As this is our first winter with chickens there were a lot of things we did not know coming into the season. Would the watering system work? Would the newly installed plastic greenhouse surrounding the coop hold up in strong wind and cold? Would the water heater keep the chicken water from freezing? Would the LED lights we set on timers provide enough light to keep the chickens laying eggs through the winter? So many questions, and it was not that long ago that we didn't have the answers to any of them. But, now, at the end of January, we can answer them all pretty well.
Will the plastic greenhouse work out? Answer: Absolutely yes! We love this thing! We zip it up at night and open in the AM when we open or close the chicken coop (which is inside the greenhouse). We are using deep bedding on the floor and the chickens LOVE it in there. They can and do come out a lot. But when cold, rain or snow sets in, they migrate quickly to the greenhouse and seem to have plenty of room to root around and scratch and with multiple perching spots at different heights. They go into the coop to lay their eggs and come out to scratch around, eat or drink. When zipped up at night the greenhouse captures a bit of heat from the house. Combined with the complete elimination of wind inside the greenhouse the captured heat makes for a remarkably comfortable space.
We modified an inexpensive, plastic greenhouse kit by moving some poles and cutting a hole in one side so that we could set it up outside one of our back doors to our home. This allows us to enter the greenhouse from inside our house. This means that we can tend to the chickens without even putting a jacket on. Collecting eggs is literally just step outside the back door. It has also - so far - held up very well in some extreme winter wind. It is tucked up next to the house and surrounded by high fencing that keeps the strongest winds off of it.
Will the "chicken party lights" keep them laying all winter long? Absolutely!
As days get shorter and colder in MN, many chickens stop laying eggs. The day/night cycle and the reduction of protein in their diets (chickens eat a LOT of worms and other bugs in the spring, summer and fall that they can't eat in the winter) they stop producing eggs. To keep the chickens' cycles going, people add lighting systems and add more protein to their feed. Before winter set in, we added some very dim, low watt LED rope lighting in and around the coop. We put it on a timer and hoped it would be enough to keep our girls laying through the winter. We were not sure the LED would provide enough light. But, it has worked out very well. We collected 4 eggs today from our 5 girls. The birds that are laying are holding pretty steady at one egg per day with one day of "rest" per week.
Also: the chicken water is not freezing and most of the other concerns we had about keeping chickens in winter have disappeared. It is remarkable how resilient the hens are to the cold. But, boy do they hate the snow!