Caring for Your Chickens in Cold Weather

The massive dumping of snow and sub-zero temperatures that we have already experienced in December tell us that winter is here to stay for a while. It’s a good thing we have our warm homes to stay out of the elements. Your chickens need a warm place to stay as well. While the typical chicken has more than 8,000 feathers, sharp winds can ruffle the feathers and make the skin feel chilled. When that happens, your chickens will not be able to stay warm by trapping air under the down and fluffing up. 

Considerations for Winter Shelter 
Unless we have an extreme winter in 2017, your chickens don’t need to live in an insulated house. However, they do need shelter that is draft-free and out of the wind. Keep in mind that shelter shouldn’t be all damp. Manure contains large amounts of water that can create unhealthy air when the coop is closed in the winter. Good ventilation is essential, so be certain to install vents high on the roof. Shoveling the coop weekly and placing fresh pine shavings ensures that your chickens remain as comfortable as possible. 

You may want to avoid putting in a heat lamp because it’s not good for your chickens to go from one temperature extreme to another. With a heat lamp present, they tend to huddle near it for warmth and then get very cold when they move away from it to roost or eat. Try to keep the coop as sunny and bright as you can. Your chickens will naturally huddle up together to stay warm at night. We recommend keeping the coop closed and heated from a source other than a heat lamp. 

Keep Your Chickens High and Dry 
Since chickens’ feathers don’t shed water, it’s important that you keep them dry during the winter. They can perish from getting too wet or damp or standing in mud. If your chicken has a big comb, it increases the risk of frostbite. You can prevent this by applying Vaseline when you know the temperature is going to drop significantly. Should your run get muddy, dump a few bags of coarse sand over it. Providing your chickens with small logs to stand on is another way to ensure they remain dry. 

Chickens don’t like walking on snow or ice due to their bare, scaly feet. Be sure to clear an area for them in their run if the snow or ice gets too deep. Lastly, make sure your chickens have access to clean, fresh water this winter. If you don’t want to run the risk of the water freezing, you may want to invest in a base heater for the waterer. 

Please contact us at Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo if you have additional questions about chicken care during the winter. 

After-Hours Emergencies

After Hours Veterinary Care
1014 Dale Street North
St. Paul, MN 55117
(Inside Como Park Animal Hospital just north of downtown St. Paul)
24-hour care for multiple species
651-487-1941

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of MN
1163 Helmo Avenue N
Oakdale, MN 55128
651-501-3766

 

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of MN
1542 7th St. W.
St. Paul, MN 55012
(located 2 blocks east of 35E)
651-293-1800