Winterize Your Chicken Coop

Winterize Your Chicken Coop

Winter can be a stressful, even dangerous, season for chickens. If you take the proper steps to winterize your chicken coop, however, you can provide safe, comfortable shelter for your flock even on the coldest days and through the iciest nights.

Why Winterizing Matters

Different chickens have different tolerances for cold, but winter brings more threats than just lower temperatures and all chickens can be at risk. In addition to hypothermia and frostbite, chickens stressed by the cold season are more susceptible to other illnesses. Furthermore, chickens lay less in winter, and that loss of productivity can be very damaging if you rely on your chickens for food or business. Winter-hungry predators are also more likely to hunt chickens and can invade an unprepared coop. Fortunately, winterizing your chicken coop can lower all these risks and keep your flock healthy and productive throughout the season.

How to Winterize Your Coop

No matter what size or style your chicken coop may be, the same winterizing steps can help be sure it is in great condition to keep your chickens safe, healthy, and comfortable through the winter.

  • Clean First Before winter sets in, give your coop a thorough cleaning. Scrape and scrub dropping boards, perches, and roosts, and be sure to clean any small crevices and vents as well. Washing windows will ensure the maximum light enters the coop on short winter days, and bedding should be completely replaced. At the same time, clean out the run or yard space, removing unwanted debris and trash.
  • Repair as Needed Inspect your coop closely and make all necessary repairs, including tightening or replacing loose shingles, nailing down warped boards, smoothing sharp edges, replacing a broken ramp, and firming up rickety perches. Check that there are no leaks in the roof, and ensure the fencing and gate for the run are also in good condition and working well.
  • Seal Drafts While chickens require proper ventilation to reduce the risk of respiratory infections, extra drafts will chill the coop and could cause winter problems. Check seams throughout the structure and seal them with caulk, and be sure the seals around windows and doors are complete. Consider closing extra vents, and check that there are no unexpected holes where mice, rats, or other unwanted guests could enter the coop.
  • Improve Insulation Adding extra insulation to the coop will help keep its temperature constant and avoid sharp chills that can stress chickens. Add extra insulation to the walls and roof, but be sure the material is out of reach for pecking and scratching. Deepening the bedding can also help insulate the coop so your chickens are more comfortable.
  • Light It Up Reduced daylight in winter will lower your hens’ laying rates, but adding supplemental lighting can keep laying at more productive levels. Programmable lighting can help simulate sunrise and sunset at established times for a more natural environment. Check that all lights and electrical connections are safe and functioning appropriately, and are out of reach of sharp talons and beaks.
  • Heat It Up While most chickens have an adequate feather coat to keep warm, supplemental heat can be helpful in the coldest areas. Inspect all wiring and heating elements carefully to be sure they are safe, and use proper fuses and other safety measures to protect the coop. Consider using deicing bowls for the birds’ water to keep it ice-free and encourage adequate drinking.
  • Stock Up Before winter arrives, stock up on all your chicken-related supplies. This will help you care for your chickens in case you get snowed in or your suppliers run short or aren’t able to make scheduled deliveries. Stock up on food, bedding, fresh water, and any vitamin supplements or scratch feed you offer your chickens and you’ll be able to keep your chicken-caring routine constant no matter what the winter brings.
  • Cull the Flock Removing old, unhealthy, or unproductive birds before winter should be part of coop winterizing. With fewer birds through the winter, your coop will be more spacious and better able to protect the remaining birds, and you will not have as many expenses to care for the winter flock. Also consider removing any troublemaker birds that could cause excess stress to the rest of the flock when they are confined within the coop for longer periods.

Winterizing your chicken coop is a multi-step process but will be well worthwhile to protect your flock through the winter. By ensuring the shelter is at its best, your chickens will be healthy, comfortable, and productive throughout the coldest months, no matter how bad the weather may be.