Why Do Chickens Need More Protein in the Winter?

Protein is a crucial nutrient for chickens and all birds. This nutrient is especially important for chickens during cold winters because it helps the birds maintain their daily egg production and support feather growth during molting. That’s why chicken raisers must ensure their chickens get more protein in winter.

5 Reasons Chickens Need More Protein in Winter

Chickens need protein all the time and in all seasons, although they require more protein in the winter months. Here are the five reasons why chickens need more protein in winter.

– Maintain Egg Production

The number of eggs a chicken produces depends on the amount of protein a bird consumes. Chickens lay less frequently in the winter months because they are fewer daylight hours. Hence these birds lack enough sunlight to trigger the hormones responsible for egg production.

Chickens also lay fewer eggs in winter because these birds have fewer protein sources during the winter months. Moreover, chickens may stop laying in the winter because of cold stress. Chickens that don’t get enough protein in winter are likely to lay fewer eggs or cease laying altogether.

That’s why chickens need more protein in the winter to help them maintain egg production. Even though chickens’ laying capabilities won’t be at their peak during winter, providing more protein to your birds during the cold months can help them sustain their egg production, ensuring you get a steady egg supply.

Besides assisting chickens to maintain egg production in the winter, protein also helps improve the quality of eggs your chickens produce. Therefore, your hens will lay high-quality eggs in winter if you add more protein to their daily diet.

– Help with Feather Growth

Molting in birds, including chickens, is seasonal, and it usually happens in the fall when there are fewer daylight hours. Besides being seasonal, molting is an annual process that every chicken must undergo when it’s 18 weeks old.

That means your birds will molt each year; therefore, they need to grow feathers quickly to keep warm during winter. Giving your chickens more protein in the winter months can help boost feather growth.

Protein will help your birds grow high-quality feathers, thus preparing them for the biting cold in the winter. Newly hatched baby chicks also need more protein in the winter months to help them grow fast and capable of withstanding cold temperatures.

The more protein you give to your chickens, the quicker the birds will grow feathers, helping them prepare for the cold months. Furthermore, chickens that consume plenty of protein in winter will likely regrow quality feathers quickly.

The faster your chickens regrow feathers during molting, the easier it is for the birds to beat cold stress.

– Build Muscle and Strengthen Skeleton

Additional protein helps chickens with skeletal and muscle development. Protein is essential for building muscle. Chickens that don’t consume enough protein risk suffering from acute protein deficiency. The amino acids in the protein or the building blocks in this nutrient, help chickens maintain and repair their body tissues.

Protein helps baby chicks maintain skeletal development, enabling them to grow faster. Chickens need more protein in winter when they can’t get additional protein besides what they get from their daily feed. Besides muscle development, protein also plays a crucial role in bone health.

Sufficient dietary protein intake is crucial for chickens because it enhances bone mass gain during their growth. Furthermore, protein helps preserve chickens’ muscle and bone mass as they age. This nutrient also helps chickens acquire bone and mass in their formative years. That’s why chickens that don’t consume protein, especially during the winter when there are limited protein sources, risk having skeletal and muscle development problems.

– Help Keeping Chickens Warm

The problem with winter for chickens is that it makes it challenging for chickens to keep warm, particularly free-range chickens that spend several hours outdoors in freezing temperatures. That’s why chickens need more protein in the winter to grow the additional feathers they require to keep warm.

Chickens won’t grow feathers in the winter if they don’t get additional protein in their diet. Chickens also need more energy to digest their protein, especially during the winter.

Therefore, your chickens will generate plenty of heat as they digest the protein they consume, keeping them warm in the winter. Consequently, giving your birds more protein in the winter will help them stay warm in the colder months as they digest the protein.

– Improves Overall Health

Protein is crucial for improving overall health in all animals, including chickens. This essential nutrient, for instance, can help your birds make the antibodies they require to fight off illnesses and infections.

Furthermore, protein helps chickens keep their body cells healthy. Your chickens’ body cells will keep on increasing, provided you are providing the birds with enough protein.

Protein also helps chickens recover quickly from injuries because it boosts a chicken’s body cells, making it possible for the bird to replace the worn-out tissues after an injury.

Chickens that eat plenty of protein during their recovery from deadly chicken diseases are likely to recover much quicker than the chickens with little protein intake in their everyday diet.

Always Focus on a Balanced Diet

While chickens need more protein in the winter, that doesn’t mean that chicken keepers shouldn’t provide their birds with a balanced diet. Chickens need a balanced diet in winter because they still require other nutrients besides protein.

Here is a chicken feeding guide to ensure your chickens get a balanced diet during winter while maintaining their protein intake.

– Feed Your Laying Hens a Balanced Diet

Continue giving your baby chicks a balanced diet that consists of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Nonetheless, it would be best if you fed the birds more calcium and protein when they reach their egg-laying stage.

For instance, your chickens should have a diet comprising less than 4% calcium. Your young layers shouldn’t suffer from a calcium deficiency because a lack of calcium in their diet can weaken their eggs’ shells.

Besides calcium, you should also ensure their daily feed has at least 16% protein to boost their egg production. Vitamins can also help keep your hens healthy and boost their immune system.

– Feed the Right Food to Your Roosters

Roosters don’t need as much calcium and protein as egg-laying hens and baby chickens. Because protein is crucial for every chicken, including roosters, you must ensure your cockerels get at least 9% protein. Roosters also need moderate amounts of calcium in their feed to keep their bones strong.

You should also give your roosters considerable amounts of vegetables and fruits to provide them with adequate levels of vitamins that will help keep their immune systems strong.

– Feed Your Baby Chicks with the Most Appropriate Foods

Your growing baby hicks need more proteins than their egg-laying mothers. Their diet shouldn’t have less than 20% protein. Continue feeding the chicks a protein-rich diet until they are 18 and 22 weeks old.

Please switch to a diet that will give your chicks other crucial nutrients once they are old enough to consume various foods that will provide them with multiple minerals and nutrients.

Don’t Forget About Chicken Treats

While it is okay to feed your chickens more protein in winter and ensure they have a balanced diet, you shouldn’t forget to give them some treats. The good thing about treats is that they can help keep your chickens happy and looking forward to something good.

Some of the treats to give your chickens during the winter months include mealworms, which are tasty and rich in protein. It would also be beneficial if you gave them some grains like wheat to keep them warm during these cold months.

Seeds like flower seeds are also an excellent treat for chickens in winter because they keep their metabolism active and increase their body temperature.


Protein is essential for birds, especially in winter. Protein will not only help your chickens maintain their egg production, but it will also help keep the birds warm.

Furthermore, it protects them against various diseases, ensuring they don’t fall sick. Ensure your chickens get sufficient protein in their daily diet, and also be certain your birds get a balanced diet.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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