Although chickens evolved as tropical birds enjoying Southeast Asia’s balmy weather, they have an amazing tolerance for cold. Inner feathers nearly as fluffy as goose down keeps them toasty during all but the most frigid temperatures.
While chickens may not be bothered by cold, they don’t like snow! A comical activity is to open the coop door the morning after the season’s first snow and watch birds zoom outside, stand befuddled in the strange cold white fluff, and then rush back indoors!
Most people raising backyard flocks like their birds to have access to fresh air and room for outdoor exercise year round. Snow poses a problem, since few birds will venture out into a snowy run.
Fortunately there are several temporary and permanent ways to keep the run snow free, allowing the birds outdoor access no matter what the weather is.
A permanent solution is to cover the run with a roof. Corrugated metal or fiberglass is relatively inexpensive and easier to install than a plywood/shingle roof. With sides of wire mesh and a simple but permanent roof overhead, chickens enjoy winter fresh air and outdoor exercise without having to walk on snow. In addition, a roof provides cool summer shade and protection from aerial predators all year.
Temporary roofs also keep snow off the ground. Simply positioning a picnic table outside the pop hole creates a temporary roof. Although it only keeps a small area snow free, the birds will enjoy being out of the snow underneath it.
Other temporary roofs can be as easy as spanning a sheet of plywood across two sawhorses positioned near the run’s door. Wind easily rips plywood off the horses, so it helps to weight it down with a few well-placed rocks or cinder blocks. Temporary roofs also protect against overhead predators and are easy to remove in the spring.
A final way to keep runs snow free is to wield a snow shovel. It is work and using “elbow grease” takes only a few minutes to clear a small space. Your chickens will appreciate the effort.