What Do Chickens Need in the Winter?

Winter is a difficult moment for both wild and domestic chickens, thanks to the freezing temperatures that come with this season. That’s why your precious birds need plenty of things to help them survive during this challenging season.

Whether keeping indoor or free-range birds, you must ensure the birds get the essentials they require to withstand the cold weather in the winter.

7 Things Chickens Need in Winter

Chickens need many things to keep warm in winter and beat cold stress. You could think that you are providing everything to your chickens, yet the essentials you provide to your birds can’t help them overcome cold in the winter. You need these seven essential things to offer your chickens in winter.

– Nutritious Food & Fresh Water

Nutrition is quite crucial for chickens in winter. Your birds won’t keep warm and survive the cold temperatures if you don’t provide them with proper nutrition in winter and freshwater, although chickens don’t need a lot of water during the colder months.

Here is a guide on the foods you should provide to your chickens in winter to help the birds go through these grueling months.

Additional protein

Protein is one of the nutrients you should add in large amounts to your chickens’ diet during the winter months. Protein plays a crucial role in a chicken during winter.

This nutrient, for example, helps chickens maintain healthy body functions. Furthermore, extra protein in the winter will help your chickens create antibodies that will help them fight off myriads of poultry diseases.

Your chickens will need more protein in the winter to help them overcome cold stress. Your chickens will also need additional protein because it will help them keep warm as their bodies use energy to digest the protein in their daily feed.

Some foods you can give your chickens to provide extra protein in winter include mealworms, insects (whether live/dead), or frozen. Other great additional protein sources for chickens in the winter include sprouted lentils, meat scraps, and cooked eggs.


Vitamins are also among the most crucial foods for chickens. You should add them in large amounts to their diets. Vitamin-rich foods can help protect the chickens from a wide array of diseases they are likely to suffer during winter when their immune systems are pretty weak.

Besides stimulating your birds’ immune system, vitamins also help enhance the digestion of all the nutrients your chickens have during winter. Furthermore, vitamins ensure your chickens have a good circulation system because they are inactive during the winter, thus subjecting them to heart disease.

Some healthy vitamins to include in your chickens’ everyday diet in the winter include lettuce, kale, broccoli, and spinach. You can also add ginger to their feed to stimulate blood circulation in their bodies and also boost their immune system.

Cinnamon is another vitamin-rich food item crucial for chickens in the winter months because it helps boost their digestion and further improves their blood circulation.


Besides giving your chicken some of the foods that will help them overcome the cold winter months, you also need to provide them with some treats that will keep the chickens happy and further boost their nutritional intake.

Some of the best treats to give your chickens during winter to supplement their diet include oatmeal, sunflower seeds, and scratch grains.

Carbs-rich Foods

Chickens don’t need plenty of carbs in the winter because these birds are inactive most of the time because they redirect their energy to warming their bodies.

Nonetheless, chickens need carbohydrates because the more they eat carbs, the more their bodies will generate the heat they desperately require to survive winter. Some carb-rich foods to provide to your birds in moderation during the winter to provide them extra warmth include cracked corn, rice, and wheat.

Fresh Water

Chickens will not drink too much water in the winter because they aren’t at risk of dehydration. Water is still essential for chickens in the winter because it helps them digest their food. That’s why you will see some birds eating snow when they lack water in the winter, to remain hydrated, and to aid them in digesting the many food items you provide to them as you strive to keep them warm.

Ensure your birds have clean, fresh water during winter, no matter how little water they will drink. You can store the water in electric-heated water bowls to keep it warm enough for your chickens. Your chickens won’t beat dehydration easily, even after consuming large amounts of snow.

– Insulated Coop

Although chickens can keep warm while living in the coop in the winter, you have to insulate the cage to ensure it’s warm enough for the birds. Insulation will ultimately help keep the interior of the cage warm during winter.

Use spray foam insulation in the coop to insulate it against heat loss, although it is an expensive coop insulation option. You can try other inexpensive insulation options, such as fiberglass, which is effective in trapping heat inside the coop and preventing cold from entering the coop in cold weather.

You can try covering the chicken wire with light transparent material to insulate the coop, ensuring your chickens get enough light to sustain their egg production capabilities.

– Thick Bedding

Bedding is essential for your chickens, even when it isn’t necessarily cold. Besides keeping the chickens warm, quality bedding helps keep the birds comfortable, especially when roosting at night. Thicker bedding will help keep the chickens warm in the winter.

If you have straw bedding in your chickens’ coop, for instance, you should add more straw to the coop to make it thicker enough to provide sufficient warmth and comfort to your chickens during the winter.

The thicker the bedding is, the warmer your birds will feel during the winter months, thus ensuring they have protection against heat stress. You can add some old clothing to the existing bedding to make it thicker and warmer for the chickens in the winter.

Add thick layers of pine shavings or straw to the existing bedding material to make it thicker and warmer for your chickens. You can also add hay inside and exterior of the coop to further help insulate the coop and make the bedding thicker for the chickens.

– Roosting Area

Chickens need a warm roosting area in winter. Your chicken will ultimately succumb to cold stress if they roost in a cold place at night. That’s why you must make your chickens’ roosting area warm enough for your birds during the winter, especially if a couple of baby chicks are in the flock.

Because chickens roost on perches, it helps to ensure the roosts are in a warm and comfortable place when the chickens retreat in the coop to roost. Cover the roosts with warm clothing to prevent your birds’ feet from freezing.

– Snow-Free Chicken Run

Some of the most cold-sensitive parts of chickens are their wattles and combs. These two parts are prone to frostbite, so chicken raisers must keep their birds in snow-free chicken runs to protect them from frostbite. Furthermore, a snow-free run will help protect your chickens’ legs from freezing during the winter.

Roosters are particularly at risk of frostbite in the winter because they have larger combs and wattles than females. A high-intensity chill and excess moisture can be disastrous to your chickens, especially when you don’t prevent snow from entering the chicken run. Cover the run with iron sheets and also cover its sides to ensure the snow doesn’t enter the coop from the sides.

Keep cleaning the run to ensure there is snow around to protect the chickens from freezing their feet and frostbites. Furthermore, add a thick layer of straw to the chicken run to give your chickens a comfortable area to walk around comfortably while protecting their feet and legs from snow.

– Stimulation

You can provide your birds with everything in winter, but the birds will still feel like it is winter time. Your chickens will only reflect on the cold days and forget that you are doing something to keep them warm and comfortable during these cold months. Stimulation can help keep chickens happy and warm as they endure cold-biting days.

Because your chickens won’t be spending most time outside in winter, you must keep them entertained to keep them happy and help them overcome that feeling of “it’s wintertime.” Things you require to stimulate your chickens include hangings, baskets, toys, and more comfortable roosts. Such items will keep the chickens busy during these cold days.

– Protection from Predators

Because chickens are quite inactive during the winter, they become an easy target for lethal predators, especially considering the birds will be spending time indoors. Signs of a predator can overwhelm your chickens, even when you provide them with everything to keep them comfortable, warm, and happy.

Thus, you must protect them from predators by ensuring the coop doesn’t offer the roaming predators access to the birds. Start with sealing the gaps and placing the coop where it’s safe from predators.

3 Things Chickens Don’t Need in Winter

Chickens need plenty of things to keep them comfortable in the grueling cold months. Nonetheless, these birds don’t need everything. Here are the three things your chickens don’t need in the winter.

  • Heat Lamp – Many chicken raisers consider adding a heat lamp to the coop to keep their chicken warm in the winter. However, a heat lamp can be dangerous for chickens because it might prompt all the birds to crowd around it. Furthermore, some birds could accidentally knock down the lamp, bringing the coop on fire.
  • Artificial light – Adding artificial light to the coop during winter months may seem convenient because it can help chickens lay more during the dark winter days. Nonetheless, adding artificial light, especially at night, can confuse the birds, making them assume it’s daytime. Thus they won’t sleep at night because of artificial light.
  • Chicken Sweater – Chicken sweaters may seem like they keep your birds looking cute and warm in the winter. The problem with chicken sweaters is that they prevent your chickens’ feathers from fluffing. Therefore, your birds won’t keep warm when you remove the sweaters from your birds.


Winter seems a grueling moment for chickens and their owners. This season is pretty cold and affects chickens’ health and egg production. It’s thus vital to give your chickens everything they need to survive winter. Furthermore, chicken keepers must know what they shouldn’t provide their chickens in the winter.

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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