I don’t know how folks who live in real snowy climates manage their birds in winter. We got about 18 inches of snow Friday and yesterday and didn’t even try to get in the chicken coop yesterday.
Knowing we might not get into the coop for a day or two to feed and water them, we added an auxiliary feeder and added an immersible heater to the five-gallon waterer. The chickens had enough food and water to last at least three days. We were expecting 40 mph wind gusts, so I tacked tarps up to cover the hardware cloth along the top of all the walls. The wind isn’t a problem by itself, but getting a lot of snow blown into the coop is not desirable. We also timed the lights to be on all day because the tarps kept the coop pretty dark.
On the first day the chickens were perfectly happy indoors. Today they were making more fuss. I think they are not used to being cooped up and a day is about their limit.
A long time ago, I put up a polycarbonate windshield on the west wall of the coop because the wind comes mainly from that direction and we don’t want rain getting blown into the coop. I think I’ll put up similar windshields on the other three walls. The main advantage of windshields over closable doors is that somebody has to be around to close the doors. The main disadvantage is that windshields reduce cooling cross breezes in summer and might affect overall ventilation.
My main concern when I first designed the windshields was to maintain ventilation in the coop. Without adequate air exchange the coop will get super hot in the summer and super damp in the winter. Ammonia from feces will pollute the air inside the coop absent good ventilation. I don’t know how to measure the impact of the windshields, but I believe my design minimizes any reduction in ventilation. I made the shields stand away from the face of the coop wall by a couple inches so that warm air can escape and (hopefully) draw cooler outside air behind it. I might put one additional shield up at a time and then observe any changes in the way the coop feels and smells. If all goes well I won’t have to worry about hanging tarps to keep the coop dry next time we get a windy rain or snow storm.