In this article, you will learn frugal ways to keep your chickens warm for less this winter. We live in upstate New York and experience frigid temperatures, and our chickens are staying warm. This came with trial and error.
When it comes to frugal living, you want the best way to do something for the least amount of money. Unfortunately, this winter here in upstate New York has been frigid. With temperatures below freezing and highs in the -2. It’s been brutal, so I have gathered up our best tips of how we are keeping our chickens warm this winter and how you can too.
This is our third winter out here on our little farm, but we have lived in cold, harsh winters all our life.
We don’t use a heat lamp with our chickens. I read many things about the realization you don’t need one, but a few of our chickens did get frostbite a few days ago when the temperatures dipped into the single digits and negatives overnight. I quickly realized some mistakes that we made.
There were a few things we did wrong, and I want to share with you how we fixed it, and it’s working for us now.
Check out these chicken tips too:
- What to do When Your Hen Turns Out to be a Rooster
- The Best Chicken Coop Deodorizer
- 5 Reasons a Small Chicken Coop Is Better For You
- Tips for Setting Up Portable Chicken Coops in Your Backyard
- Check Out Free Chicken Coop Instructions
Here are 7 Frugal Ways to Keep your Chickens Warm this winter
It was just after 6 am when I went out to the barn to let the chickens out. I knew they would need water a path shoveled to come out to the heated bucket of water.
This year our winter has been the coldest since we started raising chickens five years ago. So for the past couple of days, the chickens haven’t left the barn- not even for water.
So I have been making several trips to the barn to fill up some water bowls. That was getting old. The ducks weren’t even coming down for water. The wind was just too brutal.
Then I saw a chicken with blood, and her feathers pulled back, and I immediately thought she got attacked. I looked around the barn, but nothing. Then I looked closer and realized she had frostbite.
Tip: When our chickens got frostbite, I would put them in a small dog crate with a bunch of straw and bring them in the garage. I kept them hydrated and fed away from the flock until they warmed up.
In the past, when a chicken was sick or had an injury, we kept in a dog crate in the barn with the others, but given the temperature, I decided the garage would be a bit warmer. You also don’t want to bring them to a heated area, as a drastic warm-up isn’t suitable for the affected area.
The other chickens were probably pecking at her blood which made the whole scene worse. I walked around the barn and saw a few other chickens had black spots on their combs.
I felt awful.
USE OLD CHICKEN FEED BAGS TO FILL DRAFT HOLES
Our biggest mistake was NOT having every hole in the coop filled. Overnight temperatures are the lowest they have been with this flock. Most frostbite occurs during the night.
We save all our chicken food bags and have them sitting in a corner in the barn. It is incredible how thick these are. I used these bags, shoved them into holes, and stapled them to the walls where any holes were—the cost to do this- Nothing.
I’m not sure why I thought just covering their window last year was good enough- although the previous year, 2017, our winter was not as harsh.
USE PLEXIGLASS TO INSULATE & LET SUN HEAT COOP
We have two chicken coops. Before we moved out to the country, I had my six chickens in the town living across the street from Walmart! It was an adventure. My husband built that chicken coop and used Plexi Glass on the side. This allows light into the coop, but we don’t have to worry about insulating this in the winter.
HAVE ADEQUATE VENTILATION
You must have adequate ventilation in any building where chickens live to prevent ammonia build-up. You don’t want your chickens exposed to high levels of this toxic gas, so make sure that you include plenty of vents in the design when you’re building the chicken coop.
If chickens are breathing in a lot of ammonia, they will have to pant like dogs when it’s hot, which means that your chickens will be spending less time laying and more time panting, which is not healthy for them and makes egg production drop dramatically.
Keep Their Food and Water filled to the top
It’s also important to keep chickens’ water filled all the time too. The chickens will drink much more often when it’s extremely cold or hot out, so make sure that there is always plenty of water available for them as they will quickly become dehydrated if their water supply runs low.
The chickens’ food also needs to be available at all times. Keeping chickens fed will not only keep them warm but also happy.
SALTWATER BOTTLE TO KEEP WATER FROM FREEZING
I saw this idea floating around on Pinterest. We found a heated water bucket on the side of the road that surprisingly still works. Last year, I shoveled a path from the barn down to the bucket, and it worked fine.
This year it’s not happening. Too much snow and wind. So the water bucket is at the edge of the barn- but there is still snow up to it. Unfortunately, that means some of our chickens are refusing to go to it.
We tried an old water bottle filled with half saltwater and half water. We made sure that the lid was tight and nothing was leaking from it. An excessive amount of salt can kill chickens.
Then we filled our waterer up, and it worked! Yet for the past week, when the temperatures have been in the negatives, the saltwater wasn’t working.
The water bucket continues to have ice around the rim. It’s just too darn cold. This is a free way to keep your chickens hydrated. Once the temperatures rise again, I will continue using the water bottle method.
Update: if you have it in the budget and your temperature hits below freezing a lot, I will splurge for the electric waterer. I finally got one this year.
Our old barn has fallen since first writing this post, and we built a brand new barn and put a chicken coop inside. The drafts, oh my, are so much better.
You can also try a heating pad. I read several forums of others trying a reptile heating pad for the chickens, and it worked well. As always, do your research on this before trying.
Like the Zilla Heat Pad, using a heater for chickens is an excellent way to ensure that their water stays warm enough for chickens to drink from it all day long. These heat pads are perfect for chickens because they don’t heat up high enough to burn chickens if they ever touch them directly. Having a heating pad for chickens will help them drink lots of water to stay warm.
RED PEPPER FLAKES
I have been feeding our chickens Red Pepper flakes I bought from Aldi for under $2! Supposedly this will warm your chickens up. There are a bunch of different spices you can use to create a healthy flock.
I have been doing it the last couple of days, and if anything, it gets them up and moving to increase their blood flow, so it’s a win for me. Also, there are many articles about cayenne pepper increasing egg production and even saying it thickens the shell of their eggs.
FEEDING EXTRA SCRAPES/TREATS
Our chickens are pasture-raised. They only go in the barn at night. In winter, they have their coop inside the huge old barn. So, for the most part, on extreme weather days, they hang out in the barn.
I give them any extra veggie scraps that are not going to our indoor pot-bellied pig. For example, the ends of bread seem to be their favorite. I throw the ends in the toaster, then toss in a blender and feed to the chickens.
- Why we choose to Free Range our Chickens Even After a Racoon Attack
- How to Start Raising Ducks on Your Homestead
In conclusion, those five tips are the most beneficial. Keep your flock free from drafts, hydrated, and fed should keep them up and alive through the winter months. Always make sure they have a full feeder before they sleep, which keeps them warmer through the night.
We also keep thick layers of straw in the coop and around the barn where they hang out during the day. Then, when the weather warms up, we shovel a path from the barn down to the grass. This gives the chickens a bit of an area to forage.
You can apply these tips to ducks as well. Our ducks share the same coop as our chickens and follow the exact directions as mentioned above.
What tips do you have for keeping your chickens warm in the winter?