Winter Chicken Keeping

Last winter was a doozey but our chooks were cozy and did just fine. 

coop in the snow

The original ‘Cluck In’ is a small coop, the 4 gals were as cozy as can be all packed together at night on their roosting perch. Their body heat kept them warm.

The coop only had one small window which has a sliding door that I left half open for ventilation on all but the coldest days/nights.  It also had a sliding door that opened to their run but we never closed this door.  Instead I took an old throw rug and made 2 curtain-like ‘flaps’ to keep out cold drafts.  The girls could push their way in and out.

We weather-stripped around the clean-out door and wrapped the nest box in a quilted movers tarp (we wrapped in such a way that we could still open it for egg retrieval). We threw more tarps over the roof.    Straw bales were stacked around half of the run, and  thick plastic was wrapped  around the rest of it.  I put an extra deep layer of pine shavings in the coop and of straw in the run.  I used a modified ‘deep litter’ method of cleaning the coop, I picked up the biggest poop piles from under the roosting perch and tossed in extra shavings every few days.

2013 christmas coop

This pic shows the plastic over the open sides of the run (we added more later) as well as tarps over the roof.

I wouldn’t change a thing, I feel like our winter prep was better than adequate.

coldchix

This pic is inside the run area of the coop. You can see the plastic over the open areas and thick straw on the floor. The gals look pretty cozy!

This year their coop is larger and the six of them will have to huddle quite a bit to keep warm.  There are 2 large windows that were originally covered only with hardware cloth.  I knew we would need to add a covering for cold weather that would keep the wind and cold air out.  I still  wanted to let natural light in so shutters were not the answer.  I was thinking we could make a plexiglass sliding window over the opening.

011

The window needed a way to be closed off.

Amazingly while checking the Craigslist free page I saw that someone was giving away glass cabinet doors.  They had been removed  from a camper and even had the hinges.  I could not believe what a perfect fit they turned out to be, and so pretty too!

002

Now we can close out the cold winter wind.

   I already wrapped the run area of the coop with plastic and will stack straw bales on at least one side of the run as a wind break.

coopwrap

This shows the back of the coop. Just in time for the polar vortex arrival!

 Note:  you never want to wrap it so tightly that there is not some ventilation.  This could be toxic to the chickens. Also if humidity builds up in the coop it can contribute to frostbite.

 Like last winter I will add a thick layer of straw in their run area and I will again put a thicker layer of pine shavings in the sleeping area.

We will again use our Christmas tin water heater to keep the water from freezing.

Here is a link to instructions on how to make one:

We loved giving our gals warm corn in the evening before they went to roost.  It is a treat they gobbled up like candy and I read that it keeps them warmer to have a warm meal in their crops at bedtime.

corn

I buy lettuce, parsley and other greens to supplement their winter diets and also go to Pet Smart for a weekly treat of crickets or live mealworms – the Prime Rib of chickendom!  They get dried mealworms and scratch grains for a winter treat as well.  I have also found that my gals love dried cranberries!

 I just love to spoil my gals and  the eggs are richer in Omegas and other nutrients if their diet includes natural things like insects and greens.

 Adding supplemental light to keep up egg production is your choice.  I don’t do it, we just eat fewer eggs in the winter.  Contrary to some peoples’ belief,  supplemental light will not harm them or cause them to stop laying at a younger age. Supplemental light should be added in the beginning of the day, never after sunset.

Never, never add supplemental heat to your coop,  It is dangerous and is not needed.

  Winter chicken keeping does not have to be a daunting task.  Keep them out of the wind, clean and with fresh water and they will survive.

Or you could always knit them sweaters.

sweaters

Here is a link with the pattern!

 chickens.http://crafts.squidoo.com/five-reasons-to-knit-chicken-sweaters

  Getting outside in the cold weather is invigorating and brings you close to nature during a time of year when you usually wouldn’t go out as much.  I loved my winter chicken keeping last year as I alternately felt like a ‘real’ farmer instead of just an urban one, but also felt grateful that I could go back inside,  out of the cold after just a few minutes of chicken care and egg gathering!

winter

Maybe someday? But URBAN farming is my life for now!

Let me know how you ‘winterize’ your chickens.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nancy
    Jan 15, 2016 @ 17:12:58

    I love the windows from the camper. I doubt if I’ll ever have chickens. I only have a small front yard that would be trashed if I had chickens. At least I got to enjoy them for several years at the zoo. Your Blogs are taking me back!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. ruthschickensruthschickens
    Jan 15, 2016 @ 14:29:17

    Reblogged this on ruthschickens and commented:

    This is an older post but I have been seeing a lot of questions on this subject lately. I though it was timely to post again.

    Like

    Reply

  3. Cindy
    Nov 17, 2014 @ 15:39:51

    Hi Ruth. I am a friend of Barbara’s here in Lake Sherwood and I really enjoyed reading your blog. It was very interesting, hearing how you keep your chickens warm in the cold winter. brrrrr Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. Barbara Faust
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 16:20:12

    I only want one thing from Santa this year–TO DIE AND COME BACK AS ONE OF YOUR LUCKY HENS!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  5. slcriger
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 14:16:02

    making me cold….but the chooks will be fine

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

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