[This is the second part of a two part article. If you missed part 1, you can read it at: Preparing your Laying Flock for Winter, Part 1.]
Water is important to chickens in cold weather just as it is in hot weather. Be sure that your chickens always have a supply of clean drinking water. When temperatures drop below freezing, this can be a challenge because the water in the chicken waterers begins to freeze. To overcome this problem, you can buy a heated waterer or a heated waterer base, or you can setup some way to keep your existing waterers warm.
To prevent your chicken eggs from freezing you may have to gather them several times a day.
If your chickens rely on forage for some or all of their daily food, you need to plan for the fact that there will be less forage for them to eat in the winter. In cold weather, chickens may consume more food because they depend on the heat that they can produce from the food to stay warm. It is important to make sure that they have enough food available throughout the day, and you may want to supplement their usual feed with some scratch grain, high in carbohydrates, which the chickens can convert to heat to stay warm.
If you do all the things mentioned above, it will help your flock stay in good health through the winter, but egg production will still decline because days are shorter, and there are fewer daylight hours.
If you want to keep your flock laying well through the shorter winter days, you will need to add artificial lighting in the early morning to give them a total of 14-16 hours of daylight. One way to do this is with an outlet timer and a drop light, setting the timer so that the light bulb comes on before dawn to give the correct number of hours of light.
We strongly recommend that you not use any open flames to heat the coop because of the possible fire hazard. Avoid kerosene and oil lanterns, candles, gas heaters, and anything else that uses a flame for heat.
Light bulbs can be used, but they do get hot, so secure them thoroughly, and make sure that there is ample room between bulbs and combustible surfaces like wood, tarps, and bedding. Heat lamp bulbs put off considerable heat and must have sufficient clearance from combustible materials.
Check the temperature of nearby combustible surfaces periodically with your hand. If any surface is too hot too comfortably hold your hand on it, then there is a possible fire hazard that you should correct.
Extension cords pose another safety hazard. Follow manufacturers’ directions, only use cords that are in good condition and rated for outdoor use, and be sure that you do not exceed the electrical rating of the cords. Make sure that extension cord connections are protected from wet weather and other water sources.
It is always a good idea to keep a hose nearby and ready for use in case of fire. Hoses can freeze easily when you’re not actively running water through them, and that makes them useless when you need them, so drain the water out of your hoses after you use them.
Coop Door Controller
It automatically opens the coop door at dawn and closes it at dusk, using a light sensor. It senses the air temperature, and if the temperature is below 20° F, it keeps the door shut to avoid exposing the chickens to cold temperatures and to keep the inside of the coop warmer. It also turns on a light before dawn to give the chickens 16 hours of light each day. The light uses LEDs and generates negligible heat, so it does not create a fire hazard.