Winter is a worrisome time for any pet owner, but with pets like chickens that spend most of their time outdoors, it can become even more stressful. Chickens are hardy animals — one of the reasons that they are a favorite animal for small homesteads — but cold weather can reduce egg-laying at best and cause illness or death in your flock at worst.

A common remedy is to use heaters in a chicken coop to drive out the cold, but we feel that this is risky with all the hay and wood around, and it uses a large amount of fuel or electricity. But fear not, there are other simple solutions!

Short of sewing beanies and socks for your chickens, there are easy, low-cost solutions to keeping your chickens warm this winter. Check out our 10 favorite methods here!

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The 10 Tips to Keep Chickens Warm in Winter

1. Let them outside!

Brown chicken sitting in the snow
Image Credit: furbymama, Pixabay

When it’s cold out, it’s natural that your first instinct would be to get your precious flock inside as soon as possible. But can chickens stay outside in the winter?

While they should be brought inside during heavy snow and at night, letting them out during cold spells will keep them exercised and thus, help keep them warm. Chickens are hardy creatures that can handle a bit of a chill, and they’ll simply head back to their coop once they’ve had enough.

2. Use plenty of litter

The “deep litter method” is a commonly used method of not only properly and sustainably managing your chicken’s litter, but it also helps keep their coop warm via insulation. You simply keep adding to your chicken’s litter instead of removing it — just give it a light raking every day. This will gradually form a healthy compost layer where healthy microbes can flourish and generate heat. It will also help prevent mite infestations, create healthy compost for the beginning of summer, and create a great layer of insulation to keep your flock warm.

3. Feed them at night

Chicken eating at night inside coop
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Feeding your chickens at night, a few hours before bedtime, is a great method to keep them warm throughout the chilly night. Your chicken’s body will have to metabolize and digest the meal while they sleep, creating warmth through the resulting extra body heat.

4. Shovel away the snow

Chickens may be hardy, but like most birds, they do not enjoy walking in snow — they don’t have snow boots, after all! It’s important for your chickens to get out of their coop for exercise, so you’ll need to shovel an area for them to walk around and forage in comfortably.

5. Petroleum jelly

petroleum jelly
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One of the biggest risks of cold weather for chickens is frostbite. Their wattles and combs are highly sensitive and susceptible to frostbite when exposed to cold. To give them welcome protection, it’s common practice to smear petroleum jelly on their combs and wattles, keeping them safe from icy weather.

6. Make sure they can roost

Giving your chickens a comfortable place to roost is vital, and this is all the more important during winter. When chickens roost, they tend to cozy up to one another, which helps keep them warm and off the cold ground. Your roost should be at least 2 feet off the ground.

7. Insulation and ventilation

Chicken coop covered in plastic for added insulation
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While insulation from a thick layer of litter or hay bales or something similar is vital, ventilation is also important. While you don’t want any large holes that let cold drafts inside, reduced airflow will also be highly detrimental to your flock. Make sure there are vents near the roof of your coop where the cold air won’t sink onto your chickens. Also ensure that the vents are small enough so the chickens don’t get too cold but large enough to allow airflow in the coop, preventing ammonia build-up and mold.

8. Hang cabbage heads

Chickens love to peck at green vegetables, and fresh cabbage is a firm favorite! It’s a great idea to hang a fresh cabbage in your chicken coop where your chickens can reach it. This gives them a tasty, healthy snack while giving them exercise that will help warm their core body temperatures.

9. Add lighting

It’s believed among chicken owners that adding a light to your chicken coop can help increase egg production, but a light can also provide much-needed heat on cold winter nights. A small incandescent bulb doesn’t use much electricity, is far less of a fire hazard than heaters, and can potentially warm your coop by several degrees depending on the size. LEDs are more power-efficient but won’t work properly because they produce little heat.

group of white chickens sitting on the roost in the chicken coop
Image Credit: Kuznetsov Alexey, Shutterstock

10. Let the sunshine into their coop

Creating a small sunroom for your chickens with transparent plastic roofing is a great way to keep them warm and exercised if it’s too cold for them outside. They can get plenty of sun, space, and fresh air without needing you to shovel snow, and they’ll be protected from wind, rain, and cold. Plus, if the sunroom is connected to your coop, it will help warm the coop well into the night too.

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Final Thoughts

You don’t need to dress your chickens in winter coats and beanies to keep them warm this winter! There are many proven ways to keep your flock warm that are cheap, easy, and effective.

Featured Image Credit: furbymama, Pixabay