Raising chickens doesn’t take much. Just provide food, shelter, and water. Keep their coop clean and keep predators away. With those basic elements your hens should stay happy, healthy, and provide you fresh eggs. Raising chickens through the winter does provide additional challenges. We live in the north where the days are short and the temperatures are cold. Chickens need a few extra elements to survive and to continue laying eggs through these winter months.
Being prepared for what you need will make a smoother transition into winter for you and your chickens.
Sometimes we run into a few additional challenges…like these baby chicks! They were hatched at the end of October. Not an ideal time for new chicks here. The temperatures can be too cold. The mama hen keeps them warm, but we also supplied them with a heat lamp for additional heat for the first three weeks. When we first started raising chickens, we used a heat lamp in the coop all winter long. We don’t use a heat lamp any longer. Chickens can keep themselves warm, as long as they are dry. We have an area for them to roam around in a covered area and an open yard. If they choose to go out into the open yard, that is okay. You just want a place for them to get out of the weather when they need to. We also allow plenty of fresh air into our coop. You don’t want your hens to become damp from condensation built up in the coop.
Hens may also need additional light in order to keep laying. We start turning a 40 watt bulb on in the coop at the end of August. Our days get really short here and I rely on egg production all winter long. The light can be hooked up to a timer allowing the light to come on in the early morning hours and then turning off during the daylight hours. Our hens do best when we provide them with 12-15 hours of daylight….including the supplemental lighting.
The most important element of raising chickens in any type of weather is providing fresh water at all times. This can become difficult in the winter if you live in an area with temperatures below freezing. You have to find a way to ensure your water won’t freeze. We have tried just about every method out there….heated dog water bowls, electric immersion heater, replacing water often so it doesn’t get a chance to freeze, and a heated base. Dog bowls work, but the water tends to become really messy and the bowls didn’t hold enough water for our large flock. Same thing with the immersion heater. Trying to replace the water before it froze was just crazy! What was I thinking? First, we work during the day and when the temps get below zero, it doesn’t take long for the water to freeze! We now only use an base heater. We use a double wall galvanized waterer. This sits on top of an electric heated base. We still run into challenges when our power goes out…but on those rare times, I just keep a steady supply of water coming and try to get to the coop before it manages to freeze.
We had a beautiful fall day after a couple of days of cold, pouring rain. The two pictures below show our chickens out enjoying the beautiful weather. In the fall I don’t worry too much about letting our chickens roam free range. We don’t have any garden left for them to destroy. You can read about my love/hate relationship with free range chickens.
We were out enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures and so were our chickens. They do love grazing, taking dust baths, and sitting in the sun.
To read more about chickens see The Good, The Bad and The Ugly