Winter is coming, and that means it's time to start thinking about the safety of your chickens. With backyard chickens becoming more and more popular it is important to remind everyone how dangerous the winter weather can be on our feathered friends.
The good news is that most chickens know how to keep themselves warm. They huddle up together to keep each other warm from shared body heat. No need to bring them inside. Installing a heater in the coop might be dangerous and is not recommended. So what can you do to keep them warm through the winter?
Feed them before bed to get their metabolism going. Some cracked corn or spec should be enough to fill their bellies. They will stay warmer through the night as they digest the food.
Adding extra bedding in the coop will help insulate from the cold. It will also increase the heat inside as the added bedding decomposes with the chickens waste.
Buy or build a greenhouse. Adding an area to the coop that stays warm from sunlight will give your chickens more time outside because when it is too cold, most chickens will choose to stay inside. Doing this should also reduce the amount snow that accumulates outside the coop.
Build A-frames to help shield the wind. Sometimes it only feels cold because of the dreaded windchill. By blocking that wind, your chickens will be able to warm themselves more efficiently. A-frames are nice because you can move them around the coop depending on the wind's direction.
You may need to protect their combs from frostbite if it drops below freezing. Most chickens can handle the cold by staying inside or roosting together, however, if you have a bird that doesn't seem to protect themselves you might want to get some vaseline and lightly cover their combs.
The best thing you can do is be prepared and well stocked. Don't run out of food or bedding and make sure you check the water a few times a day. You want to go out and see they have a block of ice where their water used to be.