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Keeping Backyard Chickens in the Winter

| 3/10/2015 11:41:00 AM

Winter Chickens with Tammy Kimbler by Claire Weber

Minnesota has legendary harsh winters, and in recent years with the Polar Vortex, they've gotten dangerously unpredictable as well. Temperatures in Minneapolis routinely hit -10 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chills bottoming out around -30 degrees. This happens in 3-to-5-day sprints, four to five times during the winter months. Beyond that, average temps range between zero over night and 20 degrees during the day. Snow is the least of our worries, actually bringing welcome 25+ degree temps to the area.

Now bring chickens into this scenario. With planning and preparation chickens can be happy and healthy in harsh winter climates. We have four lovely laying chickens that have fared quite well this winter, but not without some serious effort on our part. Here are the things we have learned that really make a difference in the lives of our chickens and their owners.

Chicken Coop by Tammy Kimbler

Coop Placement

The position of your coop on your property (or in your backyard) relative to other buildings and the sun will determine much of the winter viability of your chickens. In the North we needed to expose our coop to as much sun as possible to warm it up. We also wanted to shield the coop from the north wind. We positioned our coop in a sunny spot where the roof was titled towards the south. We also place the coop between our garage on the north and our neighbors garage on the south, which blocked much of the north winds, which bring frigid wind chills. If you can not block the wind in this way, consider wrapping tarp around the north side of our exposed chicken run to give the flock some shelter while outside in the winter. If you’re in the city, check with the zoning and planning department as they may have some requirements that impact coop placement (ours had to be 40 feet from the street curb).

Chicken Coop Space

Cabin fever is a real thing! We have experienced pecking order and aggressive behaviors as well as broodiness with our flock during our first winter. To combat this problem we build an extension onto our coop that gave the chickens more space. While 4 square-feet per chicken might seem like enough, in cold climates where you occasionally must restrict chickens to their coop (hello -25 degree + wind chill), that might not be enough. With the extension, our total interior square footage is around 6 square feet per chicken. We also added a second nesting area in the extension. Even with that, we still see a few feathers missing. We let the chickens outside as soon as extreme wind chills subside.

3/11/2015 6:58:57 AM

Hello. Check this post. Its about keeping chicken in the winter:

3/10/2015 9:55:28 PM

Nice job with your coop, Ms. Kimbler! I know what you mean about needing a smaller, heated, water container. We have to break ice nearly every morning, but ours are not heated. Next year we plan to be better prepared with some electric.

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