Winter can be an incredibly demanding time for your chickens.

With molting, frostbite and snow, it’s no surprise that chickens don’t exactly thrive during this period of time.

In this article we are going to take you through how to keep your chickens warm during the wintertime.

Securing the Coop and Ventilation

The first thing you need to do is make sure that your coop can keep heat in (maintain temperature) and doesn’t have any gaps or holes where the cold winter breeze can blow through.

You should make sure that structurally your coop is solid and there are no gaps between the panels or the roof. However, you won’t want an airtight seal in your coop. This isn’t good as it allows the ammonia in chickens’ poop to build up and can be deadly. The secret is getting the right amount of ventilation.

To do this you need to do two things:

  1. Eliminate any direct breeze onto your chickens.
  2. Create ventilation underneath your coop.

This way, your coop will be able to keep its warmth, and still have some fresh air coming in overnight for the chickens.

To Heat or Not to Heat?

Once you have ensured that your chicken coop is not leaking heat, the next thing you need to do is provide heat. You have two options: add a heater or add insulation to the coop (more on this later).

It’s worth mentioning here that not everyone will need to heat their coop; if you live in southern areas like California and Florida, you won’t add heat. However, if you live anywhere near the north like Washington and New York, you will at the very least need to add insulation.

In terms of coop heaters you have three options: flat panel heaters, oil filled radiators, and brooder lamps. If you’re looking for more information on chicken coop heaters, this article will help.

Insulating a Chicken Coop

My preference is to always insulate the chicken coop instead of running a heater. If you insulate the coop well enough and block off any drafts (as mentioned earlier), the chickens can huddle together and use their own body heat to keep warm.

Did you know that each chickens’ body can give off the equivalent heat of a ten watt light bulb? So providing you have your insulation in check, your chickens will be fine without a heater.

To insulate the coop you can use Styrofoam panels and either nail them or stick them to the coop. You should then cover the panels with wood, otherwise, your hens could peck at the foam. This can be toxic to them.

How to Prevent Frostbite

The last step I want to mention revolves around the actual chicken themselves.

Even after getting the ventilation, heating and insulation correct, on bitterly cold nights your chickens can still be at risk of catching a cold and frostbite. Frostbite can be particular nasty for chickens on their comb, wattles, and feet. To prevent frostbite you can take some petroleum jelly and spread a thin layer on each hens’ comb and wattles. This thin layer will prevent frostbite.

I hope these four tips help to keep your chickens warm during the winter!