We prepare the car and the house for the coming winter season but we also need to get the chicken coop ready too. Luckily, chickens handle the cold better than we humans but they still need some protection. And don’t think that they don’t appreciate it, because they do, a well tended chicken will reward you by producing better year round.
“When you’ve finished cleaning – take a picture because it won’t look this great again until Spring!”
The first order of business is a good fall coop cleaning. Empty the nests and sweep or shovel out the coop. Don’t forget to compost all that great fertilizer and old hay. Grab the steel wool, a bucket (or the power washer) and the vinegar. Use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. Start from the top and work down cleaning all the surfaces as you go. If you want to whitewash, this is the time. When you’ve finished cleaning – take a picture because it won’t look this great again until Spring!
Coop Security/Insulation Check
As you clean look for holes, cracks or crevices where the winter winds can come blowing in. Fill those holes with caulking or cover them with a board. If your coop isn’t already insulated you might want to do that too. Just make sure that you don’t leave any of the insulation where the chickens can peck at it because they will eat it up and it’s definitely not good for them. If the coop is a dirt floor check for holes caused by predators or erosion along the outside walls and seal them up.
“DTE kills lice and other bugs, deter’s mice and the added bonus… it works as a dewormer if they eat it!”
There has to be a vent of some sort in order to keep the moisture/humidity down in the coop. This can be achieved by installing a roof vent, a side wall vent or leaving an opening in the winterizing material that you use.
Once you’ve finished the cleaning then sprinkle powdered lime and Diatomaceous Earth (DTE) throughout the coop. Powdered lime does wonders in reducing the “aroma” of coop. The DTE kills lice and other bugs, deter’s mice and the added bonus… it works as a dewormer if they eat it!
Now your ready to add new straw or, if you live in a humid climate, add wood shavings to help reduce the chance of frostbite, refill the waterers and throw the girls some scratch for their patience.
If your winterizing includes adding plastic or tarps be sure to use at least 3 mil thick to ensure that it’s strong enough to hold heat and to survive wind and ice.
Heating For Hens
It’s not time yet to heat the coop but it is time to start thinking about how you’re going to do that. Since chickens acclimate well to the cold, you don’t need to provide heat until the temps are down in 20’s. Two great ways to heat are with a 75 watt black incandescent light that is available at most animal supply stores and home improvement stores or an oil filled radiator heater. Unless you have a very large coop or sustained temperatures below -0 the black incandescent should be sufficient. If you want efficiency with your heating, install a dimmer switch for the incandescent bulb. If you use an oil filled radiator be sure to keep it away from the chickens with a cover over it that will allow proper functioning but will not allow the chickens to touch it.
Winter Water Works
Another area of major importance is how your chickens will have water during freezing weather. You might opt to do the ‘bucket carry’ method by carrying two buckets, one with fresh water and the second to pour the old water into. Adding a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar (ACV) to each gallon of water will keep the water from freezing a little longer. You can also install a watering system with a built in heater like the ones used for dogs and cats. Just be sure the wires are not exposed. If you have a water faucet spigot in the coop be sure it is well insulated.
There are some special precautions you can take if you live in really cold climates, areas that receive lots of snow or areas with brief deep freezes. Some of these include covering your chickens combs and waddles with an oily substance like petroleum jelly or vegetable oil. Keep walking paths shoveled for them so that they don’t get frostbite caused by walking in the deep snow.
See the above pictures of my “operation”. I have 42 layers and too many roosters right now. Plus I keep a dozen bantam/game hens and 7 guineas who are not housed in the “big house” as we call it. I live in central Texas so it’s still a little early for winterizing but I did do my fall cleaning this week and made out my “honey-do” list for the hubby.