The Omlet Blog

Winter Chicken Keeping FAQs

Will my chickens get too cold over winter?

Chickens acclimate themselves very well to the cold weather – and actually fare better in the cold than they do in the heat! As long as they have an insulated coop like the Eglu Cube Chicken Coop to keep them snug, you won’t need to worry about them becoming too chilly over the winter. You might notice some behavioural differences in your chickens during the cold months, such as fluffing up their feathers or huddling together to share body heat and keep warm. Like many other species of birds, chickens also often adopt the ‘one leg’ look, tucking one of their limbs up into the warmth of their bellies. This reduces overall heat loss and stops feet and toes from freezing on the icy ground.

A boy sat in an Eglu chicken enclosure in the snow

Can chickens get frostbite?

While it’s unlikely that your chickens will become too cold when they’re kept in appropriate winter-weather housing, it’s possible for them to experience frostbite and hypothermia. These are usually the result of excess moisture in their coop as opposed to low temperatures. Make sure to opt for a coop with draft free ventilation to help with this. Breeds with large combs and wattles in particular are susceptible to frostbite on these sensitive body parts during winter. To combat this, you can gently apply Vaseline daily to their combs and wattles.

Do I need to insulate my chicken coop?

Well-insulated coops like the Eglus will keep your chickens warm in winter by capturing the heat from the chickens’ bodies within the interior walls, without allowing any cold air to pass through the exterior walls. They are also designed to let air flow through the coop to prevent a build up of moisture, without any chilly drafts. You can increase the level of protection against even the most extreme temperatures with Omlet’s line of insulating blankets and jackets. If you do not have a cosy Eglu, a wooden coop can be insulated with bubble-wrap, cardboard, or old rugs, carpet remnants, and blankets.

Should I heat my chicken coop?

Did you know that heating your coop can prevent your chickens wanting to go outside? If their coop is too warm, they will struggle to acclimate to the cold weather outside. By electing to stay in the balmy warmth that a heat fixture provides, chickens will be less likely to venture out into the fresh air for the exercise and entertainment they need to stay healthy and happy! Furthermore, your chickens also run the risk of going into shock at a sudden drop in temperature, which could occur should you encounter a power outage during a winter storm. Heat or brooder lamps and panels pose a significant fire hazard, and chickens can actually overheat in a well-insulated coop even during the cold weather. Any other heat sources such as electric heaters, gas-powered heaters, or open flames should never be used around chickens.

What should I feed my chickens in winter?

Over winter, it’s a good idea to continue to feed your chickens a diet of high-quality layer pellets to keep them healthy. They usually eat more during cold weather to fuel their metabolism and stay warm, so you’ll want to add in a little extra to their usual feed. Providing your chickens with additional vitamins and minerals will help to keep their immune systems up to scratch over the winter. Additionally, make sure to watch your chickens’ water. Be prepared to break the ice, and have some spare water dispensers ready in case things freeze up entirely. Some low-risk electrical devices to keep your chickens’ water thawed include: heated dog water bowls, heated bases for chicken waterers, or submersible bird bath or aquarium heaters. Be sure to verify the number of gallons your chickens’ water supply holds so you get the correct sized product.

Will my chickens become under the weather over winter?

Just like us, some chickens can feel under the weather after exposure to the cold. Look out for coughing, sneezing, lethargy, or other signs of illness in your chickens. For more advice on chicken ailments, you can read the Omlet guide on how to look after your chickens’ general health.

Hens on their Omlet perch protected from the elements in their Omlet run

Do chickens roost for longer in winter?

Chickens love to roost, and during winter, they’ll be doing a lot more of it. You’ll find that they huddle together into one feathery ball, which helps them to keep each other warm – especially at night. Roosting rungs or perches need to be wide enough so that they can cover their toes with their feathers. To prevent their feet from getting too cold on the frosty ground, you’ll need to give your chickens a place to perch in both their coop and their run. 

How can I keep my chickens entertained during winter?

Winter is the time of year when backyard chickens might need a little bit more entertainment. There are fewer bugs to chase around, less vegetation to nibble, and shorter days in the colder months. Fortunately, you keep your chickens happy with a few boredom busters such as peck toys, perches, chicken swings, and the Omlet Pole Tree. Alternatively, a pile of leaves or compost will provide your chickens with hours of fun and keep them occupied. Toss in some chicken treats for an enticing scavenger hunt they can scratch and peck around in. 

Will my hens still lay eggs in winter?

The time of year can actually have an impact on how many eggs your chickens are producing! This is due to a hen’s hormonal response to how much light they are exposed to. They’ll typically need between 12-14 hours of daylight each day to produce eggs, and 16 hours for optimum production. This phenomenon is actually nature’s way of telling a hen to rest! Shorter days means colder weather is coming, and egg production takes a large energy-toll on a hen – energy that is better spent keeping a hen warm during the winter. Therefore, for most breeds, hens will either stop or drastically reduce their egg production during the winter months, and will resume their regular laying schedules in the spring when the days grow longer once more. 

What about Avian Flu?

As of Monday 7th November 2022, the United Kingdom’s Chief Veterinary Officer has agreed to bring in new housing measures across the whole of England to minimise the risk of the avian influenza spreading amongst poultry and captive birds. Please refer to our regularly reviewed Everything You Need To Know About Avian Flu blog for further information on restrictions and the latest guidelines.

This entry was posted in Chickens

2 replies on “Winter Chicken Keeping FAQs”

Amanda kelly says:

Should my 5 large hens have a perch in their Eglu Mark 1? And if so, where & what do you erect it to?? They have a perch in their run.

olga johnson says:

thanks this is good advice and explains why our chickens huddle together in their insulated hut. the hut was previously one of our cattery units and they seem comfortable. we added another chicken last year when we recued a fighting cockerel who was in very bad condition. He has fitted in really well and gets on with the other cockerel ( sussex white) it’s great to see them.

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