Here are a few winter tips I have picked up along the way that you may find useful. This is by no means exhaustive. There is no definative right or wrong way for wintering your chickens so these are not “this is what you should do…”, just ideas that you can take or leave. Some of these tips involve the use of electricity in the coop. Electricity in a coop can be helpful but is not essential (afterall people have been keeping chickens for hundreds of years without it). If you do use a heat lamp for the coldest nights, then it is obviously essential to make very sure it is fixed somewhere securely and safely. A dry, draft free coop (but still ventilated) will be the most important part of keeping your girls (and boys) warm. Chickens will acclimatise to colder weather and can create a lot of warmth just huddling together. You will need to consider the temperatures you get in your area and work within that (i.e. nicely insulated coops and cold hardy breeds if you are in a very cold area). Bantams will feel the cold the most. Extra insulation in the coop and extra dry bedding can often make a coop surprisingly cosy, even in the coldest of climates. Fully grown chickens are actually surprisingly hardy and can cope with around 30 degrees above zero. A little extra corn (as a supplement to their normal nutritionally balanced feed) can give them additional internal warmth.
Chickens very often don’t particularly enjoy the snow or rain, but they do need fresh air and exercise. Unless it is blowing up a storm, if given the choice, they will normally prefer to venture outside (even if for only a little while) rather than stay ‘cooped’ up inside for the whole day. In many respects you can for the most part trust your chickens to take care of themselves. Many a keeper has gotten soaked through to the skin trying to round up their chickens in bad weather – only to find them dash right back outside again as soon as their back is turned! Unless there is a reason they do not want to go back to the coop (such as a predator) they will probably not venture far from the coop, and may even just stay inside of their own accord if they feel it is too cold for them or raining hard. In cold weather a covering of thick plastic/tarp over the top of all or part of the run can leave them with a snow-free place to run around. Some unroll bales of hay into the pen to give them a bit of insulation from icy ground. Others will just shovel snow out of the chickens way so they have a little bit earth to walk on and peck at.
Ventilation in the coop (whilst still avoiding drafts) is important - even in the very coldest days. The chickens breathing will create moisture which needs to get out or it could result in a damp atmosphere inside the coop, possibly leading to air quality problems and frostbite. If the coop door is situated in a position where it will get rain blown in or nasty drafts, then you may want to put some sort of protector at the door if it is to be left open. Your chickens can learn to push their way through. Some people have had success with strips of rubber, an old towel, pond liner – even a dog flap!
Those with large combs and wattles are most susceptible to frostbite (unfortunately not an uncommon problem in very cold climates where it can regularly be below freezing). It usually affects just the tips, but whole combs have been known to get frozen. Rubbing vaseline or another kind of petroleum jelly onto a frostbitten comb should soothe it, but there is usually not much that can be done to fully restore the look of the frostbitten bits (which tend to go black and possibly scab)....
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The above video is an extract from 'Common Sense In The Poultry Yard' which is available in kindle format (for pc, ipad, android, mac, and kindle fire etc.) from Amazon.com here :
A pdf ebook and mp3 audiobook of it is available here :