How To Keep Snow & Wind Out Of The Chicken Pen During Winter
Here’s how I plan to keep snow (and surface wind) out of the chicken pen area during the stormy winter.
You can see it in the picture above. Yesterday I installed clear PVC roofing panels all around the bottom perimeter of their caged pen. They are 26 inches wide. Got them at Home Depot.
They were easier to install than I expected. I bought 12-foot panels and cut them to length. The plastic cut easily with my tin-snip shears. Wear gloves though while cutting – sharp edges.
I used flat-head 3/4-inch screws to secure the panels to the chicken pen frame. No pre-drilling was necessary through the panels. They easily screwed right in – going through the PVC.
About a week ago we had our first significant snowfall (6 – 8 inches). It has since melted. However I discovered one thing… My chickens do not like the snow! Not a single one ventured out of their pen onto the white stuff – even when it had melted back to just an inch or two.
What about your chickens? How are they in the snow?
We can get some crazy windy snowstorms up here in the mountains. Though the chicken pen is roofed, snow WILL get in there. Especially if blowing sideways with the wind drifts!
First I thought of just using some plywood. But not only is plywood expensive these days, but it would make it a lot darker in the pen during the day. So I decided on the clear plastic roofing panels instead. They weren’t cheap either. But I like it a lot better. Hopefully they will too!
The panels only provide 26 inches of protection off the ground. That’s high enough to block direct winds, given the height of a chicken. Blowing snow will still get in there to an extent I suppose. And we do get enough snow around here which may challenge the 26-inch height. Though it may be okay most of the time. Plus I have a snowblower!
I “might” go one more level with the panels. Not sure yet.
UDPATE: I did add more panels to increase the overall height and protection from snow and wind. Here’s a photo:
UPDATE: One of the biggest advantages of attaching these corrugated panels has been WIND PROTECTION! We get some pretty wicked down-sloping winds up here in the mountains and this has helped with that to an extent. If my birds could talk, I’m sure they would thank me…
Beginner’s Guide To Raising Chickens
(view on amzn)
Okay, what about those of you who have chickens and you live where there’s snow? How are you dealing with that issue?
Ken,the plastic panels are a good idea. Letting the light in while blocking out snow and wind sounds like a winner.
Now if you can just get them to wear their little snow boots…
Snow boots, and aprons. They make those, for real. I bought some once; they were red in a bandana pattern. One of the roosters was rather, um, rigorous in his ‘dating’ practices, and the girls were getting bare in spots. The aprons were to protect them, while still allowing for normal conjugal activities and egg laying. Wish I could post a picture – they looked so cute. :-)
The Cardinals in the tree look like they approve too. Wishing they had a nice house like that!
only 2 eggs ken ?
7 a day. Every day.
Might want to do a post on egg preservation techniques.
My neighbor uses clear plastic sheeting and a staple gun. The snow that blows over those panels will also annoy your chickens. Leave a little near the roof for vents though. Otherwise a solar oven you may have :-)
I thought about plastic sheeting. However I decided against it. For whatever reason, the chickens often peck at the pen’s screening (probably when they see bugs and such). Anyway, it probably wouldn’t take long for them to peck a zillion little holes in the plastic. The winds we get here can be intense at times. It would surely shred – especially as the pecked holes weaken the overall surface and begin to behave as sails…
That said, it would have cost less for sure.
If my area was more well protected from winds howling down the mountains, I would have gone the plastic route first.
I don’t remember where you live. You will find the chickens don’t care much about the cold. If they’re cold they’ll go inside. What they care about is security and the ability to find food. No cover from predators combined with snow means they don’t waste the calories to try to find food.
They might actually dislike the plastic barrier because it distorts their view.
Four inches of snow is up to their butts. If you had snow up to your butt you couldn’t walk in it either! I just end up shoveling the snow but they still don’t want to come out of the coop. That means cleaning the coop more often, in the winter, in the snow. Good thing I like birds.
My Henhouse is a small lean to built on side of a 10x 10 dog kennel, it has a cover….The roost is on the high side, and folds up for easy cleaning, behind the roost poles i wire a pc of white/ old fiberglass at top , leaving a vent. of 3 inches at top and bottom. the rafters have air venting, not big enough for critters to get in.. there is screeened openings at each end /with solid planking that drops down when cold.
…. to screen the run area, that also houses the rabbits i put up similar panels of fiberglass on the cold side.and also drop small tarps around the 2 large grow out cages on the outside, of north….. I keep something to install on the south .. watching the weather… for sudden and severe storms from south and east…. I open the coop and allow free ranging… it is not the snow that keeps critters in here,.. during winter i use bones to make them bone broth and supplement it with veggie and meat scraps, other grains, that have been swollen… Heavy blowing rain and winds will put them up quick enough.. they have water and food in the kennel area.
My chickens will go outside until it is the single digits. If they can get somewhere they can forage they will go there. So if you plow a trail they’ll go along the trail looking for food. Or if there are other structures that keep snow off the ground like a trailer or car.
They’ll gladly waddle through a foot of snow for 100′ if they can get somewhere they can scratch around. But if there is a solid 4″ of snow everywhere they aren’t going to waste the energy.
They don’t like things that obscure their view too much if it doesn’t give them adequate concealment or cover. So they will hang out next to a 100′ of chain link fence but not 100′ of pole barn.
They’re chickens, they’re not completely retarded.
They may not be retarded , but the chickens are revolting. From the claymation movie “Chicken Run”
Half my chickens are Democrats. Half are Republicans. One is a Libertarian.
Some won’t work unless they’re hungry. So you can’t overfeed them or they just sit around on the dole. It’s a fine line because if you don’t feed them enough they wander off.
You also have some that will reluctantly go out and forage but will complain about the freeloaders and try to snipe their reluctantly found food because they earned it due to pecking order. They’re usually the old ornery ones that want everyone to get off their lawn. They want nice things but don’t want to pay for it because they think since they shit out eggs when they wore a younger chicken’s clothes they’re entitled to it. So they kick the “dolers” out of the nesting box because they earned it.
Then you have a lonely Libertarian. They wander endlessly in search of the perfect food, shitting out eggs wherever they please, sometimes sharing and sometimes simply not caring. They don’t care about anyone else’s choices as long as they don’t impact them and they do not feel the need to conform to the norms of the majority. They know if they want nice things they have to work for it. They know if they want security they need to work together and pool watching resources… and if they don’t save for the future and be likable they’re Sunday dinner.
Snow ? No worries there.
Bobcats – my nemesis .
But, I found out to my surprise, my chickens love to stand in the rain. Just like ducks.
I imagine it cools them off.
My daughter in South Dakota tells me they’re getting snow already, unusual for this time of year.
The farmers there say it’s going to be a long, cold winter.
Good luck with yours.
My girls enjoy a little snow now and then and that’s exactly what we usually get every winter. The nice thing about our snow is that it doesn’t stay frozen very long and the hens LOVE mud. Their yard has a natural wind break of wild plumb bushes. An added bonus of planting chicken friendly vegetation around the pen is that the hens enjoy picking off and eating the leaves along the fence line. Even though the wild plumb is deciduous, it’s dense branches do a great job of blocking wind even when bare. They catch snow, too, so it doesn’t drift too deeply into the yard. I don’t know if there is a safe evergreen shrub (I heard boxwood might be toxic).
We have about 30 hens and one rooster, and their pen consists of two different sides separated by a central roosting shed. Both sides of the pen are roofed with steel panels, the sides are wire. Here in Northern Idaho, we get snow and crazy, swirling winds that blow the snow from all different directions. Initially, I wanted to seal off one or more sides, part way to the roof, with plastic, but my wife had different ideas. She cares more for her girls, and worries more about them than she does me, I think! We started finding snow in the pens, and the rain made things a quagmire, and the chickens hated it, so plan “B”. We covered all sides of the pens, ground to near the roof, with clear plastic sheeting, leaving small openings near the top for ventilation, but that’s all. Easy installation with a hammer stapler, wooden lath on the edges for strength. The plastic lets lots of light in while keeping the snow and rain, and more importantly, the wind, out of the pens. The temperature inside is usually substantially warmer than the outside areas. Happy hens, happy husband!
My elevation is 2500 feet so I only get a few inches a year and the dense trees keep the wind down. So California isn’t a total loss, just our politicians are!
I guess my chickens have acclimated to living with snow in the winter. Usually takes them a day or so to “test the waters”….but they come on out and do their usual even in the snow.
Just got our first snow of the season,10″ yesterday. I have tin roof panels around the bottom 2.5′ of the run for extra predator protection and hardware cloth enclosing the rest. My run is also roofed. Even then we still had drifts of snow inside the run last year. Although my chickens are cold hardy breeds and would come out in the snow I felt that less snow in the run would be better. This year I stapled up clear plastic sheeting on the side the wind blows from to keep the worst of it out. I felt like this offered some protection without making it dark and still had air flow from the back side being open. When it did snow yesterday, I still got a little in the run from the back side, but it was minimal and I’m happy with my snow mitigation efforts. Will reassess after snow season to see how it worked long term.
Thanks for the info guys.
I’m on my second batch of RIR. I’m still learning, so please keep posting.
“How To Keep Snow & Wind Out Of The Chicken Pen During Winter”
Don’t ya’all just bring em into the house, like us?
I did that. Once.
Since our chickens are in the enclosed orchard- we gave away 8 trees and built a small chicken coop, we just bring the sides down and they are real comfy
Looks good, Ken. If needed, maybe consider plastic lattice on the door and above the plastic panels to keep air flow but keep out some blowing snow?
We have two different pens and groups of chickens. The stationary coop area is surrounded by chain link fencing That is 6 ft. high. This extra large coop houses two dozen hens and one roster, and now 16 additional juvenile chickens. It sits two feet off the ground so chickens can also go under the large coop. The windows open to the East; we get most of our wind from the west. Outside the chicken fencing are momma hog and her piglets on the east side, our Fenced berry garden On the south side, hugelCulture berry garden on the west side…and the entrance gate. And the 12 ft high fenced Turkey pen on the north side. The coop is entirely surrounded by other fenced areas. When snow starts, it swirls so we get some bare ground and some high areas. The chickens come out based on the temperature and wind. Too cold or windy and they all stay inside. I use deep litter method to keep coop warmer in winter. During extreme cold, I keep gate closed and no free ranging as too many predators out hunting for food.
The other coop is 6 x 8 ft. Movable that stays close to goat barn in winter. The chickens come out and hang in the goat area during the days scratching through their hayed 16 x 16 covered area. No fencing for these girls and one rooster. These are actually my best layers and foragers. Same deep litter method in this pen.
I don’t shovel paths other than for me to get where I need to be but I am breaking ice and refreshing water A lot in super cold weather. The chickens seems to manage just fine in the snow if it isn’t too cold or windy. I feed heavier in winter because they don’t have as much forage. Throw the hay with seeds and they have a ball!
DAMedinNY what breeds of chickens do you keep? Do you find having two Roosters a noisy situation?
NHMichael, I started with Purebred Ameracaunas but found them too broody and temperamental. I ordered some black Astralorps and enjoyed those personalities and found they also wintered well here. So I crossed my Ameracauna hens with my Astralorp rooster and got several nice hybrids that take the heat and cold well, lay well and don’t all go broody Or fight with each other. These guys lay an olive egg which is pretty and has a good size.
The next year I ordered in a sizable batch of Easter Eggers from Cackle, which is various breeds crossed with Ameracaunas. These are the ones that lay all different colors (based on what breed was crossed with the Ameracauna). They have the tufts on their cheeks and low combs. They manage the weather well and are my best foragers and layers. I included several Welsummers in this group to see how they would do. I lost 4 of the 6 hens right off the bat…they seemed to get picked off first. We have a lot of aerial predators to include owls, hawks, and bald eagles. I still have two hens and my Welsummer roster, who is the daddy for most of my new chicks this year.
The only problem with the Easter Eggers is none went broody. To get the best broody that is not mean, I like the cross of Astralorp with Ameracauna. The mom’s are awesome and I have used them to hatch out ducks too. They seem to know the babies are not chickens and the mommas keep them close to the ducks while they grow out for a couple weeks. Once they are swimming And eating with the big ducks, momma relinquishes her responsibility. With her regular chicks, she keeps them closer for about 6 weeks. Our ducks and chickens are in the same coop area.
Interesting. DAMedNY I was thinking about Khaki Campbell Ducks and was looking for real world experience in keeping them in winter here in New England.
How do you keep them in water? Are they content with the rubber water dish you exchange as it freezes or a electric dog bowl?
I know ducks seem to be not mothers (how did the species survive..) and many put their duck eggs under a broody hen.
My best chicken person favors Buff Orpingtons because at least her Rooster is a quiet Gentleman and they do go broody.
Any information would be welcome.
NHMichael, we absolutely love our Ancona ducks! My spouse says they are his favorite poultry. They were on the critical list for low numbers so we make certain to have a few hatches each year. They handle the winters well and get along great with my chickens and midget white turkeys. We are fortunate to have a small pond for them to play In; however, my friend who fell in love with these ducks, keeps them without a pond and they are perfectly happy.she gives them a small pool to play in for the hot months. These ducks prefer to stay outside even in really cold weather. They have a three sided shelter they can go into or they once in a while go into the coop with the chickens when deep cold. As long as the three sided shelter does not have wind blowing into it, they do well.
I have found that our black Astralorp roster is a gentleman also. The Welsummer had a rude awakening this summer when he hit one year of age. He decided to hit me from behind so I smacked him pretty hard – he then realized who was top dog. He has been a gentleman ever since then. I will not keep a mean roster around but I will work with A young one who is good with his girls.
We have been focusing on having truly hardy animals that can handle the extreme colds (minus 30 degrees one year) that come around time to time. I would not recommend the welsummer rosters because their combs can freeze. I like the smaller combs.
This will be our first winter with the midget white turkeys so I will have to keep everyone posted on how they maintain in the cold.
Ducks have no problem when we refresh their water at any time of year.
What material are you using for your roof? This is our first winter with chickens, and I attached a PVC run to our coop so the girls can go in and out during the day, but the tarp cover has been a pain to keep clear of snow. Thanks,
It’s called “SmartSide” (4×8 sheets) from Home Depot. I really like it. I used it when I built my shop (for the exterior). Though it’s not meant for roof, it is a very resin composite and is pre-treated / primed. It is seemingly much more water resistant than ordinary 4×8 plywood! I also applied exterior grade paint before I put them on the coop.
I supported them every 2 feet with small joists – sloped for water runoff (you can see that in the pictures above). There is a lip on the edges of the 4×8 sheets so they overlap each other – which is great for keeping water out of the seams.
Originally I was thinking about using plastic corrugated panels, but they’re too thin and I fear won’t hold the snow load here. So I opted for wood instead. I do roof-rake when there’s too much snow since my supporting joists are not meant to hold “tons” of snow load!
Obviously there are lots of ways to do this. But that’s what I did.
I just added another picture in the article – and commented how the side panels have been great wind protection.