As winter approaches, it is important to keep your chickens protected against the elements. Cold temperatures, wind, snow, and ice can all be detrimental to the health and production of your flock.
While our brown egg layers are hardy and can withstand cold Northeastern winters, you still want to take special precaution to ensure your flock is kept safe throughout the winter months.
Shorter days and limited sunlight will affect your egg production. By adding artificial lighting in the coop, you can encourage your egg layers to keep up production in the winter. Hens in production should ideally receive 17 hours of light per day. Whether your hens are only receiving natural daylight or are on a lighting program of less than 17 hours per day, you can follow this process to get to the optimum lighting level:
- Begin by adding 30 minutes of light weekly until you reach 16 hours per day.
- When 16 hours of light is reached, add 15 minutes weekly for 4 weeks until the optimum 17 hours is reached.
- To relieve the burden of manually turning lights on and off we recommend having your hen house light on a timer.
Heating vs. Insulation
Some farmers prefer adding a heat source – like a heat lamp – to the coop to keep the hens warm during winter. While this can be a simple solution, you heighten the risk of fire in this small, confined space.
Instead, we recommend insulating and closing the coop during winter nights. Don’t completely seal off the coop; make sure there is enough ventilation but without it being drafty. This will protect them from the bitter cold winds, but without the additional risk of fire from a heating source.
Right Type of Roost
If you have a metal roost, consider adding wide wooden perches to your coop. This will help your chickens tuck their feet in when they sleep, instead of resting on the icy metal.
Like most humans, chickens do not enjoy walking barefoot in the snow. By shoveling the snow out of their pen and providing a snack outside, you can encourage your chickens to get some fresh air and room to scratch outside of the coop.
For more information on caring for your flock, read our Guide to Raising Day-Old Chicks.