What Does a Chicken Coop Need for Fall?

How to Get Your Chicken Coop Ready for Fall and Winter

what-does-a-chicken-coop-need-for-fall

Fall is the perfect time to answer the question: What does a chicken coop need for the cold weather? Now is the time to start preparations before the weather turns bad. With the proper preparations, backyard chickens usually weather the winter quite well.

Helpful Nutrition for the Molt and Winter

Many people ask when do chickens molt? The answer is fall and this molt hopefully draws to an end before the winter cold temperatures arrive. Feeding your chickens healthy, high-protein and vitamin-packed treats during the molting time will help when getting ready for fall and winter.

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Many people ask: Can chickens eat pumpkins? You bet! Pumpkins are a great source of both high-quality food and extra protein in the seeds. Omega 3 fatty acids, Beta Carotenes, Vitamins C, D, E and the B complex vitamins make this a super food to feed to your flock. Additionally, cucurbitacin, contained in the pumpkin seeds, may act as a mild wormer, paralyzing tapeworms and round worms so they can be excreted.

Mealworms are always a welcome treat and these little goodies are bringing a protein punch. Great for helping your chickens recover quickly after a hard molt and a great training tool. Chickens will cooperate better when mealworms are involved!

Seed blocks, peanut butter treats and other commercially available boredom busters are good to keep on hand for times when the chickens have to be cooped up. If you don’t normally purchase scratch grain, fall and winter are a good time to have some on hand.  Scratch grains help increase the chicken’s body temperature while being digested. I feed a small amount to my flock in the evening during cold weather to help them keep warm overnight.

Now that you have taken care of buying lots of pumpkins and treats for the fall and winter, what does a chicken coop need when getting ready for fall?

what does a coop need

Preparing the Coop for Winter

Molting makes the dust and mess in the coop even messier, so I recommend making sure you know how to clean a chicken coop thoroughly which is best done while the weather is still nice. Scrape out old chicken bedding. Inspect for rodent holes, insect evidence and wet areas. Take care of any structural problems now so you don’t have to take care of building maintenance during a winter storm.

Clean the chicken roosting bars and treat with DE powder (Diatomaceous Earth). This is an excellent Diatomaceous Earth use because it will kill off any chicken mites trying to take up residence on the roost bars.

Check for leaks in the roof or other parts of the building. While you are checking for leaks, also check that your ventilation is optimal. Ventilation refers to the air flow circulates air inside the coop and keeps it from becoming stagnant. Ventilation is very important in winter because stagnant air can also lead to moisture collection. Moisture in the presence of sub freezing temperatures can lead to frost bite on combs, wattles and feet.

what does a chicken coop need

Winter Heat and Additional Light

Do chickens need heat in winter? I can’t speak about every area of the country but I will say this. Chickens are extremely cold hardy. If the chicken coop is draft free, has good roof ventilation, can be closed securely at night and during storms there is little chance that you need additional heat. After the chickens go through the molting, they grow in healthy new feathers and downy under feathers for winter. Chickens will go to roost at night, fluff up their feathers and cover their feet on the roost bar. It is amazing to me, how much heat is generated by my chickens during the night. The coop is usually very comfortable inside when I arrive in the morning. The chickens are happy and there is less chance of fire. Only once in our chicken raising have we used additional heat. Now, perhaps you live in a particularly frigid area during the winter. I can’t make this decision for you. Draft free goes a long way to keeping the chickens warm enough, though so don’t rush to heat the coop just because you are feeling the chill of winter. Another thing to consider is what happens during a power outage if your chickens have not been allowed to acclimate to the seasonal change in temperature? They are more likely to succumb to cold if it occurs suddenly and they are not prepared.

Adding light may in fact keep the hens laying eggs longer into the winter. I prefer to let them have a natural rest and we use lights only for a short time in the evening while we are cleaning up and feeding/watering the animals for the night. This extends their light by possibly an hour and is not really a factor in their egg laying. Naturally, egg laying slows down during the cold, darker months. This gives the hens a rest and allows energy to be used for warmth. I still collect enough eggs for our use during the winter.

Chicken Coops in Fall

Water in Winter

If your coop is a distance away from your home as ours is, planning for water should be part of your fall readiness. Emptying the hose after each use, or filling containers of water to keep at home will help you avoid frozen water when you are feeding in the morning. I will refill gallon jugs and sit them by my back door. In the morning, I grab the water jugs, dump out the frozen water in the coop and refill with room temperature water from home. The chickens all run to get a warm drink!

With some foresight and minor upkeep and repair during the fall, you, your chickens and the coop will be ready for winter weather.

what does a chicken coop need

What tips would you share with someone seeking to learn: what does a chicken coop need for fall?

 

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Comments
  • Thank you for the tip about leaving water in a container to bring out to the flock in the am. This will be my first winter with my girls and I will use this idea.

    Reply
    • I use a heated dog bowl, and it changed my life, chore wise. You need hydro though.

      Reply
  • I teach chicken keeping classes. My inexpensive coop design keeps the coop temperature near 32 degrees even at minus 30 degrees with no power, or above freezing for less than $5 elec per year even with the door always open. … no frozen water, no frozen eggs, and very happy chickens. Maintenance is insignificant, nearly automatic. No consumable bedding material required, egg’s always perfectly clean. Can go for weeks with no attention whatsoever and still stays clean and the chickens fed and watered.

    Reply
    • You don’t say HOW you accomplish this amazingly warm coop with a door open. Are you willing to share that with us? I don’t have any heat for my large coop of girls. I have rarely used a heat lamp, but it makes me nervous. I tie that sucker up so even a hurricane can’t blow it down, but last year, we had a bulb explode. Scary. Last year was a mild winter in Ohio, but it was preceded by a few years with record cold, some nights approaching -30. I have had frostbite on combs before, and we did have some birds lose points on large combs.
      Our much smaller bantam coop is elevated off the ground. Living quarters are only about 3 feet tall by 6 feet in length and is kept cozy with a special heating base that was sold to keep their drinking fountain from freezing. I’m sure it is designed to be safe, but I don’t have it where it can mix with shavings, etc. I rigged it to hang just below the roof where no one can perch on it. It sits about 18 inches above their heads when they roost. This water ‘heater’ was sold with all sorts of claims that it is not able to heat a coop. But, because the birds and their home is small, it does heat the coop well. So well that I can feel the heat when I stick my hand inside in winter. So, I only plug it in on very cold nights–(probably below 10 or 15 degrees) so the birds don’t get too warm. In the morning, I turn things off, except on days close to zero, so the birds stay acclimated to the cold winter temps outside. They have a small door that faces away from the wind so it doesn’t whistle through their coop. My bantams are not as hardy as my big girls, so I also set up tarps on the fence and beneath their coop (it sits off the ground) to block wind, or they refuse to come out in winter.
      Also, I have struggled with the same question as the person who made the next comment: what is the difference between ‘leaks’ and ‘ventilation’? I just seal up the open eaves at the roofline in my large coop but allow a small amount of seepage of air. I adjust if it feels too warm or moisture builds up in the coop. Some people drill holes and use wood rounds to swivel over the holes to seal out snow or wind. I once read about a system where the incoming air is baffled so it does not blow directly on perching birds. That is what concerns me is the birds sitting in a cold draft all night on their perches. Brrrr. Anyone have other ideas to share about providing proper winter ventilation that can be applied to an existing coop? Love to know that my girls (and their “man”) are safe and comfortable out there while I sit inside wrapped in a blanket and sipping a hot beverage. Thanks!

      Reply
  • I have raised chickens for 40 years in a mild climate. Now I am not in a mild climate. I keep reading about proper ventilation and no drafts. How can I ventilate my chicken house and not have drafts? I will be building a new one and want to do it right. Thanks.

    Reply
  • You leave a gap 4 or 5 inches at the top of the coop all the way around. This will provide ventilation because heat rises put the hole at the top well above the roosts so that the birds don’t get any drafts. I have had golden sexlinks Rhode island reds and now black australorp and they have went through -10 before without any problems. I did have 1 that got minor frost bite on the very tips of her comb so you have to be careful and watch that. That’s why you need ventilation so that ammonia and moisture etc coming off droppings leave the coop. As long as you have at least 3 or 4 chickens and have 2×4 boards for roost so they can lay down on top of their feet they should be fine. They put their heads under their wings so they can withstand very cold temps. Also invest the $50 for a good heated waterer. Its well worth it or as some say you can use heated dog water bowl. The heated waterer I got at tractor supply is on its 3rd year so well worth it don’t have to keep changing the water when its cold outside

    Reply

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