Taking Care of Your Flock in the Winter by Kim

You have invested a lot of time raising your chickens and by now they could be producing fresh eggs for you every day.

With the winter season, you need to make a few special arrangements to ensure your hens continue to lay.  A few minutes of attention to housing, temperature, water supply and lighting will keep them laying all winter.


Winter housing need not be fancy.  Any dry, draft free structure will work.  Remember that drafts can be more deadly than cold temperatures.  A 10X10 foot building is more than adequate for a flock of 20 hens.  Chickens produce a fair amount of body heat.  Except in the extreme northern states, an insulated building will keep your flock warm…in fact, you may need to provide ventilation to keep your flock from getting too hot.  Be sure to inspect the building for openings and weasels to enter.  You’ll also need to provide nesting boxes and roosts for your laying hens.


Hens lay best when the temperature is between 55 and 80 degrees F.  Any temperature colder or warmer will affect egg production.  A small heater or heat lamp may be needed to maintain a minimum temperature in extreme northern climates.


Your flock needs a constant supply of water (not ice) throughout the winter.  Keeping the water from freezing is very important.  Be sure to keep FRESH water available at all times.  Water is extremely important to egg quality.  65% of the egg is water.


Light is very important in egg production.  Light causes the hen’s pituitary gland to secrete hormones in her ovary.  These hormones stimulate her to lay more eggs.  Hens need fourteen hours of light each day for maximum egg production.  A 60 watt bulb can supply enough light for up to 200 square feet of floor space.  A timer should be used to turn the light on and off.  Hens subjected to irregular lighting will lay fewer eggs or begin to molt and stop laying altogether.  Some poultry experts suggest having two timers.  One to control the 60 watt light and one to run a 7 ½ watt bulb a little longer to allow hens to find their roost after the 60 watt bulb goes out.


A hen lays approximately 20 dozen eggs during a 12 month period.  Once an egg is laid, it cannot get any better, brown or white, fertile or non fertile, the egg is a near perfect food.  Proper handling keeps eggs that way.


Gather eggs at least twice a day.  Cool them to 50-60 degrees F, as quickly as possible.  75% humidity will help keep them fresh.  A fresh egg has a yolk that stands high in the frying pan and a white that is thick, cloudy and doesn’t run all over the pan.

 During winter, keep eggs from freezing.  Taking extra eggs to work for friends and fellow workers?  Don’t leave eggs in the car or truck where they can freeze.  Bring them into the office and place them in a cool place…not near a heater.  This will preserve the quality of the eggs for your customers.



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5 Responses to Taking Care of Your Flock in the Winter by Kim

  1. richard sprague,sr says:

    The info I just copied will help me in the future.Going small for now.Years ago I had 65 each of chickens,Geese of several breeds,and Ducks of 7 kinds.Got over whelmed plus the coyotes put a hurting on me.Today my whole place is fensedin,andthe two g.sheps,and South African Boerboels keep the bad guys far away.I walk them often,and the dogs mark right over the foxes,and coyotes’markings,The large amount of fowl were hatched in my incubater.It’s a ;learning process which I enjoy.Richie
    Forgot to mention that I exspanding my pens.Had 12 one time<and it looks like I'll wind up with about the same.Tips/hints are always welcome.

  2. NR QUINN says:

    interesting and informative imformation for us …we are starting a new flock of chickens. I tend to make a house really nice and warm or cool for the chickens . I put a wood floor in my hen house and open wire in summer and cover sides some with materials to make sure they are warm in winter. fenced topp runs too. wish me luck on starting this one for the chicks I got …I am fixing hayed nests and put either wood chips or hay on the floor too so they can lay on it or roost too…any advice on roosts types that is best or fencing that would be varmit proof? im using 2 inch and putting on hen house openings to make sure nothing but my hens enjoy the house .

  3. D Morgan says:

    For those with small flocks (2-4 hens), I have to say for dealing with winter weather the Omlet Eglu coop cannot be beat. The double-walled plastic coop has just the right amount of insulation and ventilation to keep my hens warm during those long winter nights. Even this year, with nighttime temps regularly dipping into the single digits in our region, my girls were fine in their coop with no added heat source, ever.
    One winter tip I like to share with those who have attached runs is to cover your run with 4 ml (or thicker) clear vinyl sheeting. I cover my Eglu’s entire hoop-shaped run all the way down to the ground, and cut out a separate sheet to fit over the front panel/gate. I attach the sheeting to the wire run with binder clips or very small clamps from the hardware store. This creates a toasty ‘greenhouse’ effect and allows plenty of sunshine in. If the weather warms up a little, I can pull back some of the sheets to let a little more air in so it’s not too toasty. This has been a lifesaver, and I now get the vinyl sheeting out each November before the worst of the cold weather hits (it’s a lot easier to install when you don’t have gloves on!).

  4. Margaret Craig says:

    Buy the right kind of chicks, Wyndottes, Orpingtons, Americanas, Speckled Sussex, small combs are best. The heavy breeds do well here and the Americanas are good winter layers.
    Have heated water containers.
    Deep litter is good, I have access to kiln dried sawdust. try to keep the coop dry. Fresh air is important. Our temperatures don’t get below 0 degrees so aren’t a problem. Ventalation but no drafts. I provide 14 hours of light.

  5. Pingback: The Cold Hard Truth – Chickens in the Winter | McMurray Hatchery Blog

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