Chickens,  Pet Care

How To Prepare Backyard Chickens For Winter

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Keep in mind when taking care of animals, especially outdoor animals. Everything is circumstantial. I’m sharing what I do in Missouri winters with small breed chickens. Chickens generally handle cold pretty well, but some chicken breeds like silkies can be a littler more sensitive. However, if you’re in the Midwest and follow some of my tips, you and your backyard flock should make it through winter just fine.

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Backyard Chicken Water in The Winter

You should already, but if you don’t, keep your water outside of the coop. You don’t want extra moisture in your coop anyway, but especially not in winter. The moisture will make your chickens more susceptible to respiratory problems and the evaporation of the water will make the coop colder. Keeping their water in the run is recommended.

Water will freeze in the winter without preventable measures. The best way I have found is an electric water warmer. You run an extension cord and that’s about it. For safety make sure you use a cover like shown below. It protects where your extension cord meets your plug for the heater. Helping to seal out water. Water and electricity are not a good mixture. Also check your extension cords every so often to make sure squirrels or mice haven’t chewed on them.

If you don’t have electric by your coop there are some tricks I’ve heard of, but I’ve never tried. Like ping pong balls floating in the water or solar water warmers. For me having power available by the coop is the best. Lastly, I recommend securing how you will get water to the coop. Hoses freeze during the winter and its best to disconnect them and not leave them attached to the tap. You might need to figure the easiest way to carry your water from source to coop.

This is the water heater I currently use. Click image to get
This is the one I’m considering next year. Click image to beat me to it

Can’t go wrong with a 40ft cord. to hopefully get the power you need. Along with a cord protector to keep water out of where your extension cord meets water heater.

Feeding Chickens in The Winter

Again, I’ll say, don’t keep your feed in the coop. It will just make your coop messy and attract pest. Keep it outside in the run with the water. Make sure you have a good quality feed, I love Scratch and Peck. For winter your chickens might go through more feed, I would just make sure you have plenty available and don’t try to restrict them. Because they’re burning more calories keeping warm, extra fat and protein wont hurt. My chickens love scrambled eggs (the idea of this seems to traumatize my partner), but yes, they can eat their own eggs. I’ve also given them tuna, freeze dried bugs, or shared the beard dragon’s bugs.

Chicken Breakfast

How to Keep Your Back Yard Chickens Warm in The Winter?

Chickens don’t really need it warm as much as they just don’t need drafts. I usually insulated my coops with my fancy cardboard and old quilts. For around the doors I’ve used weather stripping. Just remember you still need ventilation. Ventilation seems to be a tricky topic. I’ve had good luck so far with a vent at the top on two opposite walls and the chicken door open. Again this is something you’ll have to navigate depending on your coop.

Highly suggest not using an electric coop warmer. It has been proven over and over again to be more harm than help. Heat lamps are well known to start coop fires and the temperature changes could make it harder for chickens to acclimate , but if you’re determined. I would get something like this below.

Click the image to have a look see

Keep in mind chickens will decrease laying in the winter. It’s due to less light. They’re are many sources that tell you how to provided artificial light to keep laying up. I personally wont do this. I think winter is hard enough. I would like them to follow the natural cycle.

Keeping The Chicken Coop Clean in the Winter

I do one final clean out before it gets too cold. Then I put a nice layer of pine shavings. I continue to stir and add through out winter. This is sometimes called a “deep litter method”. Having this thick layer can be added insulation to your floor and the decomposing can also keep things warmer. However, If you feel like its getting a bit wet or musty in there. I would go on the side of caution and do a clean out. Even if its in the middle of winter.

Click the image to get bedding

Preparing Backyard Chicken’s Run For Winter

This is my second year with chickens in this set up. What I learned last year is my hardware wired run can get a lot of snow in it. The chickens really didn’t appreciate it. I’ve also learned my chickens didn’t like to walk on snow. They were so unhappy that at zero degrees I was out there wrapping my coop in plastic for 4 hours. I wanted to avoid that this year. This year I tried to prepare before hand using plastic, shower curtain liners, and beading wire. I’ll share links to what I use and then a video of what exactly I did with it.

I believed I ordered 5 for my coop of these curtains

I used beading wire to sow the curtain to my hardware. I have not confirmed yet if it will rust and come off in the middle of winter. So, be warned. If you have some galvanized wire that is small enough to use it might work better.

When I do finally put down my curtains, I’ll give an update. I will also probably need to staple them at the bottom with a little strip of cardboard to stop the plastic from ripping with the wind. This is what I’ve come up with in my second year of this set up. I hope this can help other backyard chicken people. Go now, prepare for winter before it gets too bad because doing it in the cold is not fun. I may have another post about how I dressed that day and made it out there in zero degrees for 4 hours. I had a secret weapon. Until next time, take care of your kids, four legged and two.


It was pretty easy to get the currents tacked up. Still more staples then I would like. Will be looking for another solution. The thin wire didn’t break too much. If you’re going to do it, I would recommend a thicker wire. Here’s what it looked like.