BOMGAARS BLOG: Winterizing Your Chickens

Posted on 10/10/2019 at 10:37 AM by Kris Kegerize

Bomgaars Blog - Winterizing Your Chickens


  • Light
    • Maintain a 16 hour day length
    • No decrease in day length
  • Artificial light
    • 25-40 watt bulb is sufficient
    • Incandescent, CFL or LED equivalent
    • Timer
  • Do not keep lights on 24 hours
  • Don’t forget to collect eggs ofter
  • Proper Ventilation
    • Air flow is important
    • Limit air exchange to maintain temperature
      • Do not seal every opening
      • Need to bring in fresh air
      • No ammonia smells
    • No condensation inside coop
      • Moisture will chill the birds
    • No drafts in the coop


  • Consider sheltering the run area
  • Construction grade plastic
    • Keeps snow out
    • Blocks the wind
    • Allow some ventilation
  • Roof or cover over the run


  • Deep litter method
    • 4 to 6” deep
    • Material will compost
    • Monitor moisture content
    • Add new bedding on top
    • Do not remove bedding until outside temperatures warm
  • Benefits
    • Generates heat
    • Provides a scratching area
      • Chickens do most of the turning work – You may need to turn spots that they miss
    • Helps with boredom
    • Absorbs moisture from manure
  • Feed
    • Constant access
    • Keeps them warm
    • Intake will increase - ~0.3 lbs/bird/day
  • Water
    • Should never be frozen
    • Heated water bases
  • No water or frozen water means they don’t eat
    • Not eating means they will be cold
    • Can lead to death


  • Haul water from the house
  • Fill the waterers several times per day
    • Cons
      • Back breaking
      • Icy paths
      • Blizzard-like conditions
      • Messy – spills and splashes
    • Pros
      • Exercise
      • Quality time with your hens


NOT to Heat

  • Recommended!
  • Chickens can stay warm on their own
    • Body temperature – 106°F
    • Feathers and down provide insulation
  • Eliminate drafts
  • Patch any holes that developed in the walls over the warmer months
  • Insulate the coop

To Heat

  • Not recommended
  • Be sure your electricity is safe
  • Temperature should only be raised a few degrees
  • Power failure
    • Will your birds be able to tolerate a temperature drop?
  • Be careful!

Frozen Assets?

  • Nest boxes
    • Insulate
    • Extra bedding material
    • No drafts
    • Collect eggs often


  • Fluid in the tissue freezes
    • Cells become damaged and die
  • Comb, wattles and toes are most susceptible
  • Affected areas become discolored
  • Treatment
    • SLOWLY warm affected areas
    • Take the bird to a warm environment
    • Consider consulting a veterinarian
    • Check the coop for adequate ventilation
    • Check the moisture content of the coop
    • DON’T use a hair dryer or heat lamp to warm the area
    • DON’T cut off any affected area
    • Don’t pop any blisters

Frostbite Prevention

  • No excess moisture in bedding
  • No drafts in coop
  • Use wide roosting bars
    • Wooden!
  • Apply thin layer of petroleum jelly to combs and wattles


What does it mean?

  • Natural loss and regeneration of feathers

When does it happen?

  • Several times in a bird’s lifetime
  • Twice in chick stage
    • Around 7 days
    • Between 8 and 12 weeks of age
  • Adult molt
    • First time around 18 months old
    • Typically, once a year after this

Why does it happen?

  • Allows bird to replace damaged feathers
  • Preparation for colder weather

How long does it take?

  • For adults, 8 weeks up to 6 months!

What causes a bird to molt?

  • Decreasing day length
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stress
  • Lack of water and/or feed
  • Malfunctioning lighting


  • Egg production
    • Before the molt
      • # of eggs produced is decreasing
      • Quality of eggs is decreasing
    • During the molt
      • Egg production dramatically slows or stops
      • Reproductive tract rests and rejuvenates
    • After the molt
      • # of eggs produced increases
      • Quality of eggs is improved
  • Shell Strength
    • Before the molt
      • Eggs are bigger
      • Shell strength decreases
    • After the molt
      • Eggs are smaller
      • Shell strength increases


  • Egg production
    • Before the molt
      • # of eggs produced is decreasing
      • Quality of eggs is decreasing
    • During the molt
      • Egg production dramatically slows or stops
      • Reproductive tract rests and rejuvenates
    • After the molt
      • # of eggs produced increases
      • Quality of eggs is improved
  • Shell Strength
    • Before the molt
      • Eggs are bigger
      • Shell strength decreases
    • After the molt
      • Eggs are smaller
      • Shell strength increases


  • Timing
    • Molt the birds in the fall
    • Start the molt at least 10 weeks before temperature drops below 40°F
  • Lighting
    • Decreasing day length is important
    • If possible, limit day length to 10 hours
    • If not, remove all supplemental lighting
  • Nutrition
    • Switch birds to Purina Flock Raiser
    • No supplemental calcium
      • This will encourage birds to stop laying eggs
    • Increased nutrition to meet the needs of the hen
      • 20% crude protein
      • Higher energy
      • Supports feather regrowth
  • Caution!
    • Birds may lose some weight during this period
    • Not a bad thing


  • Difficult in a backyard setting
  • Controlling day length is key
  • Day 1 – reduce day length to 10 hours
    • Consider using dark curtains or plastic on the coop and run to block out the day light
    • Allow for air movement – don’t suffocate the birds!
  • Day 24 – increase day length to 12 hours
  • Day 31 – increase day length to 13 hours
  • Next 4 weeks – increase day length by 15 minutes each week
  • Next 4 weeks – increase day length by 30 minutes each week
  • Diet
    • Day 1 – switch all birds to Purina Flock Raiser
    • No scratch, snacks, scraps, treats, etc.
    • Day 24 – provide a supplemental feeder with oyster shell
      • Helps to stimulate a return to egg production
    • Day 31 – switch all birds to Purina Layena


  • Transition from starter to layer feed
    • Day 1 – Sprinkle a handful of the new feed on top of their current feed
    • Day 2 – Sprinkle a couple of handfuls of the new feed on top of the current feed
    • Day 3 – Blend the two feeds together in the feeder. 25% new feed with 75% current feed
    • Day 4 – Blend 50/50 new/current
    • Day 5 – Blend 75% new with 25% current feed
    • Day 6 – All new feed
  • Transition within 7 to 10 days
    • Not an exact science
    • You won’t “break” your birds if you go to fast or too slow
    • Go slower if switching to pellets


Purina® Layena®

  • Pellets or crumbles for hens
  • 16% protein
  • Oyster StrongTM System
  • Oyster shell incorporated into the pellet
  • Elevated levels of manganese and vitamin E
  • Non-medicated
  • Feed at 1st egg or 18 weeks

Layena comes in both crumble and pellet form.  Both forms contain Oyster Strong, so it is not necessary to provide supplemental oyster shell to your hens. Start feeding this at 18 weeks of age or first egg, whichever comes first.  Remember to only feed layer feed to hens that are laying eggs.  Not to roosters or young birds.


Purina® Laynea® Plus Omega-3

  • Each egg contains 250 mg Omega-3 when fed for at least 3 weeks
  • 50 mg Omega-3’s in 56 g store-bought egg
  • Formulated with Oyster StrongTM System for good production and strong egg shells
  • Contains prebiotics and probiotics to support health
  • Vegetarian formulation
  • NO added hormones or antibiotics
  • Don’t forget about Layena Plus Omega-3.  You can get eggs with a little extra nutrition with this diet.  The Oyster Strong System is also included in this feed.

Purina® Organic Layer Feed

  • Rich in antioxidants, to support immune health
  • Essential nutrients for nutritious eggs
  • Non-GMO
  • Available in a crumble or a pellet
  • Now with Purina’s exclusive Oyster StrongTM system
  • If organic feed is what you are looking for, then we have that as well.  It is a 16% protein product just like the other two.  It is available in both a pellet and a crumble.  And now, our organic feed also comes with the Oyster Strong System.  We have incorporated oyster shell right into the pellets and crumbles so you can get strong shells from your hens without the need to supplement.


Scratch Grains

  • Chickens love scratch
  • People enjoy feeding scratch
  • Limit the amount offered to no more than 10% of the chickens’ diet
  • Wait until the birds are 18 weeks old before offering
  • And now that your birds are adults, we can start giving them scratch grains.  Just be careful as to how much you give them.  Remember to use the 90/10 rule.  We have a conventional and an organic offering to fit everyone’s needs.




  • Araucanas
  • Plymoth Rock
  • Buff Orpington
  • New Hampshire Red
  • Rhode Island Red
  • Australorp
  • Cochin
  • Wyandote
  • Silkie Bantam
  • Jersey Giant
  • Many others!

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