My grandparents in Southern WI live across the road from an old farmer named Jim. He's raised chickens, geese, turkeys, goats, cows, etc., for over 50 years. Jim's as down to earth as they come, but he does love his animals, especially chickens. His current flock consists mostly of strays and rescue chickens; birds he keeps as pets now that he's retired and no longer raises livestock for income. I was visiting grandma and grandpa this weekend and made my way over to ask Jim how he cares for his chickens during the cold months. We talked all morning over a pot of coffee, and Jim was gracious to answer my many questions. I thought I'd pass his tips on to everyone here, as I know that cold-weather flock maintenance is a popular topic on BYC. What he had to say both confirms and contradicts posts I've read, but I think we at least have to at acknowledge the wisdom he's gained through experience. So here are farmer Jim's cold-weather chicken care tips: 1. Don't heat you coop! I know this is a hotly debated topic on BYC, but Jim matter-of-factly states that this will keep birds from acclimating to the cold. He doesn't understand why people insist on heating an animal that's naturally insulated. "Just like any other bird in the cold," he says, "a chicken stays warm by fluffing up it's feathers and covering it's head with it's wing; if you keep it artificially warm it wont feather out and can't do this." 2. A broomstick isn't a roost. Jim's chickens roost on old barn slats, and he wouldn't use anything narrower than the broad side of a 2x4. He says chickens need a flat surface to roost on or they can't cover their legs and feet to protect them from the cold. 3. Send them to bed with a crop full of scratch. Jim feeds his flock corn at sundown to fuel their metabolism over night. He says this is better than any heat lamp. 4. Make sure they have grit. Jim reminded me that chickens need grit provided for them when snow is covering the ground, especially if supplementing their store-bought feed with grain and table scraps. 5. Predator proof the coop. "Critters are scarce in the winter, so everyone's eyeing up your fat little chickens." 6. Eyes on the sky! Jim lets his girls free range on a limited basis during the winter, but keeps a keen eye out for hawks since there's no foliage cover. 7. Give them something to do. Because they have to spend more time in the coop when it's cold, Jim likes to keep his chickens busy. Otherwise, he says, they go crazy with boredom and peck at each other. He covers the run floor with leaves in the fall so they have something to scratch around in throughout the winter (his run is covered so it stays relatively free of snow), and he even hangs cabbages from the rafters for them to peck at. 8. Limit hen-house humidity. Jim's hen-house is practically open air, there's so much ventilation. Along with gable vents that never close, Jim keeps the windows open until it gets in to the single digits. He also believes that good air exchange is the best way to keep disease and infection from spreading within the flock. However, he qualified this by pointing out that chickens need a draft free place to roost at night, or the wind will blow away the warm air they have trapped beneath their feathers. 9. Give them pepper to keep their blood flowing. Believe it or not, Jim actually feeds his chickens peppercorns in the winter. He says it's good for their circulation. 10. Insulate? His hen-house isn't insulated, and when I asked him why, he said it had never occurred to him to do so. We talked about some other stuff, but these are the points that stick out to me. I've been visiting Jim and his animals since I was a kid, but this is the first time we've ever really had a conversation. Hope you found some of his insights useful as I did!