According to experts, chickens are able to withstand quite cold temperatures, and they will only start suffering cold when the temperature drops to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, inside their coop. However, dampness inside the coop will cause discomfort much earlier. Secondly, you also need to consider if your chickens have become tough by habitual exposure to the cold. If you have been using heat lamps when they are not actually required, your chickens might not be able to manage the extra cold.
Buying a Water Heater
Another important aspect to consider during the winter months is that your chickens must have access to an adequate supply of water, especially when the temperatures have dropped to below freezing. Chickens do not drink very cold water, and they do not try pecking the ice if the water bowl has formed a thin film of ice. You will have to buy a water heater, or one of the other options is to have an electrical heated stand in the coop, on which you could keep galvanized pans filled with water.
However, open pans can be messy compared to waterers, as your chickens will be flipping water all over, which can soak their wattles and combs. If your chickens remain damp or wet then they are exposed to higher risk of frostbite. One way to solve this problem with open pans would be to place a wooden float with holes. This will stop the water from being flipped and will insulate the surface water to some extent.
You also need to protect your chickens from wind during winter. If you are insulating the coop, you need to make sure the area remains very well ventilated. If you do not provide proper ventilation the area will become more humid, and dampness will stick to the feet and comb of your chicken, making them more susceptible to frostbite.
Comb Your Chickens
In fact, when the temperatures have dipped below freezing, it is shrewd practice to check the feet and comb of your chickens regularly. Some people like to apply a thin coat of Vaseline on the feet and comb, which provides a safe insulating layer.
Chickens will also need better feed during the cold months. According to studies, the requirement of protein for chickens goes up by about 20 percent during winter. The additional protein is supposed to provide the required fuel for their bodies to handle the cold. You could include cracked corn in your chicken's diet. About half a cup of cracked corn would be sufficient, and you should provide it before your chicken goes to roost. Cracked corn will raise the temperature of your chicken's body.
Providing an extra layer of bedding will keep your chickens more comfortable during the winter. You could use pine shavings or straw, as such materials, are decent insulators and they will protect your chickens from windy drafts as well. Finally, do not forget that your chickens need to dust bathe to keep them clean, and they will not be able to do this when the ground is frozen or covered with snow. Therefore, you need to keep loose dirt in a big tub, in an area that is protected from snow and rain.