Winter proofing your coop-why and how

By chickenpooplady · Dec 27, 2012 · Updated Nov 15, 2013 · ·
  1. chickenpooplady
    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.

    Artificial Light
    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.



    Frozen Water
    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

    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.


    My coop

    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!

    Check out my other articles! -------> Here!

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    aplummer101, JeanetteDunn and VHoff like this.

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  1. VivianL
    I'm sorry.. it was me that misunderstood. I read it wrong. I read so fast that I thought you set the timer in a way that only gave them 4 hours of darkness. Doh! I see now that you're setting it to give them more time in the morning and then use the natural day light through the rest of the day. I have it a bit different. A little earlier than normal sunrise but not that much earlier and I take them longer in the night. :) Sorry about that
  2. pastryman
    'I set my timer to turn the light on at 3:00 am and to turn it off at 7:30 am'

    That cant be 4 hours of sleep VivianL. Then the sun would have to set around 11 pm. Or did I misunderstand something?
  3. VivianL
    Also .. another idea for defrosting water that is a bit safer than having any kind of bulb or heater that may come in contact with bedding... I was using a defroster designed to use under the metal 2-piece waterer. But what I found was it was getting too hot (even to the point of the water steaming... and it was not a manufacturer defect.. I bought several different ones and they all did the same). I had the unit raised up on bricks to keep it away from bedding but I still didn't feel comfortable. So looking at my bird baths gave me an idea. I keep defrosters in my birdbaths all winter and found one that works great. I looks like a stone and is fully submersible. I traded the normal 2 piece water can for my chickens with a large 2 gallon stainless steel giant dog water dish. The defroster works so well without overheating the water that even below 0 there is not even a skim of ice around the edges. Summer, I use the normal chicken waterer... but for winter use the open dish with defroster. I do keep the open dish up on blocks to prevent mess from getting in and for the last few years have had no issues.
      ShanasCastle and Ms Chicory like this.
  4. VivianL
    Have to comment about giving the birds only 4 hours of sleep. While longer day light hours do trigger them to lay (true of all birds) they also need regular sleep to be healthy and happy. It is stressful enough with the egg laying, don't add more stress by depriving them of sleep. My girls lay all winter long. Right now they are going through their moult so I don't force the light issue but as they come out of it I will use lights in the coop (I use rope lights to line the run and the interior of the coop). Every morning by 6:30am we are up and doing water changes for the girls so their light is turned on. It is left on until around 8pm. This imitates a normal non-winter day. On extremely cold nights (or when in a heavy moult and the temps are low) I do provide a heat lamp in their roost area. At times that may be on 24 hrs but does not seem to interrupt their sleep.
  5. Siliquini72
    Foam insulation on the inside or outside to keep things warm . Just worried they mite peck at it
  6. MamaDoodle
    Yup! I'm working on it right now, actually... I've got tarps around the coop, put in another layer of shavings and hay, and now I'm waiting on the pay check to cover the coop in a snow and rain proof cover. Fingers crossed I get enough! At least I have two lamps ready to go, a white light and a red heat light. Then moving on to help a neighbor with the same thing.
  8. PAchickenlover
    thank you for sharing! great job!
  9. Sally Sunshine
    Thank you for sharing!
  10. rmblrosechicken
    Thanks for the pic on frost bite. Most informative.
  11. chickenpooplady
  12. willowbranchfarm

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