Chicken tips for the winter

So here in Maryland we find ourselves in a prolonged cold spell that has brought our temperatures to 15 and 11 below zero with the windchill. On Friday, it was so cold that the water nipples were rock solid and my husband called me because he was trying to figure out what to do to help get water to the chickens. All outside water was frozen and the chickens needed to have access to water. All animals need water, especially chickens who lay eggs (no matter how infrequently!) Their water bucket is kept outside with a heater that kicks on if the temps drop below freezing, the heater keeps the water liquid, however, the nipples are out in the air and they were frozen rock solid! We have a water bucket that I use when brooding chicks and my husband hung that one INSIDE the coop and filled it with hot water, he periodically added hot water to keep the water from freezing and the inside placement of the waterer kept the wind from freezing the nipples. Tonight the windchill is due to be -11. It has never been this cold for so long here since I’ve lived in Maryland.

One thing you want to make sure you do as a chicken owner, is to have adequate food supplies. Chickens generate heat through the action of digestion, so before they go to bed they will fill their crops and while they sleep they will break down the food and that action heats their bodies and keeps them freezing. The down feathers help to. I do not use a heater, the risk of fire is too great and if you constantly provide heat they won’t adapt (they grow more feathers if needed). And on a side note, my chickens are not “cold weather” breeds.

I noticed they were hunkering down in the nest boxes which are filled with straw, in particular, the molting chicken would hang out there. So I added a layer of straw on top of the pine shavings bedding for extra warmth and it was well-received, within a few minutes one had already settled in.

In summary, provide water (check the supplies frequently), food and wind protection. Straw can help too. Good luck getting through this cold snap or as the weather channels like to call it… the POLAR VORTEX!



  1. What we do is just put an open pan of water in there. And change it out often around 2-4 times a day. We also use automatic waterers in the warmer weather. They just don’t work in this weather. Also I think we have tried the 3gal heated waterers. I think it worked fairly well.

    • Changing water 2-4x a day may work if you are at home, but we have jobs and so far, keeping the extra bucket in the coop has helped. Interestingly, today’s windchill was 11 below and the outside nipples still remained functional, I guess 15 below is the cutoff.

  2. I’m surprised they worked that cold. At least the extremely cold days are fairly rare. Hopefully behind us all together this year. What kind of water nipples do you use? I might have to give them a try.

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