How to Keep Your Chickens Warm in the Winter

They don’t need as much heat as you’d think.

The cold winter months are upon us and you might be thinking, how do I keep my chickens warm during the winter? There are varying opinions when it comes to the topic of  keeping your chickens warm during the winter, and we want to give you the options to consider and their benefits, or lack thereof.

It might be hard to see our feathered friends outside in the freezing temps, but we should consider the fact that they have survived as a species for hundreds of years without a source of heat in the winter months. If you are still wondering how to keep your chickens warm during the winter, read on.

DON’T Use a Heat Lamp

As much as you think you can make it safe and prevent a fire, using a heat lamp to keep your chickens warm is completely unnecessary and can create a fire just from the dust buildup on the bulb. Admittedly, when we first started keeping chickens, we lost a small coop of young pullets to a heat lamp fire. We thought the very same thing; we’ll make it safe. Trust me when I say, NO HEAT LAMP IS SAFE. As tempting as it is, this should not be used to keep your chickens warm during the winter months.

In addition to this, if your source of power goes out, your chickens will not be prepared or “hardened” enough to tolerate the cold temperatures. All around, BAD idea.

DON’T Use Sweaters or Clothing

Sweaters and clothing may look cute on your chicken, but they are actually doing your hen a disservice. The clothing prohibits the chicken from puffing up her feathers. Puffing up feathers is an instinctual reaction to cold temperatures which traps in the body heat of the chicken. So, even though you knitted the cutest chicken sweater ever, save that for a 10 minute photo shoot and not for a means of keeping your chickens warm during the winter.

Try a Cozy Coop Flat Panel Heater

The Cozy Coop Flat Panel Heater is a product that we personally use to keep our chickens “warm” during the winter. And by warm, I mean we keep the coop at 34 degrees. This doesn’t mean the Cozy Coop heats the coop all the way, it assists in keeping it at 34 degrees in addition to the chickens body heat that naturally warms the coop. What I like about the Cozy Coop is it’s radiant heat which when used properly, is safe for use around animals. In addition to the Cozy Coop, we keep a digital thermometer in the coop that lets us know what temperature it’s at.

Keep Enough Chickens

Ensure the ratio of your coop versus the number of chickens you have is 3 square feet per chicken. This is considered humane space for chickens, and the number of hens versus the space will ensure their body heat can keep the coop warm. When the chickens line up on the roost for bedtime, their heat exchange between each other will keep the flock warm.

Use Straw Bales

Use straw bales to line the base of your coop to create extra insulation. Spread straw in the run like carpet to keep the chickens feet off the snow. And as always, make sure the coop is clean with plenty of fresh straw for warm bedding.

Hang Tarps

Hang tarps on three sides of your chicken run to block the icy winds.
Caution: Don’t block any coop ventilation. A well ventilated coop prevents condensation.

Feed Your Chickens Some Corn

Blending in cracked corn into their laying feed will help increase the chickens internal body temperature as it takes the chicken’s body more energy to digest the corn. We LOVE the organic cracked corn from Scratch and Peck Feed.

Allow Them to Keep Their Feet Out of the Snow

Ensure the chickens have roosts, tree branches, or wood blocks that they can perch on outside, so they don’t have to stand in the snow. When standing on a roost, they’ll be able to hunker down over their feet and puff up their feathers, ensuring their small toes stay nice and warm.

Don’t Let Their Water Freeze

Prevent their water from freezing. You can purchase a simple water heater that will keep the waterer from freezing. Keep your chickens water outside of the coop to prevent dampness in the coop. It also encourages the chickens to leave the coop. Now, this doesn’t make them any warmer, but it does ensure they’ll have a proper source of water which will keep them healthy and comfortable.

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Now that you know how to keep your chickens warm during the winter, and how not to, it’s up to you how you want to go about doing it. We keep our chickens warm (34 degrees) because in Wisconsin we can get down into negative temperatures with deadly sub-zero wind chills.

I’d love to hear how you keep your chickens warm in the winter, too. If you have any other methods you want to share, let me know by emailing me or in the comments below.

Don’t forget to pin these tips on Pinterest so they’ll always be handy!

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