It is wicked cold in central Massachusetts. We always have winter cold snaps, but this year it came a little earlier than usual. For those of us who live in the house the tiny temperatures have been an annoyance. Winter weather poses major challenges for our backyard flock, however. Thankfully, we planned ahead. In between drinking tea and eating soup Mr. Food It Yourself and I have been hard at work trying to keep our chickens cozy.
There plenty of on-line resources for coop winterizing. Here are three:
- The website Southern States has this guide.
- Agricultural retailer Tractor Supply offers these tips.
- Home and garden SuperBlog The Spruce has this useful article from contributor Lauren Arcuri.
As these, and other resources, note the key elements of cold weather survival for a coop are simple. Make sure your coop and all its accessories are in good condition before winter hits. Have a way to keep the birds’ water from freezing. Be prepared for the flock to eat more when it is cold.
We started planning for the harsh New England winters even before we bought our birds. The coop we purchased is made of double walled plastic with built-in vents. The girls can warm the box up just by cuddling together. We also scouted our property for an out-of-the-wind location where the coop could stay all winter. Being dry and out of the wind makes everyone feel better on a cold day, right?
It turns out the coop fits perfectly in-between our deck stairs and our garage. A plastic drape with a few strategic slits allows for ventilation and electric wires but blocks that arctic wind. The ground here is covered with cement pavers, so we draped scraps of indoor/outdoor carpet over them and topped with a generous amount of straw. No one wants to stand barefoot on concrete in sub-freezing temperatures, right?
We did add lights to the coop, and the girls seem to like it. We bought an inexpensive birdbath heater to keep their water trough liquid.
As a hobby yarn crafter as well as a garden enthusiast many of my friends have sent me links to patterns like this. I have asked them to stop. First, Mr. Food It Yourself and I have a rule about not dressing up out pets. More to the point, your chickens do not need sweaters. Birds keep warm by fluffing up their feathers. Look out the window and see how fat the house sparrows look when it snows. A sweater will keep your chicken’s feathers flat, making them less warm.
Taking care of your flock during weather extremes is important. Yes, it is a bit unpleasant refilling water dishes and food trays when it is 7˚F, but caring for any animal is a 365 day per year commitment. What do you to keep your non-human family members happy and healthy during extreme weather? Share in the comments!