The chilly nights are drawing in, the smell on bonfires are in the air, the mountains are an explosion of color and the leaves in my garden are beginning to fall. All this means one thing: it’s time to winterize the chicken coop.
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Winterizing the chicken coop for free is my most popular post on this blog. Last year in 2016, my husband had the genius idea of using cardboard and straw to insulate our hand built coop to keep the Cluckers warm.
We left the material in place over summer to help keep things cooler and now fall is back around I need to make some repairs to the insulation and let you know how it held up.
I made a video on YouTube showing the coop and how it looked:
It is important to note that we do not use heat lamps or external heating sources to keep the chickens warm. Using cardboard and straw as insulating materials is a fire risk on top of the straw and wood shavings already in the coop.
There are too many chicken coop fires caused by external heating of coops every year.
How To Winterize A Chicken Coop
Winterizing a chicken coop starts with a good cleaning. A thorough, deep cleaning of the coop will allow you to inspect the coop for wear and tear, predator damage and critters.
Whilst my chickens are free ranging, I dust the coop with diatomaceous earth to cut down on bugs and mites.
I like to use deep litter bedding with my chickens over winter and you can even use herbal bedding to help deter bugs from the coop naturally.
Photo Credit: Olivia Snow
Be sure to flip over the soiled wood shavings and add more material if necessary to help keep the moisture levels down from the chicken poop.
Caulk or seal windows if they are glass to reduce drafts in your coop. Drafts can be deadly to your chickens but it is important to maintain ventilation during winter. Check doors for drafts, curtains can help cut down drafts whilst maintaining ventilation.
2017 Improvements to Winterizing the Chicken Coop
On the whole, the insulation has held up for a year incredibly well. The coop remained cooler during the blistering hot summer and is keeping well during the first frosts.
The winter of 2016 was deep snow and a blizzard at 2 am on Christmas Day! I was up covering the run with a tarp just before the storm. It wasn’t pretty but it worked well!
It was cold winter but not unusually cold. In the coop the chickens huddled together in the corner by the large door, some roosting whilst others made a nest below. The chickens would sleep away from the nest box area which was not insulated and would get wet.
I found that during the day, snow melted and dripped through the gap for the opening hatch/roof to the nest box making an area wet. Along the gap by the hinges, a piece of rubber or thick plastic is needed to cover this gap and direct the water away.
I need to add a tarp to part of the run to reduce snow blowing into the run and coop through the door as well.
Winterizing The Coop With New Birds
We have a new set of birds now on the homestead for meat and to replace the layers who were not great producers and were eaten.
With winter rapidly on the way, the new chickens are still in quarantine and will remain in quarantine for another 3 weeks before they meet the existing flock and they are far too little to join the big girls.
You can meet them right here in the video below!
What do the new chickens have to do with winterizing the coop? Body heat. Too much space in the coop can keep your flock from getting warm. Chickens produce a lot of heat and moisture in a coop which is why they need good ventilation. The moisture can lead to frostbite and much worse.
The nest boxes might need insulating this year. We did not insulate them last year and depending on when we can get the clans of Cluckers introduced and living together, the nest boxes may need insulating to keep the 4 older birds warmer. A few minutes insulating the nest box area using the same cardboard and straw method should help keep the Cluckers warmer.
Insulating the Roof
Did your granny or parents ever tell you to put a hat on in winter to keep you warm? Just like the hat keeping your head warm, a well insulated coop keeps the heat in and the chickens warm.
You can see the straw stuffed in the top of the coop in the picture above. Straw is a great insulator, trapping air and kept the chickens warm in the dead of winter. In fact straw can even be used to build houses!
Foam packaging can also be used to insulate a coop or you can splash out for the building insulation in a roll, just don’t have it where the chickens can peck at it as fiberglass won’t do your chickens any good!
If you have a prefabricated chicken coop, you may not have a space between the roofing and the ceiling of the coop interior. Adding cardboard and straw to the ceiling can help insulate or you can layer the roof with duvets or blankets from the thrift store and cover with a waterproof covering.
If you have an Eglu coop, the plastic interior makes it tough to insulate from the inside but you can use bungees to strap blankets and tarp to the outside as insulating material.
Dealing with Pests
I have not had problems with mice or rats in the coop, even with using straw as insulation. You can prevent rodent issues by maintaining good hygiene practices like removing feeders at night, burying hardware cloth as a skirt attached to the run and setting up traps.
What if You Don’t Have Cardboard?
Plastic sheeting or a tarp over the coop will keep moisture out from snow and rain. Plastic sheeting will also keep moisture building up inside the coop too. Allow the coop to air out on dry days.
Photo Credit: Olivia Snow
Wool blankets, especially those olive green military blankets or 100 % wool sweaters can be attached on the inside or outside of the coop. 100 % wool maintains its insulative properties, even when wet.
Wrapping the chicken run with plastic sheeting or tarp will cut down the wind and the associated wind chill for your birds helping to keep them warm.
Adding curtains to the nest boxes can help keeping eggs from freezing and help keep your hens comfortable whilst they lay.
Thrift stores are a great place to pick up material to repurpose into curtains or insulation for your coop.
A small coop could be moved to a sheltered position such as a hoop house or a pop up carport placed over to cut the drafts and help keep the birds warmer. Be sure to remove snow if things are at risk of collapsing.
Other Ways To Help Keep Chickens Warm This Winter
It’s not only winterizing the chicken coop that will help keep your flock warm this winter. Providing them exercise and entertainment will help keep your backyard chickens healthy too and reduce the risk of cannibalism.
I found that ensuring that the chickens have lots of things to do in the run, also helps to keep them warmer. Leaves, straw and other deep litter materials in the run encourage the chickens to scratch whilst hanging vegetables will encourage them to peck and eat.
Logs and stumps are also a great additions to the run so that your birds can get off the cold ground. This will help keep your birds comfortable, as will shovelling snow from the run and covering the ground with straw.
A good nutritious scratch grain will give your birds something to look for through deep litter in the run whilst giving them exercise.
Find out more about keeping chickens healthy in winter in the video below or in my previous post.
What’s your favorite way of winterizing the chicken coop? Let me know in the comments below.
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