Getting chickens was always something I wanted to do. I live in the country and was waiting for the perfect time to add a flock to our family. However, as a resident of Northeastern Pennsylvania, I always worried about how chickens would do in the cold. For starters, the chicken’s water freezes and I needed to find a heated chicken waterer to keep it flowing. I later learned that chickens, roosters especially, get comb frostbite and have taken measures to care for my flock of chickens in the cold. We’ve been testing heated chicken waterers, found the proper coop heater and caring for rooster combs to prevent frostbite. Plus, getting a steady flow of eggs!
Heated Chicken Waterers
When I started looking for heated chicken waters the reviews weren’t great. I ended up purchasing two systems. A plug-in heated chicken waterer by Farm Innovators and a heated plate that I place a chicken waterer on top of. The Farm Innovaters heated chicken waterer did not have great reviews on Tractor Supply’s Website. However, the reviews on Amazon are better and I’ve been using ours for several months now without a hiccup. It keeps the water from freezing however, it does not hold as much water as option two.
The second setup includes a heated chicken waterer base and a chicken waterer that is for all seasons. This is about a year old and while I was nervous about placing the plastic chicken waterer on top of the heated chicken water base it has not melted the plastic in the slightest and works well. With this setup I can use a larger waterer and both systems are working well. I clean them with a bleach/water solution every few days to keep my flock of 21 hens and 3 roosters drinking healthy water and am happy with the performance of both.
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When my flock goes to bed at night I am keeping them warm with two methods. I am using the deep litter method, where I keep piling premium pine shavings on top of old pine shavings from tractor supply. The combination of manure and space between the shavings is supposed to help keep the coop warm.
The second is a coop heater. I have a lot of friends with chickens and people seem to love or hate heaters. Some argue that chickens shouldn’t have heat and should be allowed to get used to the cold and have a draft-free coop. While others, like myself, believe using a coop heater to raise the coop just a few degrees or so is beneficial to keep the eggs from freezing, help reduce comb frostbite and provide a sanctuary at night.
A system like the heated light bulb used for chicks can cause a fire in a chicken coop, so a chicken coop heater that is designed for this purpose is ideal. We have been using our coop heater for several months. It has a high and a low setting and I ensure it’s turned on at night with electricity. Now, the fear of the chickens getting used to this heater exists. However, it’s not a drastic temperature change and I am generally home monitoring the flock.
Between the heated chicken waterer, coop heater and light running an extension cord to the coop has been a must.
The first time it really got cold I noticed some black areas on my rooster’s comb. I have 3 roosters in my flock and after a quick google search where I found a few related articles, some chatting in chicken groups and advice from friends I purchased musher’s secret for comb frostbite. that is designed for this purpose as one of the best products for this purpose and used on the pads of dogs to prevent damage from the cold. It works well on my roosters too! The product has a nice light scent, and I apply it when the temperature drops directly to the combs paying particular attention to the tips of the comb. A little goes a long way and I think, at this point, that my roosters like getting the product applied to their comb to prevent frostbite.
Getting Eggs in the Winter
Egg production generally slows down in the winter, even with a steady flow of food and our heated chicken waterer. I have friends with hens who have stopped laying altogether! While I initially didn’t set out to use a light in the chicken coop, adding one has helped ensure egg production. Michigan State University’s website has noted that hens need 16 hours of daylight to produce eggs. I have my automatic chicken door set to 7 AM and my chickens go to bed at 9 PM. The coop light is on all day long just because I don’t have windows in the coop yet and stays on until I turn it off at 9 PM at night. While that is not quite 16 hours, my hens are laying right on schedule.
There are generally two teams when it comes to coop lights. People who want to provide extra light to keep egg production going and chicken owners who want to let their flock rest and reduce or stop egg production in the winter. I added the light because my chickens were walking around after the sun went down and I wanted them to be able to see, the eggs are a bonus but I can see the argument for both methods.
I hope this has given some insight into caring for chickens in the cold. The heated chicken waterers, coop heater, comb frostbite product and light have been working well for our flock. As always, this is an everchanging website and if something changes about these products I will make my way to updating the post. Thank you for stopping by and happy chickening!