Preparing Your Chicken Coop for Winter
It's Cold Out There
It’s getting cold outside, and your backyard flock is going to need your help in order to have a successful and productive winter. Zamzows has everything you need to keep your chickens happy and healthy. Here are a few tips on how to properly winterize your setup.
Chickens require approximately 16 hours of daylight to complete a lay cycle. This is why many birds will drop off laying in winter without supplemental light. If you choose to give your hens a winter vacation, you need not even worry about light. A low wattage light on a timer that goes on at 6 or 7 am and shuts off around 9 pm will work best. Heat lamps are different and get very hot, and so we don't recommend them for safety. They are risky to mount inside a coop in a spot that won’t present a fire hazard, and it is far more expensive to run a heat lamp than a low-watt light bulb.
In addition to giving your birds the right amount of light, you should be managing their diet to give them the most success. Make sure you add an additional amendment of cracked corn to your bird's feed in winter. For chickens, corn is a "hot" food that activates the bird's metabolism which helps keep them healthy during the colder months. In winter you should also switch to a layer pellet with a lower percentage for the health and longevity of your birds. Feeding your birds a higher percentage layer pellet will not force them to lay more eggs.
It’s also important to keep the chicken run dry and mud-free. Traction sand is a great way to provide extra drainage in the run. Apply a half-inch to an inch layer to your run, then scatter a layer of straw over it on those cold, snowy mornings. The straw will not only provide the chickens with a dry, warmer place to walk, but they also love scratching it around to look for seeds. Covering the top of the run with a tarp or plastic provides a dry place to stand, as a wet, cold run isn’t a very inviting place on a cold morning.
Drafts are a chicken’s worst enemy in winter. Drafty conditions are what promote frostbite and hypothermia, not just low temps. Lining the coop with extra straw helps, especially if your coop has any cracks or potentially drafty openings near the floor. Chickens release carbon dioxide when they breathe just like we do, therefore, providing adequate ventilation is key. Ventilation near the peak of the roof allows the moist CO2 to drift out instead of settling around the birds’ heads and contributing to frostbitten combs or wattles. A well-ventilated, but draft-free coop will keep your chickens cozy and comfortable even in below zero temperatures. In addition to preventing drafts and proper ventilation. The proper roost is vitally important. A wide flat roost will keep your chicken's feet protected from winter temperatures. A 2x4 roost will keep your chicken's feet covered by their breast feathers preventing frostbite.