How To Keep Your Backyard Chickens Safe & Warm

Since the pandemic, America’s interest in raising backyard chickens has been booming. And with the rising price of eggs and growing interest in eating organic, it doesn’t seem like it will slow anytime soon. Valley Structures has been making high-quality chicken coops for decades. So today, we have some tips and considerations for the best ways to keep them safe and warm all winter.

Are Backyard Chickens Allowed in Harrisonburg, Virginia?

You must first find out what the legal requirements are for backyard chickens where you live. In Harrisonburg, backyard chickens are allowed but there is a Backyard Chicken Permit that must be applied for and renewed annually.

How Do Chickens Stay Warm? They’re Tougher Than You Think

Chickens have something humans don’t: feathers! In cold weather, chickens “fluff” their feathers out in all directions. This creates a bubble of warm air between their body and their outermost layer of feathers, effectively creating a tiny sauna of body heat for themselves. Plus, their body temperature is higher than humans, so they are less averse to cold weather than you may assume. But if a chicken is shivering or their feathers are cold and wet (which means they cannot fluff them for heat), they are too cold and must be cared for accordingly.

Chicken Coops Must Be Draft-Free With Proper Ventilation

Drafts and improper ventilation are a chicken’s natural winter enemies. Chickens need a draft-free, well-insulated, four-sided coop that will protect them from wind, snow, rain and cold. While you don’t want cold winds getting in, there must be somewhere for the air to vent out. Stagnant air can cause a build-up of ammonia and moisture from the litter, creating dangerous bacteria, moisture and pest problems. So when investing in a chicken coop, you must ensure it is properly insulated, there are no holes in the walls and that it has a top vent or high window to allow enough ventilation.

Chickens Need More Space To Keep Warm In  Winter

The size of your chicken coop makes a big difference in keeping your chickens warm. Chickens roost (sleep) high above the ground, often on a wooden plank. Roosting up high keeps them safe from predators and bacteria on the floor. They huddle together and share body heat when they roost. But in the winter, their feathers are fluffed, which takes up more space. Make sure you calculate the appropriate size coop for your flock. A good rule of thumb is your roost needs to be bigger if you see a chicken on the floor at night.

Other Care Considerations That Keep Chickens Safe

Taking care of backyard chickens when the temperature drops can be worry-free as long as you prepare. Other winter considerations to keep them safe and warm are:

  • Give your chickens more food in the winter. Staying warm requires more energy.
  • Keep the floor clean and add more straw for insulation. 
  • Provide more bedding than usual and create dry places for your birds to stay cozy.
  • Make sure they have access to fresh water, never frozen!
  • Clear away excess snow and scatter straw to protect their feet on outdoor runs. 
  • Apply petroleum jelly to their combs and wattles to reduce the risk of frostbite. 

Valley Structures’ chicken coops come standard with nesting boxes, LP siding, functional windows and ventilation and a ramp for access.

Inside view of cottage style chicken coop for backyard chickens.

Valley Structures Builds Coops That Keep Your Backyard Chickens Safe & Warm All Year Long

If you are ready to explore this fun new hobby with your family, Valley Structures has you covered. We design and build chicken coops to withstand the impact of heavy weather. With many color, stain and size options, you’ll find what you’re looking for to care for your backyard chickens. Contact the Valley Structures team today or shop our current inventory.

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