In Western Massachusetts, where our farm is located, New England winters can be harsh and unpredictable, with snow and temperatures that dip into the negative. Despite all that, our chickens do just fine, as long as we prepare well and provide them the right care.
Winter preparation and care can feel daunting, especially if you are a newer chicken keeper. How do you keep your flock’s water from freezing? How cold is too cold? Should you shut the coop up completely in cold weather?
It’s easy to get worried about your chickens out there, braving the cold and snow. But chickens are tough, and with the right strategies, they can get through winter comfortably.
In this post I’m going to talk about all aspects of chicken winter care, from coop building down to how to best keep your chicken’s toes warm at night (spoiler alert, these two things are actually related!).
We are on the cusp of spring. If you’re a new chicken keeper, you might be putting the finishing touches on your first coop. Or you might be adding an addition to your hen house (because, chicken math) or reinforcing what you have.
My wife Sarah and I have built eleven coops together on our farm, where we have a combination of stationary coops, movable tractors, and two small prefab coops. (Why so many? To maintain our clan mating programs). Over the years of building together, we’ve learned a lot about coop construction and what our chickens’ need--and we are still learning, even now. Our coops might not make the cover of Martha Stewart Magazine, but we built them ourselves, our birds are happy, AND not a single predator has ever breached our chicken castles!
Wherever you are in your chicken journey, having a coop that meets your flock’s needs is a vital part of poultry care. Whether you are building a coop for the first time, purchasing a prefab coop, or already have your housing set, there are a few fundamental features that every coop should have. I’m going to go over them in this post, so that you can incorporate them into your build plans or make adjustments to an existing coop.