I love having Back Yard Chickens! It is one of the best choices I have ever made :-) We are going into our second winter with our Chickens and if you have taken the plunge at getting your own back yard chickens and are unsure about how take care of them in the winter, I thought I would let you know what I have learned over the last two years.
#1 Chickens are very hardy and do fine in the winter if you follow certain guidelines.
#2 If you want your chickens to continue to lay eggs during the winter you need a light in their coop to simulate the sun. Naturally chickens want to stop laying eggs in the winter and their bodies tell them to stop when the days get shorter. I gave my chickens about a month off from laying because it is not good for them to lay constantly, but it was hard on us because there is a huge difference between the taste of the eggs you get at the store and the eggs you get from your own chickens! (the store bought eggs have a sulfur taste) after going off our chicken eggs for a month my 15 year old daughter said she is never eating store bought eggs again!. If you have a small coop make sure the light is not directly on them because they will get too hot. I use a infrared light so that it is not so bright on them while they are roosting/sleeping.
#3 Make sure you get Chicken food with a higher protein content in the winter. In the summer they get plenty of protein from the bugs and things they eat while they are free ranging, but in the winter they don't have that luxury. I also throw a handful of dog food in with my chickens food each day and they love it! I like to get the lay mesh Chicken feed from the IFA store.
#4 It might be wise to get a water warmer bowl for the winter so that their water does not freeze. I have yet to get one because I am too cheap! So everyday I knock out the frozen left over water and pour in hot water that cools off quickly in the winter air. Chickens need plenty of water to drink to lay well.
#5 Keep their coop clean they like to lay eggs in nice fresh straw. I know it is cold and it is tempting to put it off so you don't freeze your hiny off, but it is worth it for you and for them.
#6 Keep your chickens moving. It helps them stay warmer. I like to sprinkle feed outside there coop so that it gets them out and moving on those colder days.
#7 Keep a heat/light lamp in their coop to keep them warm especially during the really cold winter months. Like I said Chickens are pretty hardy, but can't handle freezing temperatures without some help. My neighbor last year had her light go out on her with out her knowing and two of her hens froze to death when tempts went below freezing one night.
So that is my winter advice for chickens :-) Let me know if you have any questions.