How to Winterize Your Coop

If you live in the north like me, the nights are getting chilly, the leaves are changing and there has even been some frost on the pumpkins in the mornings. All this means…winter is coming! Whether we want it to or not, it will soon be upon us. So instead of scrambling with frozen fingers when it’s really cold and snowy, prepare your coop now for a healthy flock through winter.

Check the health of your birds. Any health issues will be exacerbated by the cold weather. Treat any ailments, keep waterers and feeders topped off so their immune systems are at their peak.

Things to do:

Clean and disinfect feeders, waterers and perches
– Healthy birds require a clean environment. Wash away any microorganisms that have grown happy in the warm weather.
– Perches and laying boxes are often forgotten during cleaning. Birds spend a lot of time in these places and bacteria are plentiful! Don’t forget these spots.

Muck out and deep-bed your coop
– Remove the bedding you use in your coop and replace with a thick layer of pine shavings, sawdust or straw.
– Pile the bedding up against the walls or leave a few bales of straw in your coop so if you need to remove some bedding during the winter during cleaning, you don’t have to haul fresh bedding in.
– Piles of straw provide a warm place for chickens to cuddle through the coldest weather.
– Don’t forget to place straw or other bedding in the nesting boxes. Soft, dried grass makes a great (free!) nest that protects eggs from cracking.

Feed and supplement your birds correctly
– Chickens need a source of calcium all year, so don’t neglect providing oyster shells in winter.
– To stimulate the scratching instinct and keep birds entertained, provide scratch grains periodically.
– To beat boredom, consider adding a Scratch Block to the coop for a healthy distraction!

Check for drafts
– Drafts can cause respiratory problems and sickness in your flock.
– Check for drafts where your chickens roost and spend most of their time when in the coop.
– Make any repairs to your chickens’ house while the weather is still fair.

Set up any heat lamps and water heaters
–  Develop a plan so your chickens have access to fresh, unfrozen water 24 hours a day.
– Frozen water isn’t any fun. Set up your heating devices early so you’re prepared and safe.
– If you use a heat lamp, make sure you have a spare bulb on hand.

Hopefully this got you thinking and adding to your winter-prep to-do list. I know I have a big list for my husband and I to work on in the coming weeks!

15 thoughts on “How to Winterize Your Coop

  1. I have ha chickens for 2 years now and i have not found anything that tells me the proper temperature for my coop in the winter. It will be about 7 below tonight and windchill of 20 below. My coop is staying about 45 inside is this good enought?

    • Yes, chickens, when kept out of the wind and precipitation, are typically fine down to tempratures of zero in the coop. Great question!

    • Hi Dale! A 60-100 watt bulb works well. Be sure to have an extra on hand in case the first one burns out. Chicks don’t do well when they get cold!

      Check out this post for more info:

      Enjoy your chicks!

  2. I really get a lot out of each of your newsletters. I almost deleted the first one I got; not realizing that it was something that was of great interest to me. I LOVE getting your emails. THANK YOU!

    • Hi Debby, your understanding is correct. You have to have ventilation, but should not have drafts. Air flow at the top of the coop is one thing, but breeze or winds blowing directly on the birds is another.

  3. I have been raising birds now for four years. I have done a lot of research on this very subject. Everything that i have found, and that I practice myself is keeping my coop well ventilated so moister can build up an cause frostbite on my birds. Also do not heat my coop unless it’s going to get down to 15 to 20 below at night, and even then i only use a 250watt heat lamp just above the roost. this is because if the power were to go out the birds can’t acclimate fast enough and die. I have very good results with this system and believe me its gets very cold here. However i raise birds that are suited more for our climate.

  4. My chickens (had 6) knocked down the heat lamp in their coop last February. It started a smoldering fire that burned through the floor and wall where it lay. By the time I discovered it when I got home from work and was on my way to do chores, 1 chicken was already dead, a 2nd died within 10 minutes, a 3rd I put out of her misery as she was struggling to breathe and a 4th died a few days later from pneumonia (I suspect). It was heartbreaking and totally my fault for not making sure the lamp was securely fixed. I would use one again but with much more precautions taken. Wondering if anyone has tried using ceramic or radiant heat type units.

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