Many first-time chicken keepers find themselves worrying about their flock as temperatures start to drop toward freezing. Here at the Snohomish and Monroe Co-Op, we can help you with everything you need to keep your chickens comfortable throughout the winter season.
The most common question we get is about heating chicken coops. We highly recommend not heating coops. Heat lamps in chicken coops are afire hazard. Plus, going from a heated indoor area straight to outdoor freezing temperatures can shock a bird’s system. Your chickens have spent their days outside in the fall naturally acclimating to dropping temperatures. During very cold days you’ll often see a chicken with its feathers puffed out. They are circulating warm air around their body. Their thick feather coats are designed to keep them warm. Some chickens like Minorcas, or Andalusians have large, fancy combs and wattles that can be at risk for frost bite damage. To protect large combs and wattles, simply cover them with a petroleum jelly product like Bag Balm, found at the Snohomish and Monroe Co-Op.
If you need to add supplemental light to keep your hens laying all winter long, get a string of white LEDs. Use white light, rather than heat, to increase the hours of daylight for your hens. They need about 12 to 14 hours of daylight to stimulate egg production.
Ideally, coops should have ventilation on the north and south sides. To protect your hens from chilly drafts, you can cover up the north side vent. This way, stale air can still escape, but drafts don’t sweep through your coop. Straw can also be used to insulate your chicken coop. Pickup a couple straw bales from the Snohomish or Monroe Co-Op to use as walls, providing protection from wind and cold. Also, give your hens some extra thick bedding on the floor of their coop to keep out the ground chill.
When it snows, check on your chickens to make sure they have access to fresh, unfrozen water. Some chickens will venture out into the snow, others will not. Relocate water stations to places your chickens can get to. Use straw, or a snow shovel, to create paths through the snow for your chickens to reach food and water. Heated waterers and buckets will keep your birds’ water from freezing over. Here at the Snohomish and Monroe Co-Op we have quite a few options to provide your birds access to water, even in the coldest weather.
Some chicken keepers like to switch to a higher-protein ration for the wintertime. Because chickens aren’t able to find protein-packed insects they would when foraging during warmer days, a little boost of protein in their feed can help your birds thrive throughout the cold season. The Snohomish and Monroe Co-Ops have several options for a protein boost. We have chick grower available all year long. If you prefer a pelletized feed, you can use an all-purpose poultry feed or fryer ration for a higher protein content. Another option would be to supplement your chickens with Scratch and Peck Grubs, or mealworms. Scratch and Peck even has a frequent buyer program for their bags of grubs: buys six bags, and get one free.
Your hens will also benefit from an extra bit of fat to help them get through the cold winter. Bring home a bag of scratch with corn or sunflower seeds to give your chickens a tasty snack before bed. The extra fat will help keep them warm through the coldest of winter nights. Try Winner’s Scratch with corn and sunflower seeds, or CHS Payback’s Five Way Scratch with cracked corn, available at both our Snohomish and Monroe Locations.
Visit our friendly team here at the Snohomish and Monroe Co-Op. We’ll help you find just the right products to support your flock through the cold winter days. From heated waterers, to insulating straw, protein supplements, and yummy high-fat scratches, we have everything you need to keep your chickens healthy and happy in all seasons.