Taking care of chickens during the winter in Vermont takes a couple special tools. Without them winter chicken care requires far too much tending and fussing. With over 15 years of TLC for my flock of hearty brown egg layers I’ve got some helpful hints to make winter chores easy!
First off skip the heat lamp. They cost a lot to run and are really dangerous. If you feel you must use one please secure it in two ways. They often come with a clamp that can fail. Use a metal chain and secure it well. We had a clamp fail back in 2004 and it was really scary to see how quickly it burned it’s way through a thick hemlock board. And, every time I drive up the mountain I pass the charred remains of a once beautiful coop that burned from a heat lamp. Unfortunately, all the hens were lost in the fire. I just don’t think they are necessary as long as you keep hens fed, watered, and have dry bedding.
Humidity and moisture are your girl’s enemy. From issues like frost bite to respiratory diseases fresh air is key. On one hand, you want your coop warm and not too drafty, but on the other keeping the coop too tight is much worse. Chickens need ventilation and good air. If you ever smell ammonia grab a bag of shavings asap. And, see if you have a leaking waterer or need to open a window during the daytime.
We like hardy brown eggs layers for our farm. Breeds such as: Turkens, Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshire Reds, Barred Rocks, Delawares, and Brahmas are great at handling our cold weather.
I included some Amazon affiliate links. In theory I could get some small reward for linking you to their site…which would be pretty awesome to compensate for the time it takes to run a website. The clickable links in blue will take you to a picture of each item which I hope will help you locate that item at your LOCAL feed store…but, Amazon is pretty handy at times. Thank you!
Have your coop located near an electrical outlet to plug in their water heater base.
If you do the Deep Litter Method start building your cozy pine shaving bedding base. By the time November rolls around have it several inches deep.
Have a shovel handy for keeping their outdoor area shoveled.
Know how to recognize frost bite on combs and have some Bag Balm Handy.
If you don’t have access to electricity I recommend having two metal waterers. You’ll have to switch them back and forth. Have a place inside (like a spare bathroom shower) where an icky metal chicken waterer can thaw. Use metal because it’s less likely to crack than plastic. If you’re watering your chickens outside during the daytime use a rubber feed pan. The black color absorbs some solar heat and when it does freeze it’s easy to just flip and crack the ice out it.
Treats for long frigid days when chickens are trapped in their coop can prevent bullying among the ranks! Here’s some suggestions: Warm Oatmeal, Mealworms, Plain whole fat yogurt, Cabbage, Apples, Greens, Squash, Pumpkins, and scratch feed. Don’t feed a lot of treats though as it can be extremely unhealthy. Remember good Layer Pellets are a complete ration meaning ANY tweaking and changes you make to their diet can throw things off.
Solar Lights are a great addition to the coop.
Gather eggs twice a day. This can prevent egg eating from bored hens and cracked eggs due to low temperatures.