It is essential to keep chickens warm especially in cold weather. The provided shelter therefore needs to be solid and capable of staying dry and draft-free. The ground should be covered with a sizeable layer of shavings or straw to ensure that it is insulated. Any chicken wire or open windows should have a covering of heavy and clear plastic or Plexiglas for preventing drafts, but equally allowing the entry of light.
Maintaining the Chickens’ Warmth
The roost is essential for chickens to perch in and this should be raised from the ground and not made of plastic or metal, but wooden to keep their feet warm. In the case of adverse weather conditions such as those experienced in winter, the chickens should have a continuous supply of unfrozen water. A heater should preferably be immersed inside the water container or under it to ensure that the temperature is maintained above freezing point. An appropriate commercial broiler/layer feed should additionally provide the chickens with the required energy for maintaining the warmth of their bodies.
Consider the Chicken’s Comb
When the cold weather condition is at its most extreme, they huddle together then proceed to fluff their feathers out before tucking their heads beneath their wings. This is generally adequate even when the temperature in their coop is less than freezing. The rooster may however be disadvantaged in this case especially if its comb is large. Combs are susceptible to frostbite and the rooster has a likelihood of losing his and although this does not typically lead to future problems, it can be a painful ordeal. The affected area is also unsightly because there is a fraction of a comb that remains and this usually has a black outline. The most ideal way of handling this is only keeping roosters selected from breeds whose combs lie flat to their heads.
Regulate the Temperature
Putting chickens in a room that is heated can be quite hazardous due to the considerable contrast between the outside and inside temperatures. An additional adverse effect concerns bacteria which are normally kept controlled as a result of the cold. These bacteria are capable of flourishing in the moistened heat and can cause complications in the lungs of chickens. If the cold is extreme, a high temperature lamp may be improvised to ensure that the coop’s ambient temperature is nearer to freezing, but the coop should not be warmed up. Although there is a chicken breed that is specifically bred to lay in winter, it is common for most hens to stop or decrease their egg production during the winter season. In this kind of weather, the eggs have to be picked more frequently otherwise they may freeze and break.
Take Special Care with Chicks
Brooding chicks is however an exception to this because they require protection from every form of draft and the surrounding barrier should be solid. The heat lamp should be directly over the chicks and their behavior is enough to depict whether they are either too cold or too warm. When it is too cold, the chicks crowd together under the lamp, but when it is too warm they distance themselves from it. When the warmth is just appropriate, the chicks become randomly positioned in the brooder. It is imperative to have air-tight facilities when breeding baby chicks to ensure that heat is adequately maintained.
Insulating the Coop
Although free ranging of chickens is more beneficial than controlled housing, it generally results in their exposure to adverse weather conditions, which results in lower egg production. Insulating the ceiling and walls of the coop has the additional benefit of maintaining moderate temperatures in areas that experience extreme heat and cold weather conditions. In an instance where insulation proves to be too expensive, heavy cardboard can be nailed to the inside of the coop’s ceiling and walls. This provides additional warmth while equally protecting the chickens from drafts. Ample ventilation should be provided for the chickens to ensure their health is good and it also lowers the coop’s humidity. It is preferable for the coop to have an adjustable window that provides fresh air although care should be exercised to make certain that the coop does not get excessively drafty.
It is good to note that due to the high resilience of mature chickens, they are capable of favorably withstanding low temperatures. Chickens are actually more susceptible to extreme hot conditions than to cold, as long as there is a provision of basic shelter.