We have had our chickens for a few years now and they have done well during the colder months. This year the temperature is going to be colder than normal so I make sure to protect my girls. Here is a list of 10 things that we implement during the colder weather.
1. We keep a heat lamp on during the day in the run so they have a place to get some warmth if they want. We time it to go on at dawn and to go off a bit before dusk so they can acclimate to the temperature and go roost in their coop. We made sure to measure the temperature to keep it several degrees above the outside temperature. This is because you do not want to make it toasty as chickens will not do well with a sudden drop in temperature like you would get with a power outage or turning off the light. We have a spot under the coop where the light sits up a couple feet. We monitor the temperature to be sure it does not get too warm. That area is also surrounded with plastic sheeting to keep out drafts. Our coop is also draft proof and we keep it quite full of pine shavings so at the end of the day they do not mind going in to roost.
2. We use deep liter method which provides additional heat. Deep liter method is where you keep adding layers of pine shavings (in our case) on top of the old ones creating a deep base. By the end of January, the base is well over a foot deep.
3. We keep a regular watt bulb in the coop for added heat when the coop is closed up and girls are inside for the night. We typically leave this on for 14 hours a day when temperature is below 10. We do not keep it on all night as that potentially stresses them out.
4. Chickens have natural body temperature of approximately 106 degrees fahrenheit and actually prefer cold to warm, however, when the temps dip into wind chills below 0, I make sure to keep a constant eye on them. Their waddles, crowns and legs/feet are most susceptible to the cold.
5. We cover the run with plastic sheeting to keep out wind, chills and drafts.
6. We close the coop door at night to provide added warmth.
7. Some people coat their crowns and waddles with Vaseline to protect from frost bite. I did this one time, however, feel that it is not necessary.
8. Have fresh water at all times; we use a heater base to keep the water from freezing. I know people who constantly change the water to keep it from freezing. You could also put on a heat lamp over the water to keep it thawed or even a heater you would use in an aquarium.
9. Feed them extra corn and scratch which helps them to build extra fat/layer for warmth.
10. Finally, be sure to check often for eggs as they will freeze quite easily if left out in the cold.