Winter Heat for Chickens

Snow does not stop chickens.

Snow does not stop chickens.

Yesterday we were under winter storm warnings around here, and tonight we have our first windchill warning.    This is the time many folks worry about their new flock of chickens and winter temperatures.    Chickens are like other livestock, given proper shelter, water and food they will do just fine.

I am not an advocate of supplemental heating for your chickens.   My reasons are as follows:

  • They don’t need it.   Like other animals they will acclimate if you allow them to do so.
  • Chickens don’t need or behave best if they have 24 hours of light.
  • Fire!  Especially heat lamps.
  • Why waste money?   A small light doesn’t cost much, but every penny counts.
  • If you have a proper size coop for your flock it will be warm enough.   In places where you get a bitter cold winter some insulation may be in order as well.  It is important that any drafty cracks and corners be taken care of too.

I keep their feeders full of layer pellets.    I supplement them with produce scraps, because they are use to free range the rest of the year.

I do use heated water dishes because all animals need access to lots of fresh water.  It makes it easier for me to keep drinkable water available to them.   Before I used a heated dish, it took many visits to the coop with hot water and a hammer.

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7 comments on “Winter Heat for Chickens

  1. I was going to ask what kind of chicken was in the picture but I read back. She is beautiful! I am thinking that would be a good breed for our Minnesota climate and it just might be my next girl.

  2. Good winter information. We have hard winters but are aiming to let our birds do their natural thing as much as possible, like you said. And hoping to breed birds that do well in this climate without intervention as well.
    Is that a buff brahma? I guess somehow I missed along the way that you had brahmas. Have you had them a long time? How do you like them? We got some to add to our breeding stock for their many cold hardy attributes. Do you find they are more cold hardy than others?

    • I have almost always had Brahmas since the beginning. We love the Brahmas especially the buff. We find the buff friendlier, molt less, and lay better than other colors we have had. The infamous they say not to have feathered feet in snowy environments like we have here in Montana, but I have never had problem with snow or mud when the ground thaws out.

      I love them because they have a cushion comb…no frostbite. I also find their undercoat of feathers is very thick and almost downy. My Brahmas are almost out every day no matter the weather at least part of the day foraging and seeing what they can find.

      Full size buff seem to be one of the harder ones to find at the local feed store and so we generally get them when we order direct from the hatchery.

      If you have some in your flock I am anxious to hear how they do as you work toward a flock that does well in “true winter” weather.

      • We have one buff pullet, one dark roo, and five dark pullets. They are all about 20 weeks old now. The buff is showing signs of possibly laying soon. Thus far we are very happy with the buff pullet and the dark roo. They are both very friendly and conformationally what we are aiming for. The dark pullets are a bit stand-off-ish. One is downright aggressive and has started biting. She is likely not going to last through November if this continues. With kids interacting with the animals daily we don’t put up with aggression in our birds. I hope at least a couple of the darks warm up to us. As far as looks they are by far my favorite breed and I was very excited when we got them. Hoping they work out well.

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