Chickens in Winter: 5 Need-To-Know Tips
Backyard chickens are low-maintenance pets that reap plenty of benefits. These feathery friends help you minimize food waste, produce natural fertilizer, and provide fresh eggs at home every single day. While the basics for keeping chickens are relatively simple, keeping chickens in winter requires a little extra attention.
In fact, accommodating to your flock’s needs during the colder seasons is crucial for their health and survival. Find out # rules and need-to-know tips for keeping chickens in winter for healthy and happy hens year-round.
Need-to-Know Tips for Keeping Chickens in Winter
1. Be proactive when grabbing eggs, there won’t be as many during winter.
Chickens require ample sunlight in order to consistently lay eggs. In fact, “Hens need about 16 hours of daylight and 8 hours of darkness when they’re roosting.” (Source: Mom.Me) During the winter, the shorter days affect their laying habits, even if the outdoor temperatures are still agreeable. Many chicken keeper experts opt to give their chickens a break during the winter, even if it means fewer eggs for the family.
Fortunately, eggs have a relatively long shelf life when properly sealed – lasting from six to eight months, according to Mother Earth News. If you missed the chance to save a supply of eggs from their peak laying-time (the warmer months), be proactive when grabbing new eggs before they freeze. Frozen eggs expand, creating small cracks that can introduce bacteria and create a mess when they melt.
2. Feed your flock more.
Your chicken’s dietary habits tend to change during the winter months. They require more food to both stay warm and have enough energy to lay a few eggs (if any).
In order to ethically get the most eggs possible during winter, ensure your flock is sufficiently fed and hydrated. This will provide them with the added energy necessary to produce eggs and stay warm. Fresh Eggs Daily recommends feeding your chickens suet or scratch grains for extra body-warming protein and fat before bedtime.
3. Utilize a deep litter system.
As mentioned in our Keeping Your Chicken Coop Kit Clean blog, the deep litter method provides a low-maintenance technique for maintaining your flock’s manure. The high-nitrogen feces works with their carbon-based coop bedding to form organic compost that is actually beneficial for your hens.
Not only will a deep litter system allow you to spend less time cleaning manure in the cold, the deep composting litter gives off its own heat for a natural way to warm your coop. Whether you decide to utilize the deep litter method or not, keep your coop well-ventilated. As tempting as it is to trap heat within your coop, proper ventilation prevents moisture and ammonia buildup for a safe environment for your flock.
Bonus Farmer’s Tip: For even more insulation, keep snow piled up against your coop. Snow is actually a great insulator (as mentioned in this winter garden post), and will help keep the coop warm. Just make sure to create a path for your chickens, they’re not very fond of walking in snow.
4. Don’t let their water freeze.
Considering that chickens are made up of approximately 65% water (Source: Happy Chicken Coop), hydration is arguably just as important as food during the winter. Even just a few hours without water can delay your chickens from laying any eggs for weeks.
Have no fear; a few simple hacks can easily prevent your chicken’s water from freezing. Utilize a heat-attracting black rubber tub for water, or throw a few ping pong balls in there to keep the water moving with the wind. Here are a few more ways to keep your chicken’s water from freezing.
5. Protect them from frostbite.
It is rather common for a chicken to experience frostbite, specifically on their combs or wattles. This can be quite painful for them, but proper coop ventilation and insulation helps prevent moisture buildup and frostbite risk. Further, apply a little petroleum jelly or lip balm to your chicken’s combs and wattles to keep it from chapping.
Check out more tips to prevent frostbite here.
Need-to-Have Coops for Winter
Now that you’ve learned need-to-know tips for keeping chickens in winter, find need-to-have coops that are perfect for the winter season. Utilize off-the-ground options (such as this one) to keep your hens comfortably elevated from the snow. Or opt for a bottomless coop (such as this one) so you can employ a deep litter method. Check out more chicken coops and structures for your pets & livestock here on Sheds.com.