If you have cold winters, you shouldn't run into any problems as long as you choose the right variety. Our customers want to do their best for their chickens and we are often asked if they should heat their coop in the winter. Our feeling is that this is not a good idea. Chickens adapt to the cold weather over time. Their body metabolism actually changes along with the seasons. When you heat your coop, the birds will never get used to the colder outside temperature - so if the heat accidentally drops off and causes a sudden temperature change, you could literally lose your entire flock overnight. We've seen it happen.
That said, if you live in a really cold climate, there are a few precautions you can take to make everyone's lives easier (by which we mean you and your birds!):
- Protect combs and wattles from frostbite by rubbing on petroleum jelly or another heavy-duty moisturizer every few days.
- Make sure that the water supply does not freeze! This is very important. Chickens cannot live long without fresh water. If you do not have electricity in your chicken coop and therefore cannot provide a boiler, we recommend that you bring the kettle into the house every evening and put it outside every morning. Check the water once or twice a day to make sure it isn't frozen.
Excessive heat is a real risk to birds. Make sure they have access to fresh, cold and clean water at all times. Provide them with a source of shade outside and as much ventilation as possible inside. So never place the coop in full sun, make sure that there is sufficient cooling available at all times to make it as comfortable for the chickens.
Chickens also like to take a dust bath every once in a while. In the summer they do this more frequently than at other times of the year. You can make a dust bath for your chickens yourself with white sand, earth and lava meal or poultry lice powder. Poultry lice powder immediately counteracts the formation of lice, which chickens suffer more from during hot days. Of course, chickens can also simply take a dust bath in the garden.
Note: Your hens may lay fewer eggs during heat waves. This is a sign of stress, but the laying rate will return to normal once the heat has abated.