Preparing your chicken coop for winter is a vital part of keeping your flock healthy and happy over the cold season. Here’s how we keep our chicken coops comfy & cozy for our flock!
I was completely caught off guard by the record-breaking snowfall we received this year! It’s something that I never had to deal with before, so I was completely unprepared! I started making a bunch of adjustments in everything from diet to housing to be sure my flock stayed happy and healthy in all this snow. There was some major trial and error going on here! Now that I have started to figure out how to handle this winter stuff (and I’m mostly done sulking over all this snow), I’ve rounded up my best tips and I am sharing them you!
I’ve created this 4 part mini-series to share aaaalllll of my tips and tricks to keep your backyard chickens happy and healthy this winter! Today’s post is all about chicken coops! I’m sharing my top three tips for making sure that your chickens have a safe, warm coop to call home this winter!
Winter Chicken Coop Tip #1: Create a “grazing area” for your chickens
All the shoveling, all the time! If you want to know what I have been doing the past two weeks, the answer is “shoveling.” I’m running out of places to pile the shoveled snow at this point! But the best thing that I did for my chickens during the snowy weather was to clear the snow away from ground in a small area surrounding their coop. My chickens usually have the run of our yard and are free to wander and free range all day. After just a couple days of being cooped up, it was clear that they needed more space!
By clearing away the snow, they were able to safely come out of the coop and continue their normal pecking, scratching, and exploring, even if it was in a much smaller area than usual. As the snow continued to fall, I kept clearing away the snow from their grazing area to allow them the opportunity to come outside for fresh air if they desired. I also took the wet shavings from their coop and spread them in this area, and sprinkled some scratch grains and mealworms for them to find. Obviously, you never want to lure your chickens out into conditions that could cause frostbite on their feet, but providing a safe outdoor area for them to explore at their own pace can have a major positive impact.
Winter Chicken Coop Tip #2: Use old windows to create a sunny spot for your chickens
Before the snow started to fall, I headed to the local secondhand building supply store and picked up some old glass windows. For a whopping total of $20, I bought three big glass windows! I placed the windows around the base of the coop to serve as a snow and wind block. The windows allow air to flow behind them which provides proper ventilation without exposing the chickens to the extreme wind, snow and rain. The windows also allow the chickens extra light and heat. Once the sun comes out, the windows act as passive solar heaters during the subzero temperatures by magnifying the sunlight. On the rare occasion that the sun actually decide to peek its little head out from behind the clouds, my chickens take full advantage of the heat generated from the windows! They seriously love to take naps in the sunshine and you can really feel the temperature change that is created by the windows!
Winter Chicken Coop Tip #3: Keep the chicken coop dry & ventilated!
In the cold of winter, one of the most important things you can do is ventilate your coop! It may seem counterproductive, but I can’t stress this enough! Keeping the coop ventilated with proper airflow will keep conditions dry. Chickens are very hardy to the cold, but cold and moisture is a recipe for disaster. Even if it isn’t snowing or raining, your chickens are still pooping – a lot! And poop creates moisture. And that moisture is what puts your chickens at risk for developing frostbite.
Closing up the coop is also a great way for illnesses to spread quickly among birds. Be sure that your chickens are safe and sheltered from the weather, but don’t completely close the coop up. Fresh airflow is needed at all times, even at night. Depending how much snow your area receives, you may need to wrap your run with greenhouse plastic to keep the snow and drafts out. If you do this, be sure to leave openings along the top to circulate fresh air.
I regularly scoop out wet bedding and laying down fresh shavings in order to reduce moisture and keep the bedding nice and dry. On dry days, I open all the coop doors for a couple of hours to let everything air out. The deep litter method also works great during the winter and I highly recommend it!
Check out the rest of the Winter Chicken Care series: