Living in central MN where it’s winter half of the year and the temps can hit -35 🥶, we have had to perfect our winter chicken-raising skills out of necessity. If you’re worried about this upcoming winter, look no further! In this article I’ll be sharing my top 6 tips for chicken coop winterizing.
6 Tips for Winterizing Your Chicken Coop
This is absolutely necessary unless you plan to swap out their water bowl every hour or two on frigid days. After many years of experimenting (and mostly failing), we discovered the 1.5 gallon heated dog bowl!
Every morning I bring out a gallon milk jug or two full of water just to top it off. Easy. Peasy. No more hauling large waterers back and forth to the house.
The trick is to get the right brand. We started with whatever was sold at our feed store, however they would short out after a month or two. I finally found a quality brand that hasn’t failed me yet! I have 4 of them now and depend on them on chilly winter days. Click here to grab your own on Amazon.
Keep Food and Water Out of the Coop
Moisture + cold = FROSTBITE. The key to surviving winter is keeping moisture levels in the coop down as much as possible.
You may think you’re doing the chickens a favor by saving them a trip outside, but once that waterer starts leaking or gets knocked over… you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
An added benefit of keeping the food in the run is that it keeps other critters 🐀 that can spread disease out of your coop. I find that keeping their food and water in the run also encourages my chickens to be more active during the day vs hunkering down in the coop.
Wrap the Run With Plastic
This is helpful for several reasons. First, it has a greenhouse effect ☀️ and blocks the wind 💨, so it’s warmer in the run and encourages the chickens to get out and about. It also keeps the snow out and the run dry, which makes for a clean run. When spilled feed gets wet, it starts to ferment and then mold.
Another added benefit that I’ve discovered is that the corners of the run end up becoming excellent dust baths since their usual ones in the yard are frozen solid. I like to add ashes from our wood stove to their dust baths – they love it and it’s a great way to dispose of the ashes all winter long.
TIP: make sure that you are only covering the run with plastic, not the coop! You want the coop to be able to breathe and release moisture.
You can attach the plastic with a staple gun or furring strips (my favorite option; highly recommend if you live in a windy area!). Click HERE to see what furring strips use. Simply cut to length and screw on using a drill.
We prefer 6 mil plastic as it is less likely to rip -> THIS roll is 25′ long and THIS roll is 100′ feet long, depending on how large your run is. We like the 100′ roll so that we have extra to cover our greenhouse, too!
Use 2×4’s for Your Roosting Bars
We started with 2×2’s per my favorite chicken book’s recommendation, however, we’d end up with some frost bitten toes by the end of winter. This is because they were curling their toes around the 2×2 leaving them exposed to cold, instead of tucking them up underneath their feathers. Utilizing 2×4’s ensures that their feet stay flat and covered when faced with negative temperatures.
TIP: Make sure that you carefully sand the corners off and have the flat side facing up!
What a controversial topic!
We have chosen not to heat our coop unless it hits -20 degrees; even still, our heater only raises the temp by 10 degrees or so. However, I know of several people in my area that never use a heat lamp and everything turns out fine!
The reason why you don’t want to routinely use a heat lamp is that not only is it a fire risk, but also your chickens never acclimate to the cold. If that’s the case, they’ll be reluctant to leave the coop to access their feed & water in the run. More importantly, if there’s a power outage and the temp rapidly plummets, your chickens may not survive.
If you DO decide to heat your coop, make sure that you are using a safe option. We have a small propane tank in the coop and use THIS heater. Another (simpler) option would be THIS plug in radiant heater.
Heated Nesting Boxes
One of the biggest winter challenges with raising chickens is frozen eggs. When it hits -30, those eggs have no chance, especially if you’re away from the house all day and can’t head out to rescue the eggs every hour.
Once an egg freezes, the contents expand and causes the shell to crack. When this happens, the egg white & yolk is now exposed to potential pathogens in the environment making it no longer safe for human consumption 🚫.
Living in Minnesota, we have had to perfect our frozen egg strategy and it’s super simple! Heated seedling mats! Only $13! 🙌🏼 There’s no settings. No fussing with it. No fire risk. Perfect temp, every time. Just plug it in, lay it in the bottom of your nesting box, cover with 1-2” of bedding and forget it!
If you don’t have power in your coop, just run out an extension cord (I did this for years and it worked like a charm).
An added bonus is that the hens love how cozy and warm it is in the laying box and this will encourage laying!
Want to snag one for yourself? Click here to grab your own on Amazon. Enjoy! 🍳
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