There’s a little extra upkeep when taking care of chickens in the winter. However, here is why we don’t heat our chicken coop in the winter.
We’re going on four years of having backyard chickens, and we’re still really enjoying them. They’ve become our pets, really, each one with a little personality of their own, and like any pet, they’re always happy to see you.
Initially, we started with 10 chickens, but then with each springtime that rolls around, another six or so come home, leaving us no other choice than to upgrade to a larger coop. We built our coop two years ago, and we have 28 chickens currently. It’s 8’x12′ and just the right size for this many chickens, though we’ll see what this spring brings…
Year round, the daily routine is the same with their care. Each morning, we “open for business” as we like to call it, where their little door to the run is opened for the day. Fresh water is filled in their containers and the feed is replenished. And of course, we start checking for fresh eggs. Every night, the chickens put themselves to bed, and we go ahead and close up shop until tomorrow.
When wintertime rolls around, we start to stock up on feed, grains and hay so we can be prepared and have these things on hand. These things are essential for chickens in the wintertime. Living in the Northeast, winters can be brutal and being prepared is paramount. Good chicken feed, along with keeping a flock block in their coop for them to peck at as they need is always a good idea. Having said that, we don’t add a heat lamp or extra heat source to our chicken coop.
Why We Don’t Heat Our Coop In the Winter
For starters, chickens body temperatures range between 105 to 107°F. Smaller breeds have higher body temperatures than larger. Chickens are quite hardy and can tolerate temperatures below freezing. Although these temps aren’t ideal (ideal would be between 70-75°), they can handle the cold. Keeping fresh, dry hay in the coop is essential for heat and to soak up moisture that can be harmful during the winter months. Cleaning out the coop is far from a fun job, but it’s gotta be done.
There are a couple reasons why we don’t add a heat lamp in the coop during the cold months. For starters, the chickens don’t need it. They’re just fine with the clean hay, and with their higher body temperatures, they adapt quite fine. Second, on the off chance of a power outage, if the chickens are used to having that heat lamp going, it could really shock their system when the light goes out.
Which brings me to the main reason why we don’t heat our coop in the winter.
It comes down to the egg production and their health. Chickens need their energy and resources to recover from growing their new feathers and to keep warm. A chicken depends on daylight for egg production and with winter’s shorter days, naturally the number of fresh eggs daily, drops. With a heat lamp inside the coop, it would be forcing the chickens to lay and it wouldn’t give their bodies a break, making them prone to reproductive issues and could also lead to various types of ovarian cancer.
Let’s be honest, the primary purpose of having backyard chickens is for their eggs. Sure, they are pets, essentially, but I’m hard pressed to think that anyone would keep chickens without their fresh eggs in mind. It’s essential to give their bodies an egg-laying break in the winter. Once the days get longer, egg production will go up.
Chickens are hardy, and with their body heat being high, they adapt to cold temperatures just fine. And like I mentioned earlier, by changing out their hay weekly, keeping it warm and dry, they stay quite content. Do make sure though, that the drafts are at a minimum by closing their door at night, to keep the “heat” in the coop.
Want to read more about keeping chickens? I learned most everything from this gal.
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