Employ the deep litter method.,
Ensure your coop provides sufficient warmth and shelter.,
Consider the breed of the chickens you choose to raise.,
Protect and hydrate your chickens during cold weather.
The deep litter method is an alternative to cleaning your coop once a week, as you ought to do during the non-winter months. By allowing an accumulation of manure and bedding to begin to decompose, you provide a natural, healthy source of warmth radiating up from your coop’s floor. Instead of removing and replacing your bedding materials, simply turn over the soiled bedding and add a new layer of fresh bedding on top. The chicken poop will decompose beneath the fresh layer of bedding and emanate warmth into the coop.
Beneficial microbes that are inevitable products of composting even help control pathogens, making your chickens less vulnerable to disease and disallowing certain common parasites to grow.
In the spring, when you give the coop a seasonal cleaning, you wind up with a prime batch of compost ready to till into your garden.
, Ventilation, heating, and even the size of your roosting bars all impact the likelihood of your birds getting frostbite. The best way to prevent frostbite, actually, is ensuring that your chicken coop safely shelters your chickens.Ventilate properly. Make sure you have an effective ventilation system at the top of the coop. The primary purpose of ventilation during the winter is the release of moisture that would otherwise build up inside the coop, increasing the likelihood of frostbite and infection.
Don’t heat the coop artificially. Though this seems counterintuitive, heating actually increasing the chances of frostbite as heat increases the amount of moisture in the coop. Increase ventilation if you see condensation form within the coop.
Install a wide roosting bar. A roosting bar that is wide enough for your hens to perch with their bodies completely covering their feet will help prevent frostbitten feet. Try a standard 2×4 board.
, Different breeds of chickens are more hardy, and can better endure the cold. In particular, those with small combs are less likely to suffer from significant frostbite. Some chickens are actually quite resilient to cold weather.Select a breed with small combs. If you live at a Northern latitude, you’ll likely want to raise chickens with small combs. These include Easter Eggers, Buckeyes, Ameraucanas, and Wyandottes. Avoid breeds with especially large combs such as Andalusians and Leghorns. Note that roosters will likely be more vulnerable to frostbite, as their combs and wattles are often significantly larger than those of hens.
Choose a chicken breed known for cold-weather resilience. Birds with large body mass, from breeds that originated in Northern climates can better handle cold weather. These include birds from the four breeds recommended above, as well as Australorps, Bantam Brahmas, Barnevelders, Brahmas, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Delawares, Dominiques, Faverolles, Jersey Giants, Marans, New Hampshire Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Sussexes, and Welsummers.
, Applying a preventative coating to your birds’ exposed skin and making sure your chickens are able to stay dry can go a long way in keeping your birds healthy and frostbite-free during winter.
Apply a protective coating to wattles and combs. You have several options in terms of coating. Coconut oil, petroleum jelly, or Waxelene (an all natural alternative) are all solid options. Whatever you choose, apply the coating to your chickens after they’ve gone to roost for the evening. Clean any initial signs of dry, damaged skin. Whether a mild case of frostbite or simply a scratch, cleaning a chickens skin can prevent infection. A good cleaning product option is Vetericyn, which is safe to use on all animals. Vetericyn is non-toxic, steroid-free, antibiotic-free, and is free of alcohol. It is designed to clean scratches, skin rashes, cuts, and irritated skin, and more, making it an all-around animal skin care product.Hydrate the heck out of your chickens. Especially during the winter, make sure water is always available, but only use containers that won’t spill. Prevent freezing by opting for plastic instead of metal containers, placing the water where sun will hit it, and floating ping pong balls in the water.Considering adding electrolytes to your chickens’ water supply to ensure hydration. If you’re feeling especially team-oriented, add a shot of your Gatorade to their water supply.