Winter chicken care tips for backyard flocks

The winter weather has been brutal here on the chicken farm! It's been snowing almost every day and the cold...oh, the cold is unbearable. It's been in the teens most of December. This makes caring for your backyard flocks much more difficult then normal. In the winter you need to worry about frozen water, dropping temperatures, drafts, shoveling snow in the runs and yes...even winter molting!

Winter chicken care tips

Proper poultry nutrition is also a big problem since chickens need extra energy to keep warm. We also have to protect ourselves from the elements! Here are just a few of my winter care tips for your backyard flock:

Keeping chickens in winter

Winterize your coop


I'm going to send you to last winters posts for the first 2 tips. The first one is insulating the coop permanently. We used rolls of insulation in our largest Guinea coop. It was simple to attach to the ceiling using a staple gun and really made a difference in the temperature and moisture level inside the coop.

The second tip is Blocking Winter Drafts temporarily in the coop. We used old towels and blankets to block drafts for the worst of the winter days. These are easily removed when the weather warms up.

Be careful with equipment

Snow shovels are more brittle in cold weather. Frozen buckets can break when dropped (see photo) or the water can expand downwards as it freezes, splitting the bottom of the bucket open. Water bowls can crack when the water expands as it freezes. Empty excess bowls and buckets, preferably washing and storing till warmer weather hits. 

winter chickens

Winterize your chickens

Feeding more carbohydrates

Feed like cracked corn, scratch, bread etc are full of carbohydrates. In the summer this should be limited, but an extra handful of corn thrown to the flock in the winter can help them warm themselves up. Lots of flock owners believe in adding corn to their chickens diets in the winter.....some disagree with this, as always do what's right for your flock. I make treats for my chickens and add extra corn in winter.

Winter Molting

Some chickens molt in winter. I have 2 Marans hens and 1 Silkie hen molting right now. I can't seem to convince them that it's the wrong season for it, so instead I've put saddles on them. Totally not the purpose of saddles, but I believe it adds a layer of warmth across their backs. Can't hurt right?

Comb care

A thin layer of Vaseline rubbed into combs and wattles can help prevent frostbite in the winter. Some chickens seem to love the extra attention too! If your chickens are getting frostbite, there's a chance that the cop has too much moisture in it. Consider replacing the bedding or moving the waterers outside the coop during the coldest months.

...and don't forget to:

Take care of yourself
Hats, glove, winter boots, heavy coats and even snow suit style coveralls go a long way towards keeping you comfortable while you take care of your flock. One of my favorite things is do is to put rubber gloves on top of a pair of knit gloves. This traps the heat in and keeps my hands from getting wet when I'm pulling ice chunks out of water bowls and cleaning snowy wet food out of feeders.

winter chicken gloves dry

These are just a few of the things that I do special for my flock in the winter. What do you do differently when it's cold out?


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  1. I give my girls a snack daily- rolled oats, an apple, a couple of slices of organic whole grain breads, baked squash skins. We use a heated dog water bowl for water. We added a sunroom made of mostly low cost recycled materials, warm and dry inside when it's snowing or raining. They love it in there! I covered the extra opening 80%, and we have a heat lamp we only use when it's below freezing. We use the deep litter method which adds a little heat. We may add some insulation under the eaves next spring...

    1. Sunroom? That sounds great! I would love to see pictures!
      I try the deep litter method every winter, but it never seems dry enough to me. Maybe I'm doing something wrong?
      Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Great advice for colder climates. Sounds like you have this down pat.

    Thank you for sharing your outdoor post on this week's Maple Hill Hop!

    1. took a couple years to learn, but I think we do ok in winter. I still prefer the warmer months though! Thanks for hosting the Maple Hill Hop every week!


  3. Great tips for those who get cold weather. It sounds like you really love your life with your flock!

    1. It does get really cold here! Having chickens is so much fun! I always wonder why I didn't do it sooner?

      Have a great week!