Chickens are a rather low maintenance animal, in my opinion. Caring for your chickens in the winter doesn’t require much effort, just a little foresight.
Chickens need water in the winter.
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You will want to keep it from freezing as much as possible. Amazon, sells these really cool heated waterers that work great. Otherwise, you could go outside every hour or so, and dump warm water to break any layer of ice off the top.
Chickens that go without water for 12 hours can stop laying eggs for up to 2 weeks. Keep their waterer as full and free running as you can. Some other ideas to keep their water from freezing are:
- Add straw or dry leaves around the water bucket bases, covering up to 2-3 inches from the bucket itself. Replace it often and compost the old materials.
- place the buckets inside an old tire. This keeps the ice from forming around the water bucket as fast, and helps hold in the sun’s heat a bit. The chickens will learn to climb on the tire to get to the water, which can help minimize the spilling and the consequent ice build up.
- Add 1/2 cup of table salt to a 16 ounce bottle of water. Cap tightly and allow to float in the water bucket. This will keep it from freezing over.
Chickens need food in the winter.
With our ground frozen and covered over with snow and ice, scratching for bugs just isn’t going to happen for them. A feed bill can go way out of budget quickly as they eat more to keep warm.
They still need grit, so make sure to add that to their feed. Consider also adding a bag of oyster shells (also sold separately) Most will add 1/4 of a bag of oyster shells to a 50lb bag of chicken feed.
To help keep food bills as low as possible, you can also add in home-grown fodder.
Provide plenty of entertainment in the winter.
Without being able to really scratch at the ground, chickens can get bored. Some ideas to keep your girls entertained in the winter:
- hang a head of cabbage where they can peck at it
- Add a “flock block” that they can busy themselves pecking at to get treats
- Build a chicken swing (get the DIY Directions here)
To know what is not healthy for a flock to eat from your kitchen, read the post here.
Keep your flock draft free as possible.
Their feathers can handle wind, rain and cold, but their coop still needs to be draft free, especially at night. You can close your coop at night, but be sure there is still some air coming through that gives them fresh air. You want to keep it from blowing directly on the flock as they are roosting.
Chickens need a certain number of daylight hours to keep laying.
In the shorter winter months, they may stop laying and/or molt. You can see why we choose to add an artificial light to our coop here. It’s fairly simple to do, just add a timer, and you don’t have to mess with it.
Should you add a light in the coop? Read the pros and cons here.
As you can see, caring for your chickens in the winter is fairly easy, and fresh eggs all year round will be your sweet reward! What are some tips you have for caring for your flock in the winter? Be sure to pin this for later!
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.