Winterizing Your Chickens

If you got chicks this spring, you probably asked the question, “How do I take care of the hens over the winter?” Bringing them into the house is not a great idea, and unlike dogs, chickens generally aren’t given to wearing sweaters and booties. Nor are they given to fluid replacement.

Here are some tips for helping your chickens ride out the winter!

  • Move your coop to an area out of the wind.
  • Provide lots of bedding or straw. Bedding should be dry and fluffy so that it traps the heat.
  • A heat lamp is optional. Beware of fire hazards, especially with the dry bedding, and use a red, rather than white, bulb. White light can throw off the laying cycle.
  • Make sure they have fresh, unfrozen water and give them more food – their bodies need it to stay warm.
  • Use Vaseline on combs and wattles to keep them from freezing.
  • Provide wide roosts that allow the down feathers on their bellies to cover their feet.
  • If your hens run in the snow, watch feet for signs of frostbite – they will look swollen and puffy. They might become infected, and the chicken could lose toes or the whole foot.
  • Provide extra protein for the birds during the winter months. A handful of dry cat (not dog) food will give an extra protein boost.

Contact Home to Roost if you’d like an in-home winterizing consultation!


2 responses to this post.

  1. Just thought I would share something I have been doing:

    I put my lightbulb on a 24 hour timer to have the light come on at 5 in the morning till 7am and then again at 4 in the afternoon til 8 in the evening and they seemed to lay more.

    I also really like the simple heater that uses a lightbulb to keep the water from freezing. I learned the hard way that you only need a 40w bulb even when it is below zero.

    Thanks for providing such great information Jen!


    • Thanks, Seamus.
      Good points.
      Regarding laying, chickens will naturally slow down in laying during the winter. Making the day longer by artificially lengthening the amount of light they get (the photoperiod) will cause them to keep up production.
      One might ask the question “Is that good for the chicken?” — I usually leave the answer up to the owner. Personally, I think it would be best to give the hens a “winter break” since reproductive activity can take its toll on their bodies.
      If you do choose to lengthen the amount of light they get, remember to give extra protein, calclium, and water. The hens will put lots of energy into staying warm, so they will need extra nutrition to stay healthy!


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