Your chickens rely on you for food, water, and shelter, so giving them a safe, warm coop in the winter is one of the best things you can do as a farmer. Fortunately, there are several natural ways to help keep your flock warm without introducing artificial heat.
If you’re deciding how to set up a chicken coop for winter, remember that it’s best to start with the basics.
Your coop needs to be in good repair to keep your chickens safe and warm on chilly days. Start by checking the walls and ceilings for holes or cracks. Chickens are highly efficient birds and put off plenty of body heat that they can trap in their layers of feathers, but this benefit will be lost in a drafty coop.
With drafts taken care of, you want to be sure the coop has adequate ventilation. Your chickens will spend more time indoors in the winter, and their respiration can lead to moisture buildup. This issue, in turn, can cause bedding to mold and lead to respiratory illness. A top vent is ideal for keeping fresh air circulating without exposing your chickens to the cold.
As chickens routinely survive temperatures in the teens, this setup may be all you need to take care of if you live in a milder climate. Those facing harsher winters, however, will want to take additional steps.
In more northern areas, adding insulation to a chicken coop is a crucial part of the winterizing process. It will benefit your chickens and extend the viability of any precious winter eggs you might receive. One recommendation for both of these goals is adding straw to nesting boxes. If a hen gets broody on a cold day, the straw will retain her heat and protect both her and her eggs.
If you can access the wall cavities of your coop, consider adding some commercial insulation to the inside. Cheaper materials such as cardboard, newspaper or straw will also help keep the coop warm in this application. Whatever you end up using, make sure the chickens can’t reach it — chickens are curious and mischievous under the best of circumstances, and you don’t want winter boredom inspiring them to eat styrofoam.
Adding insulation to the outside of the coop will also keep warmth within. Styrofoam sheets under plywood work well here, as do straw bales placed against the walls. You can insulate the ceiling with commercial materials on the outside or even old blankets within — just make sure the vents remain open.
Finally, add plenty of straw or pine shavings to the floor of the coop to retain warmth and absorb moisture. Some people prefer to top off a deep layer of litter that lasts through the winter, while others change the bedding frequently. Whichever method you use, just make sure to freshen the top portion regularly.
During the winter, chickens eat about 1.5 times as much as they do in the warmer months. This increased food intake allows them to produce plenty of warmth so they can regulate their temperatures. A properly winterized chicken coop will retain this warmth, keeping your birds cozy even when the cold gets bitter.
With food supply and quality being so critical this time of year, we recommend giving your chickens an all-natural feed from Nature’s Best. Scientifically tested and proven as well as Non-GMO Project Verified, Nature’s Best Organic Feeds are designed to deliver all the crucial vitamins and minerals that chickens can’t forage for in winter, along with plenty of healthy protein and carbohydrates for energy.