Winterizing your chicken flock

Frizzle in the snow in Peacham, Vt. Photo by Norissa Lapierre

REGION – Chickens can be very winter resilient, but with a little preparation, your fluffy hens will stay happy and healthy all winter long. Chickens can take the cold, but breezes and coop humidity become chief concerns. Keep your water outside of the coop! If it’s inside the coop, it will cause too much humidity.

Cover ventilation holes with perforated boards. You want some air to move and for humidity to be able to leave the coop without allowing for large drafts to chill the birds. Heating your coop is unnecessary, and the fire hazard far outweighs any benefit the birds get from the heat. Instead, it is strongly recommended that you provide the birds with flat areas for them to roost. If the bird’s feathers can cover their feet, it saves them from frostbite.

Frostbite can set into large combed birds as well. Combs succumb to frostbite and turn black due to blood not circulating through the outer reaches of the comb. Applying bag balm or Vaseline to combs will keep them bright and healthy. Rubbing them with the ointment helps circulation, is soothing, and saves the birds a lot of pain.

Fall is the perfect time to give the coop a good cleaning. Lining the floor with rubber stall mats help to insulate the floor and makes for easier spring-cleaning. By using a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water in a squirt bottle, you can safely disinfect roosting areas and nesting boxes.

Nesting materials vary depending on your preference. I find hay holds too much moisture so I use hay as a base and fluffy shavings on top, which wick the moisture and remain drier. Outside areas may or may not be covered, but nothing soothes the birds like a nice wind stop. Providing a 90-degree angle where the birds can eat and drink that is buffered from the winter winds will encourage them to get outside despite the weather.

Keep in mind, chickens get bored over the winter months just like us, but providing them with things to peck at besides each other will break up the days. Hanging cabbages and large flock blocks made of suet or seeds are well received.

Having chickens can be very rewarding and by keeping them safe and happy, they will continue to lay eggs happily through most of the winter.

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