If you have built a chicken coop recently or still looking for one coop to build, you should keep in mind, that when the warm weather disappears slowly, and the cold starts creeping in, it should not find you unprepared. While you need to protect yourself from the cold, you should remember to protect your chicken, too.
Some breeds are obviously tougher than the others, and they would demand fewer interventions. But there are basic things to protect the birds from the chilly weather. They include heat, adequate food, proper ventilation and insulation from cold.
These are the main tips that I follow when preparing the chicken coop for winter.
1. Make sure the coop is clean
Cleaning your coup is important. You don’t have to clean it now and then though. Personally, I clean the coup only 3 or 4 times in a year, and I find that to be adequate. Cleaning can take many forms, but I would recommend doing it the natural way. Here is how I usually do it.
• Remove everything including the roosting bar and the feeder.
• Sweep away all the poo and bedding from the floor using a shovel and a hand broom.
• Use a cleaner to sanitize the surfaces. Avoid harsh cleaners such as bleach. If you can’t get any, however, vinegar and water solution will do the trick.
• Wipe everything you removed from the coup.
• Lay some new pine shavings.
• Put everything back into the coop.
Cleaning the coop is something you can’t afford to skip. A clean coop will protect your chicken from potential pests such as red mite and diseases.
2. Keep the coop ventilated
Before I knew any better, I thought closing all the windows in the coop during winter would keep the chicken warm. However, it is the wrong way to do it. In fact, the opposite should happen. Chicken generate a lot of water vapor, which raises the humidity levels in the coop. Too much moisture will lead to respiratory diseases and frost bites.
You should ensure that the coop is well ventilated to allow proper airflow and more so during winter because the chicken will spend most of their time roosting. The ventilation used during winter should not cause drafts. Ensure that it is high enough to protect the birds from rain or snow.
3. Insulate to provide comfort for the chicken
Insulating the coop during winter helps to keep my birds warm. There are various options you can consider when protecting your chicken from the extreme cold during winter.
• Cardboard – I use the cardboard to line the inner surface of the coop. Cardboards are cheap and readily available.
• Inch Styrofoam – sticking the Styrofoam on the roof contains the hot air inside the coop. I make sure the chicken can’t reach it to prevent them from pecking.
• Towels and blankets – You can turn old blankets and towels into useful materials by using them to insulate the coop. I usually use them to supplement the cardboard.
• Bales of straw – I Pile the straw on the ground to a level of about 4 inches. The bales protect my birds from the cold ground and also absorb the droppings.
Insulating your coop should be an easy job. You can obtain all the materials listed above cheaply. You don’t need a big budget.
4. Use artificial heating methods
Not everybody agrees on using artificial sources to heat the coop. Some actually believe that feeding the birds should be enough. If you decide to heat the coop during winter, here are a few heating options to consider.
• Deep litter method – The system breaks down old bedding naturally, removes manure odors and releases heat in the process. The method is effective when done right and dangerous when wrongly done.
• Heat lamps – The light is fastened on a high place to prevent the chicken from knocking it over and starting a fire.
• Gas heater – Ensure to check the lines for leaks regularly. Natural gas will harm your adult hens and even kill the chicks.
• Wood stoves – I would not recommend them since they require constant attention. You will need to refill them every time.
High humidity is experienced during freezing weather. Heating enables you to control the temperature and humidity thus keeping your chicken comfortable and protecting them from diseases. However, artificial heating can trigger coop fires. It also has artificial lighting, which interferes with the chickens’ laying pattern.
5. Light the coop to promote productivity
The cold temperature affects egg production, but darkness is the main reason why laying of eggs declines. Light stimulates the glands that stimulate a chicken’s ovary. Chickens should get 15 hours of light in a day for maximum productivity. Natural daylight could be less than hours during winter. You should, therefore, use additional light to optimize production.
I have always used incandescent bulbs. They are the most common in lighting coops. However, you can still use fluorescent bulbs. I recommend a 9-watt fluorescent bulb and 60-watt incandescent bulbs for every 200 square feet. Chicks need light 24 hours a day.
6. Check the roost
The roost is very important during winter. Chickens usually roost together to keep each other warm. The roost also protects them from the cold ground. Leave adequate space to accommodate all your chicken comfortably. Check regularly to ensure every chicken is on the roost. If you find some birds on the ground, space is not enough. Roosts should at least be two feet from the ground.
Winter will negatively affect your chicken if you fail to put measures in place to protect them from the extreme cold weather. It can reduce their productivity as Less natural daylight and the cold weather can lead to low egg production.
It can also bring diseases because high humidity is associated with respiratory diseases and frost bites. In extreme cases, it can even result in the death of your chicken. You should, therefore, prepare your chicken coop before every winter season to protect them from any harm.
This is a guest post from https://www.howtoplans.org/