Looking outside at those huddled up balls of feathers, it’s hard to imagine your chickens can stay warm in these frigid temperatures. Their beady black eyes are just slits in the face of the freezing gales of wind and they may pull one tough, weathered foot up into their breast for added warmth. But why won’t they go in the coop? Chickens are tougher beasts than we often give them credit for, but there are still some precautions for keeping your coop healthy and happy during the winter months.
Fatten up their feed! Chickens burn more calories in the winter. Add wild bird seed to their usual feed.
Set up a draft-free, heat lamp warmed roosting area in the barn. Even though chickens are stubborn outdoors-lovers, they’ll acquiesce and accept your shelter in sub-zero temperatures.
Keep a source of unfrozen fresh water at all times. You may try a water heater, a heat lamp placed over the water, a pump that keeps water circulating, or adding boiling water periodically to ensure their water doesn’t freeze over.
Use straw bedding and change it whenever it gets wet or frozen. Be sure your chickens have several layers of straw beneath their feet to prevent direct contact with snow or ice that leads to frostbite.
Watch out for pests. During the winter months, other animals will seek food and shelter in your chicken coop. Keep your feed off the ground in metal containers, rather than wood or plastic to deter rats. Raise geese with your hens to keep aerial predators away from the coop. Try electrified fences for coyotes and traps to remove raccoons.