Can you keep chickens in winter… serious winter, like zone 3 winter, where temperatures drop to -40? Well you can, we do and many people around us do it too. So I asked local chicken keepers here in Alberta Canada how they keep chickens in this cold weather. Here are 4 winter chicken keepers sharing their experiences. Enjoy!
The acreage chicken keepers
These chickens are out in the field on an acreage. The cute chicken coop is an eye catcher, as is the rest of the property. The chickens are toasty warm out there, says the proud chicken mama. The snow and the straw are great insulators. They also have a Heat Lamp in the coup, they are spoiled princesses. The heat lamp truly is a risk as it is a fire hazard. They were starting to lay before she put in the light so it is hard to say if it is necessary or not. Even with the light though, they have had some frost bite! Winter is hard.
These were last summer’s chicks and started laying late November and still lay an egg a day for each of them even though it is winter. The chicks stay in the coup unless it is above freezing, as they aren’t crazy about getting their feet in the snow. Otherwise they are free range in the true sense of the word.
On very cold days the water in the coup freezes. To prevent this they build a Cookie Tin Water Heater to put the water on and it has helped tendentiously with the freezing. The chickens are eating a great deal of food as mature laying birds needing to keep warm.
The high tech chicken keeper
These chickens are kept in a new *expanded* chicken condo in a nice barn shape with many windows. A Baseboard Heater keeps things about 10C. The tech chicken owner has built a temperature monitor, and web cam, so he can keep an eye on the chickens.
It’s very important to ventilate a coop correctly, says the experienced chicken keeper (about 1 square foot vent per 4 square feet). To keep things dry, air comes in between the windows, and -20C air coming in can freeze water on the floor. He has a heated water supply which keeps the ice off.
He also has a homemade feeder: it fits in through the window, and allows a whole bag of feed to be added, taking care of storage and also dispensing without allowing them to make a mess. Smart idea!
Right now, the 10 extremely ethically treated birds provide 6-8 eggs per day.
The urban chicken keeper
These chickens live in a former dog house in a small backyard in town. The house is not the only thing that comes from dogs, there is also a doghouse heating pad in there under a thick layer of sand (about 2 inch) and wood chips (about 4 inch). And outside in the run a Heated Pet Bowl keeps the water from freezing.
To get the chickens in and out of the coop house the creative owner built a windbreak along with a Rubber Splash Guard. He had to train his girls to go through it, but they learned. The food and water are placed under the raised sleeping area, this way the chickens always get some fresh air.
The hens are healthy and happy, but have not laid eggs during the cold months, which may or may not have to do with the cold.
The homestead chicken keepers
Our chickens are spoiled rotten. Yes, that is right. They have no idea how cold it actually is. They have their luxury residence in the garage – greenhouse. Because of that we have none of the problems winter chicken keepers in serious winter conditions have. It is bright, airy, and considerably warm in there. The deep litter bedding adds to the comfort. The garage – greenhouse is well insulated, it stays above freezing most of the time. We do not heat the building much, just to keep it above freezing. Only on very cold mornings the water in the Poultry Drinker will have some ice. The many double glass insulated windows let in enough light. Having chickens in an insulated building has proven to work great. The deep litter bedding does not smell and we have fresh eggs daily.
Hope this helps you to see that keeping chickens in serious winter conditions is possible in many different ways. And it is rewarding!