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How to Keep Your Chickens Warm This Winter

If you’re new to chicken keeping, one of the questions you may have is; “How do I keep chickens warm in Winter?” In this post, I’ve gathered everything I’ve learned from the best in the industry and my own years of experience.

Winter means the homestead is slowing down. I’ve put the garden to bed, the days are shorter, the weather is worst. Winter is a time of rest and recuperation.

chicken on bare soil in winter

However there are still a few daily chores that must be done if you have animals. Ensuring the chickens have a warm, safe place to stay – day and night – is one of them.

Chickens can be susceptible to chill and frostbite and any stress can cause their egg production to stall.

That is why, as the Winter season approaches, it is important to be prepared early and create a plan for how to keep your chickens chickens warm.

There are many electric heaters, heat lamps, etc. for use with chickens in the Winter, however it only took one fellow homesteader to relay to me the horrors of watching her entire coop engulfed in flames and how she had to comfort her children whose favorite pets were now dead before I decided that heat lamps and pads and any electricity in the coop was off-limits for me.

So, here are the ways I’ve found…

How to Keep Chickens Warm in Winter without electricity

laying down deep litter in a chicken coop to keep chickens warm in winter

Prepare the Chicken Coops

Just as preparing our house for the winter, we must also prepare our chicken coops. Your chickens will be spending a lot more time in their coop as the days get shorter and the cold and inclement weather set it.

There are many ways you can prepare your chicken coops. Depending on your budget, you can start with the cheapest and easiest one, which is inspecting chicken coops for any holes.

Especially if your coops is more than 5 years old, then repair and maintenance might be necessary.

If you have a hole in your coop walls, or roof, warm air will escape and cause a draft.

Each chicken actually produces one btu of heat per day. Preventing drafts ensures that this heat remains in the coop as a natural, safe source of energy.

Justin Rhodes has a great YouTube video on how he keeps his chickens happy during Winter:

Keep chicken coops well ventilated

While we just talked about keeping the warm air IN, we actually need our coop to be well ventilated as well.

In some situations, a chicken coop that does not allow for *some* air to escape, the moisture will build up inside and then your damp chickens will catch a chill with they walk outside.

Warm and dry is what we’re after.

You can install vents that you can open and close, or simply run along the roof line for passive venting. This also ensures that as the head rises it can escape, instead of building moisture.

optional: Make them a sunroom

As a homesteader, I’m not usually for spending money or something seemingly frivolous, however I wanted to add this section for a reason.

If you have access to old used windows, or bus window from a schoolie rebuild (like we do), you may consider building your chickens a sunroom.

If you live in very cold climates, having a separate sunroom that your chickens can hang out in during the bitter winter months may make the difference between being able to have chickens or not.

high tunnel that is doubling as a chicken coop in winter

Or, if you have a greenhouse or high-tunnel, can you run your chickens in that during the Winter? Can you position your chicken coop next to your greenhouse/high tunnel for ease of access?

Even better, can you let your chickens till the soil, fertilize and otherwise improve your soil during the winter in your high tunnel to prepare that ground for crops in the Spring?

Proper protection from frostbite

Poultry breeds with larger combs or wattles are susceptible to frostbite. If, after a cold night, you see black spots on their comb or wattle or toes that has what I describe as like dried, peeled skin around it, it’s likely frostbite. (There a poultry pox disease that looks similar, so look closely).

If you live in particularly cold climates, I don’t recommend breeds with large wattles and combs. Check out my post on the top 12 heritage breeds for your homestead for more ideas.

Even breeds with small wattles/combs and lots of feathering on their feet can be problematic when frozen mud sticks to their foot-feathers, but I digress.

The secret to frostbite is petroleum jelly! Just put an ample amount on your chicken’s combs and wattles and they’ll be protected. That is how easy it is! No need for expensive intervention & medical advice.

hen and baby chick eating corn to keep warm in winter

How to Keep Chickens Warm in Winter: Food

I know that you can come up with many different ways to keep chickens warm, especially if you have been doing this for many years now! But I was just shocked the first time I learned that corn can keep chickens warm during the night.

When chickens digest corn, it actually creates more body heat than when they eat any other type of gain.

Experts suggest that you can feed your chickens corn during the evening before going to bed. The heat from digestion will keep them warm inside throughout the night!

I know that corn is chicken’s favorite, so I thought feeding them with it during the winter season will not only keep them warm while sleeping but also gives them a happy tummy!

Lisa Steele from Fresh Eggs Daily has a DIY suet cake recipe for backyard chickens.

food for keeping chickens warm in the winter

I hope that with the tips I’ve shared, you now have an idea on how to keep chickens warm during the colder months.

If you are located in an area where the cold season is very long and temperature is very low, you may want to consider installing a flat panel heater.

For more chicken posts, check out:

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