Ask a Poultry Farmer: How do I keep my chickens warm in the winter?
I've put off writing this for awhile since the weather here in Southern Wisconsin has been mild.
For the most part chickens tolerate the cold very well. Some breeds do better than others. The comb is the part of the chicken most at risk in the winter.
Chickens with rose combs fare the best. The main problem is males with large combs. They can freeze, turn black and slough off. They usually live although they will go off their feed, will not breed and sometimes die. I have heard that putting Vaseline on large combs help keep them from freezing. I have not tried it, but it used to be popular years ago.
Coops don't need to be heated. Try to block off any drafts while leaving plenty of ventilation.
If you do feel you have to have heat do not use a heat bulb with adult chickens. They fly around and can hit the bulb causing hot broken glass to hit the bedding. Also be careful of the heaters that have coils that turn red when hot these also can cause a fire.
In the cold weather some people like to feed corn to boost energy. In a limited amount this is fine. The problem comes if you feed too much. Chickens need 15%-16% protein to lay. Corn is around 8% so you can see the more corn you feed the less protein the chickens receive. The chickens will stop laying.
Water: We use ice cream buckets and try put in just what they will drink. Every few days we bring the buckets in the house to thaw out.
Frozen eggs: Sooner or later you will get eggs that have frozen. If the shell has not cracked it should be fine. However if they are cracked I would toss them. A crack could let bacteria in.
Dale Wheelock has been raising chickens, turkeys and waterfowl since he was a farm kid in the 1950s. He owns and operates the Wheelock Family Farm in Walworth County with his wife, Barb, and has been an agriculture leader in the community for decades. Read more about poultry farming at askapoultryfarmer.blogspot.com. Dale is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management. Have a question for Dale? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.