Fall has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, and it's never too soon to start thinking about the next season, aka "Old Man Winter." We know you’ve been busy pulling out your sweaters and boots. Hopefully, you find an extra $10 that you forgot about in your winter coat pocket. But what about your fantastic flock of hens? Should you start knitting scarves and hats for them? Install a hot cocoa bar in the coop? Do they know what to do when the seasons change? We’re going to address the steps you should take to care for chickens in cold weather.
Fun Facts About Your Flock
While we still don’t know who came first (the chicken or the egg), according to BBC, chickens have existed on Earth for a very long time. The domestic chicken is descended from the red jungle fowl, which is native to tropical Southeast Asia. These birds were first domesticated around 8,000 years ago and rapidly spread around the world.
Unbelievably, the chicken is the most populous bird on the planet today, with around twenty-three billion. The only continent where chickens don't live is in Antarctica. Many other fowl types live at the frozen southern end of Earth, including the very adaptable penguin.
Tips to Care for Chickens in Cold Weather
If chickens originated in the tropics and now live worldwide, they are very adaptable too! However, we know you love pampering your pets and want to be sure they live their best life. Therefore, we have three helpful tips to see them through the winter.
Winterize the Coop
As we head into the colder months, many experts recommend you winterize your home. The same rule of thumb applies to your girls’ coop. While you do a deep clean of your flock’s home, thoroughly inspect the areas around the doors and windows for drafts. Also, check the roof for leaks. You'll want to seal any gaps or replace more extensive portions of walls or the roof to minimize the rate of heat loss inside the coop.
Use Sunlight to Your Advantage
It's common knowledge that cats love napping in a sunny window. Chickens love the sun, too, especially when it's cold. Installing well-insulated windows in your coop will capture the natural warmth of the sun and keep your coop warm even as the temperature drops outside. Additionally, just like in your own home, insulating the walls stabilizes the enclosure's temperature, no matter the season. As chickens are inquisitive, be sure all insulation materials are inaccessible to your flock. Also, your hens’ respiratory systems are sensitive, so select low-allergen materials to insulate the coop.
If you want to take your coop to the next level, consider building a sunroom for your hens. A greenhouse-style addition gives your flock egg-stra space and lets them sun themselves in a protected area. We’re sure your ladies wouldn’t mind sharing space with you and would enjoy some of your garden’s bounty, even when it’s not summer. The sunroom doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just a simple frame covered in heavy, opaque plastic is sufficient.
Room to Roost
As heat rises, your chickens need to have their roosts off the floor. No one wants to sleep on a cold floor in the winter. Therefore, all roosts need to be at least 2 feet/0.6 meters above the floor. Chickens will instinctively fluff their feathers and snuggle with each other when it’s cold. On average, each hen needs 8 inches/20 centimeters of roost space. However, when you do your bedtime checks on your girls, see if anyone is sitting on the floor. If they are, build more roosts.
Depending on where you live, the transition to cold weather may be abrupt. If you live in Colorado (like Shelby, her girls, and me), you usually don't get a transition; the weather goes from summer to winter overnight. So always be ready!
We hope you found our tips to care for chickens in cold weather helpful. If you have suggestions or more questions about raising urban chickens, we’d love to hear them. Please comment on our socials or email us here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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