The first thing to recognize about your chickens is that they can withstand cold temperatures if they are dry and can get out of the wind. Generally speaking most of your winter problems are due to poor water supply, poor quality of food and ongoing wet conditions. If these areas are addressed your chickens will fair well through these colder months. In Addition, as stated, your chickens can endure quite cold temps, however; if you regularly have temperatures below zero, you will need to provide a heat source for your birds.
Proper watering of your chickens is crucial to their overall winter health. Ice-cold water is not palatable to chickens, so heaters that take the chill off are almost a necessity. There are a large variety of water heaters available. I would try to avoid heat lamps or overhead heat fixtures for this purpose. They are often fire hazards and inefficient electrically for this purpose. If you use anything metal make sure it is grounded. Make sure that when you set this up in your coop, your birds cannot easily use it for a perch. This will lead to contaminated water. Try to keep your water container slightly above the floor of your coop but not level too the floor because your birds will more easily scatter bedding material into their water.If you manage to keep your birds well watered food is your next challenge. Hens will not lay properly unless they have an easy time eating and drinking as much as they want .
The traditional winter-feeding method involves a heavy feeding of scratch grain in the late afternoon, so chickens go to their roosts with a full crop of grain that they will digest through the night. The grain is fed as whole wheat, whole oat, or cracked corn scattered in the straw bedding of your coop. This will give your chickens winter exercise and fluff up their bedding. Try to keep whole grain in half your range feeders and high protein poultry pellet in the other half. Whole grain is a good foul-whether feed, since its not much affected by rain or snow. Even if it sprouts, its still good for the chickens. Its high in energy, which is what the chickens need if they are wet or cold.
Do not allow your indoor bedding to become overly damp. This will lead to unhealthy animals. To keep your chickens dry inside your coop proper changing of your bedding straw is required. When cleaning your coop rake the old bedding out into the chicken yard and this will help provide a dryer outdoor condition for your birds, and the added natural fertilizer in your chicken yard mixed with any seeds from your indoor winter feedings will help to produce some spring sprouts Since straw is a relatively cheap source of bedding and works well on muddy outdoor situations, it is wise to always have available. Robert Plamondons poultry newsletter was the primary source used for this article.