Preparing Your Chooks for Winter

Author: Natural Chicken Health  

As we enter the chilly months, you may be wondering how to ensure the well-being and warmth of your feathered friends. Here are some helpful insights and tips to support your flock from May to August, keeping them healthy and comfortable during the colder season.



Understanding Feather Moulting

With the arrival of autumn, the decreasing daylight hours serve as a signal to laying hens to naturally reduce or even pause their egg production. During this time, hens may also shed feathers that need replacement, typically around their tail or neck. Winter is a period of rest and rejuvenation for your hens as they prepare for the next laying season, ensuring they are healthy and ready to lay eggs again.



Chickens have Evolved ways to Keep Warm

During winter, feathers are an invaluable asset to birds. They serve as excellent insulators and also contain a natural oily fat coating that acts as a waterproof layer. Chickens have the ability to puff out their feathers, trapping air which is then warmed by their body heat to create a buffer against the cold temperatures outside. However, after their annual moult, this ability may be compromised. As caretakers, it is important for us to step in and provide assistance to ensure our feathered friends stay warm and comfortable during this time. 



Home Sweet Home

During the winter months, chickens need a safe and warm shelter to escape from the cold, rain, and chill winds that are more prevalent during this time. It's not uncommon for chickens to choose to stay within their coop even when given the option to free range on bad weather days. This is because chickens can quickly get sick and deteriorate if their body temperature is not maintained properly.

As winter arrives, moisture becomes the biggest enemy of your backyard chicken coop. Frosty mornings and drizzly days can lead to excess moisture in the coop, which can result in the growth of mould and cause respiratory issues for your chickens.

To ensure the well-being of your flock, it's critical to keep their coop dry, clean, and free of drafts, while still providing adequate ventilation to reduce ammonia build-up. Promptly address any leaks or drafts you find in the coop.

Another important aspect of winter chicken care is to regularly replace the bedding in the coop and nesting boxes with fresh material. Fresh bedding acts as a great insulator and helps to manage mites and other parasites that may be seeking warmth during winter. Keeping up with regular housekeeping tasks will help ensure that your chooks have a cosy and healthy environment during the colder months.



Mucking Out

This should be at least weekly due to the birds spending longer in the house (and therefore fouling the litter more). If you are unable to increase the frequency of your cleaning regime then try a quick spot of ‘poo picking’ each morning or place a sheet of newspaper under the perch.  This can be removed when you let the birds out each day. It will prolong the life of the litter and help keep the house clean.




It's important to have roosts inside your chickens' coop. Roosts provide a natural way to keep your chickens warm during winter by getting them off the ground, where colder and moist air tends to accumulate. Elevating them on roosts helps prevent them from being exposed to the cold air and promotes better insulation, keeping them cosy and comfortable during the colder months.



Make a Dust Bath

If you live in a wet Winter climate and there are no natural dry areas for chooks to dust bath you will need to make one under cover.  Use a large shallow tub, a child’s shell pool, or anything large enough for them to fluff around in. Pop some dry dirt, dry sand and Diatomaceous Earth in there. Top up and replace as needed.



Feed Them Well

Even though your chooks may not be laying eggs during winter, they still require a nutritious diet to support their overall health. They need energy, protein, and other essential nutrients to replace lost feathers, maintain and build body condition for the upcoming laying season, and regulate their core body temperature. Protein is a crucial building block for various bodily functions, and feathers, for example, are composed of 80-85% protein (Keratin). Therefore, it's important to increase the protein intake for your chickens during the winter months. This can be achieved by transitioning them to a high-protein feed or by supplementing their diet with protein-rich treats. Ensuring they have adequate protein will help them stay healthy and resilient during the colder season.




Chicken predators are always a concern for small flock owners, but the risk of attack may be worse in Winter months.

Winter is the season of privation for all creatures and extreme weather can change it from a time of scarcity to a season of starving. Dark nights, windy conditions with humans safely inside makes for ideal hunting conditions. Pay careful attention to predator-proofing of your coop and run. More info here



Nurturing your Feathered Friends

When it comes to caring for your backyard chickens, the effort you put in is truly rewarding. These affectionate, intriguing, and intelligent creatures will provide you with years of companionship, given the proper care.