Because of their unique physiology and ability to regulate their body temperatures, chickens tend to do better in cold weather than in hot. But this doesn’t mean they don’t need little extra care in winter.
If you live in an area prone to cold weather, you are better off keeping a hardier breed of chicken. The best cold-hardy breeds include Ameraucana, Ancona, Black Australorps, Black Giant, Blue Andalusian, Brahma, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Delaware, Dominique, Langshan, New Hampshire, Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Red, Russian Orloff, Speckled Sussex and Wyandottes.
But no matter the breed, here are a few cold weather tips all chickens can benefit from:
1.) Don’t use heat lamps in your coop. Many new chicken owners are tempted to do this, but as stated previously, chickens can actually tolerate cold temperatures fairly well. Heat lamps pose a fire hazard and may also cause chickens to have trouble acclimating to colder weather.
2.) If you do feel the need to heat your coop, however, use a safe heat source such as a flat panel radiant heater. Remember that there should not be an extreme difference between inside and outside temperatures.
3.) Likewise, don’t over-insulate your coop. This limits air circulation and increases humidity, which can lead to frostbite. It can also lead to ammonia buildup from droppings which can be harmful to your chickens’ lungs. No, you don’t want your coop to be drafty, but you do want adequate ventilation—even in cold weather.
4.) Ensure your chickens have unfrozen water to drink. Chickens cannot get enough water by pecking at snow or ice. You can purchase a heated waterer, but just be aware that these too, may pose as a fire hazard. You can also just provide warmed water two or three times a day during prolonged cold snaps.
5.) Don’t forget to clean your coop regularly in winter since chickens may be spending more time inside. Using our Stall Guard can help eliminate odor and moisture all year-round.
6.) If your chickens have large combs, applying a thin coat of petroleum jelly can help guard against frostbite. If you have roosters, you will likely want to apply petroleum jelly to their wattle for the same reason.
7.) Keep in mind that late autumn is the time when most chickens go through their annual molt. They won’t be laying eggs during this time, but you may want to consider offering added vitamins/minerals such as our Organic Icelandic Kelp, which contains more than 70 minerals, vitamins, hormones, enzymes, and trace minerals. This will ensure they have the nutrients they need during molting as well as colder temperatures when nutrient needs may increase.
8.) Since most grasses have gone dormant in winter, chickens can benefit from added essential fatty acids in the diet as well. Try our Organic Whole Flaxseed for Poultry to keep your chickens healthy and to boost egg production.
9.) Even though cold weather has arrived in most parts of the country, parasites can still be a problem. Internal parasites can be eliminated year round by using our all natural WormGuard Plus Broad Spectrum for Poultry. It not only controls internal parasites, but it also contains organic whole flax seeds (see benefits above), probiotics to promote healthy digestion and pure grape seed extract to support a strong immune system. For external parasites control try our Poultry Dust, this 100% all natural, safe, and effective product eliminates lice and mites without the need for harmful chemicals.
Wishing you and your flock a happy and healthy fall and winter!