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Winter Chicken Coop Preparation

Posted by Kathy Sproules, Thu, Mar 14, 2019

Fall is here, and that means the cold of winter is fast approaching and it is time to get our animals tucked in and situated. I am one of those people who can never get warm in the winter so I think all the animals are cold, too. So, what do we do for chickens?

You may need a little background first. We tend to overdo it around here. We have an 8'x8' coop that is eight feet tall with a human-size door and two insulated windows for light/ventilation. The walls have R13 insulation in them and the floor is made of eight inches of concrete (I told you we overdo it!). I really didn’t want any critters burrowing under the walls to get to my fat chickens. They have an 8'x12' run that is also surrounded by eight inches of 12"-wide concrete. The chicken entrance to the coop is an old doggy door frame with a slider to close it.

To winterize the coop for both the chickens and myself (mostly myself), this is what we do. First, we add sheets of solid foam insulation to the ceiling of the coop and secure them with a few scrap 2"x4" pieces. We just screw the 2"x4"s to the walls under the foam to hold it up and then unscrew them in the spring. 

For a little more insulation for the floor, I add extra bedding. I use medium horse shavings since we also have horses. I have been taking the old shavings from the coop and putting them in the walkways of my garden to recycle them. No waste around here!

I do use a heat lamp in the winter when it gets really cold. I know that there is some controversy around chicken coop heaters. They do pose a risk of coop fire, but around here it can get to subzero temperatures at times. (It can also be 60° Fahrenheit in December—Missouri is weird like that.) Part of my problem is that I do not have a water source close to the coop during the winter. In the summer, I just drag the hose from the garden across my tiny orchard to the coop. But in the winter, that hose is in the garage and I have to carry my water to the coop (my one design flaw!). I do not enjoy that chore, to say the least. The heat in the coop helps keep the water from freezing for both the chicken’s welfare and my comfort. There is nothing worse that spilling water on your pants when it is freezing outside with a brisk wind. Since the heat lamp keeps the water from freezing, I need to carry water only every other day or so. We secure two heat lamps from the ceiling and run a very long electrical cord from the barn. When I say secure, I mean secure. They are not near anything flammable to decrease any risk of fire. In the winter, when it is cold, I go out before bed and shut up the coop to keep the warmth in. That old doggy door works great for the chickens!

For people who are worried about their flock’s water freezing in the coop, I would recommend a heated chicken waterer. It will keep your birds’ water from freezing and is truly a must when caring for chickens in winter. Keeping chickens warm can be a tall task when the temperatures start dropping, but as long as the coop is warm and your heated poultry waterer is working, they should be okay!

I don’t know if the girls appreciate my efforts or not. I do know that when I look out on a cold winter’s night with snow on the ground and see the warm glow from the coop windows, I sleep a little better knowing that Gertrude, Mable, Rhoda, Ruby, Margaret, Matilda, Buffy, and Betty are warm, snug, and safe.

Kathy Sproules

Hello! My name is Kathy. I am a retired physician that now lives a much less stressful life on our 15 acre homestead just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. My husband and I share our life with horses, dogs, cats, chickens and bees. We have a large garden that provides lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. We get honey from our bees and our chickens provide us not only eggs, but hours upon hours of entertainment as well. It all makes for a very peaceful life.

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