Wondering how to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity? These easy tips on keeping chickens warm in winter are a must read. Quick and easy changes to the winter chicken coop are helpful with or without electricity.
Keeping Chickens Warm in Winter Made Easy with 8 Quick Fixes
While a lot of what I’ve read says chickens will be fine in the cold, I’ve learned that precautions are necessary in brutally cold temperatures to keep your chickens safe, warm, and healthy. It can be daunting, but these easy changes to the winter chicken coop are really helpful for keeping chickens warm in winter. If you need quick ideas for how to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity (and also with electricity if you desire), then keep reading!
This is the fourth winter we’ve been raising chickens in Eastern Iowa. The first winter was brutally cold. The next two winters were much more mild, but this winter is shaping up to be another brutally cold winter. My poor chickens need all the help they can get, so we made many quick changes to our winter chicken coop and have found effective ways to keep our chickens warm, happy, and healthy this winter.
Our chicken coop was a seriously drafty old two stall hog shed that my husband drug out to our homestead when we first got chickens. I love the way it looks, but it’s not very practical during the winter. It’s not insulated and it’s full of holes that the wind just whips right through. The result is frostbit chickens and in extreme cases, dead chickens as well.
While coop ventilation is a crucial aspect of chicken health, too much wind in the winter has been deadly on some of my birds. It’s horrible to find backyard chickens frozen to death inside their chicken coop! Keeping chickens warm in winter became a huge priority this year with our brutally cold temperatures. Here are several ways you can keep chickens warm in winter too!
1.Winter Chicken Coop Location
The location of your chicken coop can impact how easy it is to keep your chickens warm in the winter. The first major change we made to our winter chicken coop, was to move it to a more protected area to help keep the bitter northwest winds from slicing right through it. If you’re able to move your chicken coop to a more protected location, that’s the first step I recommend taking.
2. Deep Litter Method
Another thing you must do to keep chickens warm in winter is to make sure you have deep litter inside the coop. A deep, loose litter will be better insulation for your chickens than a compact litter and will help keep them warmer. Start with a 3- to 4-inch layer of clean litter, such as dry grass clippings, leaves, straw, or wood shavings and add fresh litter each week. If you add a few scratch grains in the coop every day, the chickens will scratch and peck and help the layers decompose. In early spring, clean the majority of the litter out – it makes great fertilizer for your organic garden! You can read more about deep litter at Mother Earth News.
How to Keep Chickens Warm in Winter Without Electricity
This winter we have also found a few additional ways for heating a chicken coop without electricity. Here are a few of the things we did to help. Keeping chickens warm in winter takes a bit of planning, but it is possible, even if your chicken coop does not have electricity.
3. Make the coop smaller
The first thing we did when cold weather set in was to make the coop smaller by closing off a portion of it with boards. We made sure to move roosting bars as necessary. Ideally, the ceiling will be within two feet of the roosting bars. You know heat rises, right? You probably also have noticed that your chickens roost together to help keep each other warm. We wanted to make sure that the chickens still had enough roosting bars inside the smaller space. Keeping the roosting bars close to the ceiling helps them get even more heat.
4. Double Check Roosting Bars
Chickens need to be able to cover their feet with their bodies to protect them from frostbite during winter. Double check that your roosting bars are wide enough. A 2×4 board is the ideal roosting bar because it allows the chickens to sleep flat-footed with their feet covered. Make sure the 4” side of the board is up so they can protect their feet.
5. Make the Nest Boxes Cozy
You can make the nesting boxes a little cozier by hanging curtains in front of them. I’ve always questioned the reason for chicken curtains, but they do help keep warm air in the boxes. Warmer boxes can help keep those fresh eggs from freezing – important to us chicken keepers in cold climates Also, filling the box with a little extra bedding will help too.
6. Insulate the Coop
Your coop needs to have good ventilation to keep the chickens’ combs and wattles from getting frostbite, but it also needs insulation to keep it stay warm. Another easy way to keep chickens warm in winter is to add extra insulation. After we closed off a portion of the smaller winter chicken coop, we covered the boards (the outside of the boards) with a bunch of moving blankets, tarps, and extra insulation foam boards we had on hand.
If you don’t have any tarps or blankets to donate to the cause, you can always find some at Goodwill or other second hand shop. Just make sure your coop still has fresh air! It’s vitally important that your coop always has fresh air.
We’ve also used thick black plastic, empty feed bags, leftover foam insulation pieces, and spray foam to help insulate the coop.
As the temperature kept decreasing, we also added a lot of straw insulation to the outside of our drafty old coop to provide even more insulation. It’s just another barrier between our brutal winds and the chicken coop and an effective way to help keep as much heat as possible inside the coop.
Heating the Coop with Electricity
While many chicken owners strive to heat the chicken coop without electricity, sometimes we just have to add heat for our chickens. Chickens seem to suffer less in winter unless their coops are damp or drafty, but they still get cold. You can see by their behavior that they get cold! I’m a firm believer that no animal should be left to freeze if I can do things to help.
When our temperatures drop under about 10 degrees and wind chills kick up to negative (-10 and colder), we turn on an electric heater. If you use an electric heat source, you do want to be careful as a shattered light bulb can cause a coop fire or harm a chicken. Consider a chicken heater or an infrared bulb instead of a glass heat lamp.
Winter Chicken Care
Another crucial element to keeping chickens warm in winter has to do with winter chicken care. You’ll probably need to change the way you feed and water your chickens in the winter compared to how you tackle this chore in the summer.
7. Winter Chicken Feed
While my free range backyard chickens usually find plenty of food during warmer months, they need extra help with food in the winter when everything’s frozen or gone. They sure do have a hard time finding bugs in the winter!
Make sure to feed your chickens a good quality chicken food a few times throughout the day and also at dusk to help them increase their body warmth at night. Cracked corn is a great winter supplement and source of energy, but it must not be all you feed your chickens. It’s not a complete source of nutrition.
Some chicken keepers really pamper their chickens in the winter by bringing them a warm mush to eat. It’s a great way to stimulate their appetites if it appears that they aren’t eating well and they really enjoy it!
Here are 7 winter feeding tips that will help your chickens stay warmer!
8. Winter Chicken Waterer
Just as it’s important to keep chickens hydrated in the summer, it’s equally important in the winter. It’s actually easy for chickens to get dehydrated in the winter when the water freezes. To keep them hydrated, bring your chickens warm water twice a day if you don’t have a heated waterer to keep the water thawed.
They’re most likely to drink at dawn and dusk. I’ve used a number of heated waterers, and by far my favorite is this plug in bucket. It does take electricity, but it’s so much easier to fill and clean than the bell type waterers.
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I’d love to hear your tips for how to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity. What tips for keeping chickens warm in winter do you have that I didn’t share?