Raising Chickens in the Cold Weather–What to Do
It can be challenging when raising chickens in cold weather. After all, these are relatively small creatures with not much body fat or fur to keep them warm. Feathers help trap in a little warmth, but not much. It can be very stressful for chicken owners in the cold months, because they want to make sure their chickens survive the freeze. Also, if you are keeping chickens for eggs, you’ll want to do what you can to ensure your egg supply is not interrupted. Here’s what to do.
First, make sure you have proper shelter for your birds. You need to keep the coop ventilated, insulated, and free of drafts. Close vents facing to the north, while letting the remaining ones stay open to keep the air fresh without getting too cold. Keep the coop as dry as possible, as well, because while chickens can deal with cold weather quite effectively, they have a hard time when it gets both cold and wet.
Next, you should consider heating the coop if you have a small flock. Usually, birds will huddle together in cold weather for body heat, but you may find that this is not sufficient in cold weather if your flock is small. You can heat the coop by either putting in a window facing south, or by using a small space heater for short periods of time.
Make sure the water supply to the chickens is always fresh and not frozen, so change it at least daily. Also, feed them a little bit more often in the winter, as their appetites are larger at that time of year. You’ll want to let them outside as often as they like, even in the cold, as they like to go outside, just be careful that they do not get frostbitten combs or wattles. You can prevent this by coating the combs and wattles in Vaseline before letting the chickens out of the coop.
Finally, remember that egg production is not as proficient in the cold months as it is the rest of the year. If you put in artificial sunlamps in the coop and keep them on for two to three hours a day, the production of eggs will increase. Remove eggs each day so they don’t freeze, and you should have a healthy supply of eggs all winter long from your flock of chickens.