Winter Proofing Your Coop - Why and How
Winter is a beautiful season. Ice decorates the trees and snow covers the ground. However, if you are not prepared for the wet, cold weather, it can be very stressful for your flock. If there is not enough ventilation in the coop or if it is too damp they could get frostbite on their combs and wattles. An unknown draft in the coop can also lead to frostbite. This can cause so much stress in chickens that it is common for a hen to stop laying for a few weeks.
Picture by PAchickenlover
Here are a few things you can do to keep your flock warm and healthy without having to insulate.
During the winter a hen's "egg cycle" ends. She will take a break from laying and begin to molt. In order to lay, a hen needs 16 hours of light a day. When the days begin to get shorter they do not get this amount of natural light.
If you want your hens to continue to lay during the winter, you must give them artificial light. You can provide artificial light by putting a heat lamp in your coop. Replace the heat bulb with a regular light bulb. Then set the heat lamp on a timer so that they get the right amount of light each day. I set my timer to turn the light on at 3:00 am and to turn it off at 7:30 am.
If you live where the temperature drops below freezing in the winter you are most likely going to have to chip frozen water every morning. There is an easy and inexpensive way to solve this problem. You probably have a Christmas cookie tin and an old lamp lying around somewhere. Using these two items you can build a water heater.
Cookie tin water heater
For information on how to build a cookie tin water heater visit http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/11/make-cookie-tin-waterer-heater-under-10.html
I found this website and I made one for myself. They work great.
Bedding is very important in the winter. It eliminates odor and keeps the coop warm and dry. Pine shavings are the most common bedding used, but it is not the warmest. Straw or hay provides more warmth then shavings. And a bail of straw is the same price as a bag of pine shavings. When spreading out the straw in the coop make sure you put extra under the roosts to keep the smell down. My girls love scratching around in the straw.
One of the girls enjoying the fresh straw
Even though tarps don't seem like a big deal, they are important tools to keep your coop warm and cozy. Your coop may have drafts that you don’t even know about. Tarps are sold in many different sizes, so don’t be worried if you have a large coop. Simply, cover the entire coop with the tarp. It can be held down with staples, nails, screws, or zip ties depending on how windy it is where you live. The run does not need to be covered as long as the flock has somewhere to take shelter when the weather gets bad.
I covered my coop with a brown tarp and put plenty of straw inside. However, I did not cover the run so that the girls could go out and get some sunlight if they wanted to. I did not use any insulation and my girls are warm and happy.
Good luck and stay warm!
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