden drafts. Proper airflow is vital, but close off extra vents that can create drafts. Adding insulation can help to keep the chicken house warm, but don't completely eliminate the air flow. A build up of ammonia fumes from chicken droppings can damage the birds' lungs and cause illness.
Once the structure is sound, prepare the inside for winter. Remove everything from inside the coop and clean it thoroughly. Make repairs to nesting boxes, the interior walls and the floor. Shovel out damp and soiled bedding and replace it with a thick, clean layer of chicken-safe wood shavings or hay.
Depending on how cold the winter temperatures get, you may want to consider adding electricity to the chicken house if you don't already have it. Electricity will enable you to have both a heat lamp and a deicer in the chicken house. Sixteen hours of "daylight" each day is required for birds to lay eggs, so artificial lighting in the chicken coop can help keep your hens laying all winter. To minimize the risk of fire, make sure your electrical outlets work properly; replace worn or frayed wires and plugs. Install heat lamps and light bulbs securely above your birds so they can't get burned.
Before winter, stock up on chicken feed and bedding in case you are unable to pick up supplies due to inclement weather and bad road conditions. Once winter sets in, check on your chickens every morning and evening. Winter chicken care is vital to the ongoing health and happiness of your flock. Provide clean, fresh, unfrozen water at all times. Chickens will stop eating if they cannot drink. Make sure your chickens have enough food to maintain their body weight in the cold months. When extreme cold temperatures occur, gather eggs multiple times a day.
These few simple steps to winterizing your chicken coop can prevent problems and keep your birds safe and healthy all winter. To get the job done, find the poultry supplies you need at your local Southern States.