Posts Tagged ‘keeping hens warm in winter’

The snow started to fall quite hard last Friday, and none of the chickens had ever seen the snow before.  The Appenzellers were hiding in the coop (I have not seen them hide in there unless they were laying) the Silver Campine and the Vorwerk were hiding under the coop next to the food and the water.  They definitely had the better end of the deal!  As soon as we went outside to see them, they all came outside to say hi.  It was very funny watching them hopping across the snow!  As soon as they had been out for 5 minutes the snow didn’t bother them at all.  At least the garden is not getting too much of a hammering, the ground is so cold they can’t scratch about much.  I said that keeping chickens can be stressful at times but it is so much fun, the pros definitely outweigh the cons!

They were leaving the cutest chicken prints all over the garden!

Here are some of the pictures I took over the weekend of our chickens in the snow

Silver Appenzellers in the snow - Tufty and Whitey

Silver Appenzellers in the snow – Tufty and Whitey

All 4 chickens in the snow

All 4 chickens in the snow, Silver Campine – Silvie, Vorwerk – Goldie, and the 2 Appenzellers. All getting on!


Goldie the Vorwek in the snow

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Over the last few months I have had a few questions about my chickens.  Will my chickens be warm enough?  Will they carry on laying eggs in the winter?  This is my first winter keeping chickens so I didn’t know the answers to any of these questions!

When we had the cold snap before Christmas the water was frozen solid in their drinker, and the food must have been really cold to eat too!  Looking at the weather forecast It seems that there is another cold snap on the way!  So based on me being concerned about my back garden chickens (Silver Appenzellers) being too cold over night, I though I best do some research!

Here are my findings and some suggestions on how to keep your Chickens warm in the cold winter months, I’m sure there are many other ways of keeping your hens warm so please get in touch with other suggestions!

  • Get more chickens!  A single 5 lb laying hen produces around 10 watts of heat, so having 10 chickens in the coop could be the equivalent to running a 100W light bulb!
  • Don’t fill the water feeder all the way up, if it freezes it may split, so only half fill it.  Bring the water feeder indoors at night so it is not frozen in the morning when you take it out to the chickens.  I also have a small water bowl in the coop just in case!
  • Make sure the coop is draught free or reduce heavy draughts coming through
  • Draughts are bad but ventilation is key, even if it is really cold don’t close all the vents, you still need to get rid of moisture build up.   Chickens create a lot of moisture, from poo and breathing.  If the air is moist the risk of frost bite increases.  The best place for vents is above head height.  You then have the option to close upwind vents when necessary and leave the downwind ones open. Vents above the chickens head will get rid of the warmest most moisture filled air, this is the most effective way of dehumidifying your chicken coop.  This should protect them from frostbite
  • In cold (below freezing) weather put Vaseline on the ear tips, wattles and combs to help keep them warm and safe from frostbiteCheck the waterproofing of the chicken coop, I recently felted the roof of the nesting box as it was damp on the inside, this has solved the problem and they are much happier
  • If your chickens roost outside sometimes, definitely get them in the coop at night time
  • Make sure you check your birds regularly, when you let the out in the morning stand and watch them for a little while, make sure you get used to normal chicken behaviour  then you will be able to spot unusual chicken behaviour   This is especially important in winter, keep a look out for any changes in body weight, odd colouring to their wattle and comb, check feet and legs for skin conditions which may need treating
  • Put extra bedding in the chicken coop to help them snuggle down in the warmth, I use loads of shredded paper, really thick!  Extra insulation in the coop can make a coop surprisingly warm, even in really cold climates
  • Some people say put some old carpet with plastic over on top of the housing making sure not to block ventilation.  I haven’t tried this
  • Install a heat lamp – Do chickens need a heat lamp?  I could do this as the chicken coop is next to the shed and that has power, but people have kept chickens for hundreds of years without it!  Also I suppose a heat lamp will increase the risk of fires
  • Feed your hens corn before they go to roost, A little extra corn before bed will give them something to digest during the night, producing internal warmth.  They will love the teat before bed!
  • Some people set the coop up so the chicken poop drops to the floor over spring, and is left to compost giving off heat in the winter, I think it is called the deep litter method, but I think this sounds unhygienic!
  • Make them a sun room, conservatory or greenhouse!  My ladies love to be in the green house as it is warmer, so I think I will extend the run and make the new section enclosed in plastic sheets so they can warm up and stay extra dry if they like!  I think I will slope the plastic so the rain and or snow will slide off.  I will make the plastic sheets removable so it does not get too hot in the summer

I tried not to worry too much about my chickens as they will acclimatise to colder weather and can create a lot of warmth just huddling together.

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