If autumn comes can winter be far away?
It’s a little hard to think about chickens in winter since it’s just the end of August now, but there’s a lot of cold weather considerations you need to keep in mind for backyard poultry.
The first thing you should probably do is realizing that livestock gradually adapts to increasingly cold conditions over the course of the fall. So you don’t have to keep them warm like you would in your house. Remember that they will develop more feathers and keep warm themselves. Choose breeds that are more cold-tolerant and make sure you collect eggs relatively frequently, probably two or three times a day, to avoid having a lot of different eggs freeze.
The second thing is to consider light. Chickens are photoperiod and they need to be exposed to 14 up to 16 hours of light per day if you want them to lay throughout the winter. Technically, you should provide the equivalent of about a 25 watt bulb for every 40 square feet of coop. Don’t provide too much light otherwise it will cause too much stress. Supplemental heat is really beneficial. Heat lamps are cheap and widely available at farm stores. Make sure you get the porcelain ballasts that are rated for agricultural use. Additionally, for convenience, you can also get a thermostatically controlled outlet that turns those heat lamps on automatically at a specific temperature, for example, turn them on at 35 and off at 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many people ask if they need to insulate a coop. You can if you don’t have enough birds that the body heat continues to keep them warm in the coop and the supplemental lights don’t provide enough heat. However, be very aware that chickens will eat or peck away at foam insulation. So if you plan to use insulation, make sure you cover it up on the interior of the coop. Meanwhile you should take snow load into consideration if you are going to use lightweight materials for either your coop roof or for the net over your run. They have to be able to bear a couple hundred pounds of wet snow so keep that in mind as well.
Finally, maintaining an abundant supply of fresh water gets to be a kind of challenge in the winter. There’s a couple ways to get around this freezing of the water fountain problem. One is to have a thermostatically-controlled heated water fount. They’re easily available for under 40 dollars. They’ll automatically turn the heat on and keep the water thawed down to about zero degrees Fahrenheit. You can find either plastic or metal ones. There’s metal ones that sit on a metal base that keep the whole water fountain a little bit warmer. Alternatively, you can consider keeping your water inside the coop if it stays above freezing in there, but consider the mess that chickens may potentially make by getting their bedding materials and the floor of your coop wet. Fortunately, this horizontal chicken waterer mounted on any containers like bucket, pipe, bottles will never let leak happens let alone getting everything wet.