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How to keep your chickens warm in winter

General, How to..

Winter is a tough time for your chooks. It’s now time to start preparing your flock for the cold blustery weather. They’re often not able to forage in the same way they do at other times of the year, so the usual high protein bugs, worms, and frogs don’t form part of their diet.

Did you know, that the resting temperature of an adult hen is somewhere between 40ºC and 43ºC? Her heart beats at around 400 beats per minute. This high metabolic rate in itself helps keep each chicken warm.

To stay comfortable, chickens have a few built-in behaviours to stay warmer in colder temperatures. Here are three of them.

  • They create air pockets to trap warm air near their bodies by puffing up their feathers
  • They stand on one foot and keep the other nestled in their plumage
  • To protect their combs from frostbite, they tuck their heads beneath their wing

Our top tips for winter:

  • Just because it’s cold and grey outside, it doesn’t mean your chickens want to be cooped up all day (pun intended). Chickens are hardy birds and can handle the winter chill. So, let them out for a morning stroll. The exercise will help keep them warm. 
  • Add some higher protein treats and supplements to your flock’s diet. During winter, chickens burn more calories to stay warm and toasty. To sustain their needs, you can either increase your feeding frequency or swap feed with higher protein levels. See our winter warming food ideas below.
  • Keep your coop as dry as possible. Ventilation is key all year round for your chicken coop, even on particularly chilly evenings. An air-tight coop will often result in a build-up of humidity, which will bring the temperature of your coop down.
  • While your flock needs a well-ventilated coop to allow moisture to escape, you need to make sure that cold air is not blowing directly onto them. Stand in your coop and test whether you can feel cold air blowing in. Or worse – holes where rain and snow can come through. Find the holes where the wind is blowing in, and block them. You don’t need to go to expensive lengths for this. Old feedbags or some sacking will be perfectly adequate.
  • Don’t put a heater in your chicken coop for winter warmth. With all that bedding, you’re asking for a fire. Plus, chickens don’t need it. They huddle together for warmth.
  • Chickens will roost together and fluff themselves out. This is what keeps them warm. It also keeps them off the cold ground. The roost should be raised at least 50cm above the ground. So make sure you have plenty of space for all your chickens to comfortably roost. Tip: Check on them in the evening with a flashlight—if a bird is on the ground, there’s not enough space.
  • Well-insulated windows are an excellent way to bring a natural source of heat throughout the day. The key to this is to keep the heat in the coop. Stone and concrete floors will absorb the heat and then slowly release it throughout the night.
  • Feathers are what keep our chickens warm. Before winter sets in, chickens moult so that the good quality new feathers will provide excellent insulation during the hard winter months. We as humans use feather doonas for a reason!
  • Even though they likely won’t drink as much water in the winter as they do in the summer, your chickens still need access to fresh, unfrozen water all day long in the winter. 
  • Try the deep litter method

Deep Litter Method:

If you’re not familiar with it, the deep litter method is a brilliant old-timers method to manage your coop litter through the winter. By adding subsequent layers of litter, and turning the layers frequently, you’re allowing biological microbes to break down the chicken manure and organic material to create a wonderful compost. Heat is created in the process, just like in the compost pile, which will help to keep your chickens warm all winter long.

It’s easy, economical, and results in beautifully composted chicken manure and bedding for your garden come spring.

  1. First, clean out the coop completely
  2. Lay down at least 5-10cm of clean litter
  3. Let the chickens poop all over it
  4. Turn the litter over once a week with a pitchfork to bury the poop and bring fresh bedding to the surface
  5. Continue to lay down fresh bedding so the depth always remains at least 5cm
  6. Repeat, repeat and repeat
  7. The litter slowly breaks down over time to make compost
  8. Twice a year (spring and autumn) clean out the coop, removing the newly made compost but leaving a 5cm layer of the litter so the microbes can integrate into the new fresh bedding.
  9. Start all over again!

Some high protein treats we suggest during Autumn and Winter:

This treat is a great way to add a little fat to your chickens before winter hits, and tossing it on the ground in the coop or run is a fun treasure hunt for your birds on dreary days. Try giving your chickens a nice feed of cracked corn before bed. This gives them something to digest during the night, keeping them warmer.

A highly popular (among the feathered family) hearty, nourishing meal to supplement your chook’s daily diet and warm their tummies!

Poultry Oatmeal is a nutritious treat for chickens, especially during the autumn and winter months. Oatmeal has the same texture and consistency as our poultry porridge but in a new tasty flavour.

The Garden and grubs blend is a tasty solution for when your chickens are unable to forage naturally. Often during winter chickens are unable to forage as far (if at all), or find as many bugs in the garden. Or, if you just want to increase your flock’s nutrition levels with this tasty, yet healthy treat.

BSFL is rich in protein, key vitamins and minerals, and is an excellent source of amino acids.

Spice Blend contains a nutritious blend of delicious, high-quality ingredients that chickens love. This product is designed to support the immune system, respiratory, digestive, and reproductive health.

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