5 Key Steps to Preparing Your Flock for Winter


Claire Smith
Claire Smith
Editor at The Happy Chicken Coop
and guest writer for Runnings

Winter can be a hard time for both chickens and chicken keepers. But with a few simple steps you can prepare your flock for the harsh winter ahead. Failure to prepare for winter will make both your life and your chickens’ life harder. So in this article I will discuss the 5 key steps to preparing your flock for winter.

Step 1: Preparing For Frostbite

For those of us who live in the colder climates, you should prepare your chickens against frostbite.

Rose combs are generally ok, but large floppy combs are prone to getting frostbite; this clearly makes roosters far more likely than hens to get frostbite.  You can prevent frostbite in two ways, petroleum jelly and properly preparing their coop (more on this later). As they go to roost in the evening, take your petroleum jelly and rub it on their combs and wattles. This will provide them with protection on those long freezing nights.

Step 2: Prepare their Coop

The second step is to prepare their coop. Chickens are far more likely to get frostbite if their coop isn’t well insulated and draft proof. To provide additional insulation to the coop you can use Styrofoam boards; just make sure to cover them so your chickens can’t peck at it.

To help stop any drafts, make sure your coop has a well fitted pop-door. Consider automating their coop door for more freedom and less stress.

And since water is so vital to healthy chickens, it’s very important to keep their water from freezing up during cold winter months. Runnings sells a variety of heated poultry fountains from Farm Innovators which are thermostatically controlled. In fact, select fountains are on sale this week.  Take a peak »

Step 3: Prepare for No Eggs

Most breeds of chicken will stop laying over the winter months, so you will likely need to find alternative sources for eggs (supermarkets) or you can start preserving the eggs laid in the summer and use them during the winter.

However some people like to fit an external light source into their coop to keep their hens laying during winter; welcome to one of the most controversial discussions amongst backyard chicken keepers. Most backyard flock keepers will tell you to not do this as it can be dangerous for your chickens’ health. Best to let them recover during the winter so their body is ready to start laying again in the spring.

Step 4: Prepare Games for Them

One thing you will notice during winter is that anti-social behavior such as bullying and pecking can increase. This normally happens because your chickens are bored. They spend a large portion of their day roaming and pecking so when the floor is frozen and covered in snow they can’t do this and need alternative forms of stimulation.

I’ve found an effective way to keep them busy is by providing them with food games. A popular one is cabbage tetherball; you can even make your own.

Step 5: Prepare the Cracked Corn

Cracked corn is a great winter treat for your chickens. You should feed this to them just before they go into the coop to roost. The cracked corn will help to keep them warm as their body digests the food during the nighttime. Again, check your nearest Runnings store for your favorite brand of cracked corn.

I hope the 5 key steps which I have shared here help make both yours, and your chickens’ life, a little easier this winter!