Although it may sound like a good idea to put a heater in your coop to ensure your chickens are warm and cozy, heating the coop is a huge fire hazard due to the bedding and the risk of a chicken flying into a heat lamp and catching its feathers on fire. Additionally, if you lost power during the night, your chickens could die from the extreme drop in temperature. If these weren’t reasons enough, a heat source will create moisture, which leads to frostbite. If you think about it, people have been raising chickens long before electricity was even invented. Chickens naturally acclimate their bodies to the colder temperatures as winter approaches. During the colder days and nights, they fluff out their feathers to trap warm air next to their bodies and huddle together to keep each other warm.
With that said, there are some easy things we can do to make our chickens more comfortable and keep them entertained during the colder months.
Eliminating drafts will help cut down on cold air blowing directly on your chickens as they roost. It’s as simple as covering the cracks around the doors and windows with cardboard, rags or weather stripping. You can also hang old blankets against the cracks or stack bales of hay against the walls on the outside of the coop.
While it’s important to minimize drafts, make sure you don’t completely block all air flow. Vents should be installed above the roost to allow for proper ventilation. As the moisture, ammonia, dust, and carbon dioxide rise up and flow out of the coop, the vents allow fresh air to flow back in. Make sure the vents are covered with hardware cloth to keep out predators.
Feed Your Chickens Corn
Give your chickens treats of cracked corn before they go in for the evening to roost. The corn gives their bodies something to digest during the night, which helps keep them warm. They also love it and will dance around with excitement when they see you coming with their evening treat.
Hang Some Greens
Chickens love cabbage, kale, spinach, collards, and lettuce. Make this a fun activity by hanging their favorite greens on a string, skewer or holder, a little above eye level, to encourage them to jump and get exercise while it swings around.
Create a Chicken Jungle Gym
Chickens have a natural instinct to perch up off the ground so providing them with a variety of things to roost on will keep them entertained as they explore their vertical space. You can make new roosts out of plywood or use tree branches, stumps, old chairs, pots and ladders.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Chickens, the ultimate preeners, will pass the time by gazing at their beautiful reflections. Hang mirrors, old CDs or anything reflective in the coop at eye level to catch their attention. If using mirrors, make sure they’re shatter-proof so they won’t get injured by broken glass.
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