Tips from LFT Staff: Winter Care Tips for Happy Hens

January 3, 2024

The Winter months are finally here, and temperatures outside are quickly dropping! If it’s your first winter owning backyard animals, it’s essential to ensure that your friends are fully prepared for these long, cold days.

While resilient, chickens are a few of our backyard friends who may need a little help keeping warm this winter. If you have chickens and want winter care tips, LFT staff member Jon Denlinger is here to help! I sat down with Jon to discuss the basic ways to keep your chickens happy and healthy in this harsh season.

Check Your Chicken: Breed Matters

Surprisingly, some chicken breeds are better at regulating their body temperature and more tolerant of the cold than others.

Jon has owned various types of chickens and notes that the classic Rhode Island Red is one of the heartiest for tolerating harsh weather, but if you wish to continue egg production in the winter, hybrid breeds are your best option. If you’re curious about your chicken breed, Jon suggests the Meyers Poultry website. When you plug in your chicken type, you can access information about your chicken’s production rate, temperature tolerance, and more. Plus, Meyers is a local PA farm!

How Should I House My Chickens?

A solid coop means a happy chicken.

In extreme weather, you will likely have to shut your feathered friends into their coop to avoid frostbite. A good coop provides three significant things: proper heat, proper ventilation, and proper water supply. Balancing warmth and ventilation can be tricky. For Jon’s coop, adjustable windows help him regulate both. The warmer the weather, the more he can open the windows. However, he notes that some of the less tolerant breeds may require additional heat sources. Outdoor pet heaters are available, but he recommends refraining from these, if possible, to avoid fire hazards.

Chickens need a constant water supply. Jon suggests checking their supply more often in the winter to ensure the water isn’t frozen. Again, some owners use water heaters to keep their water flowing, though others change their water more often.

What Should I Feed My Feathered Friends?

Jon states that when temperatures drop, you will likely need to feed your chickens larger quantities of food to account for the energy they spend to keep warm. To help with feed costs, some owners mix a small amount of wheat or oats into their feed layers. Others provide their birds with a handful of mixed corn in the late afternoon to increase their energy levels and keep them warmer overnight. Regardless, prepare for hungry chickens!

What If I Still Want Eggs?

Chickens slow or, in some cases, cease egg production in the cold months. If you want to continue egg production in the winter, you must make additional changes to your chickens’ routine.

Chickens slow their egg-laying mainly due to the changes in light. To combat this, Jon uses LED light fixtures in the coop to simulate sunlight and keep their hens laying. He notes that this tends to do the trick for his flocks.

Jon also suggests collecting eggs more than once daily when it’s cold. Eggs contain a lot of water, so they’re susceptible to freezing. Frozen eggs often crack or have unsavory changes in texture. To further avoid this, some owners insulate their nesting boxes.

What About Frostbite?

The last thing you need is for your feathered friends to get frostbite! Chickens are most likely to get frostbite on their comb, legs, feet, and waddle, so pay particular attention to these areas when it freezes outside. If your chickens get frostbite, be sure to seek help from a veterinarian. In the meantime, gently warm the affected area with lukewarm water and keep your bird out of the cold for recovery.


As always, we suggest you do your research before owning any animal or changing an animal’s habitat. Jon suggests articles from Penn State’s Agricultural program for reliable information if you have any questions about chicken care. We hope your chickens stay warm and healthy this winter, and we hope these tips and tricks help keep your flock happy!




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