The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are dropping. When fall is here and winter is on the way, it’s time to start preparing your coop for the cold days to come. Chickens are generally pretty hardy and do well in a variety of weather conditions. There are lots of inexpensive ways to help keep your chickens warm, comfortable and healthy, even on the coldest of days.
First of all, be sure that their coop is as “weatherproofed” as possible. Meaning, if you need to make any repairs to the actual structure, that should be done before it gets cold. Check for leaks in the roof and holes in their roosting area that may be letting in cold winter air. It’s important to realize, however, that making your entire coop “airtight” can have the opposite effect. If you don’t leave room for moisture to escape, your coop will become a damp and uncomfortable environment.
Don’t let your chickens become coop-bound in the winter. They still need exercise and will enjoy time in the yard just as much as they do in the warmer months. You can make the area more appealing by saving up some of their favorite treats and putting a variety of materials on the ground for them to investigate and eat. Any dry waste such as corn stalks, cobs, straw and the like can be put on the ground. You can hide some of their favorite greens and snacks. This not only keeps them moving and comfortable but shores up their immune systems with extra nutrients.
Many experienced chicken farmers also swear by the “deep litter” method. Simply choose a type of bedding appropriate for your chickens and spread a thick layer all around the coop. You can use hay or straw, even dried leaves to create a bed that helps trap heat and gives your chickens something to burrow into or lay on that isn’t the cold ground. Simply pile it high and go in periodically to mix the bedding around and scoop out the damp bits.
Lastly, there is the option of using a commercial or homemade chicken coop heater. There are different schools of thought on this as to their necessity and safety, so be very careful in choosing a product and be sure to read and follow all of the safety instructions. Types of coop heaters commercially available include oil-filled radiators, incandescent lighting heat sources, flat panel heaters (which many regard as the safest type) and more.
Whatever type of heater you choose, keep in mind that healthy chickens are best able to withstand a variety of weather conditions. It’s vital to monitor your flock’s health and take care of any small problems before they can become huge issues. Invest in, or make a heated bucket for water so that your chickens always have access to fresh drinking water and keep the coop clean as you do during other seasons. While it’s definitely not fun to spend time in the cold, it will pay off in the health and comfort of your feathered friends.