How do I keep my chickens warm?
- Master Enabler
Chickens are well adapted to keeping warm, as long as they are fully feathered. Make sure they have a place to roost that protects them from harsh winds, rain or snow and is free of drafts. Proper ventilation is a must! Putting them into a coop that is too tightly closed trying to keep the warmth in is more dangerous than an open roost under just a roof. Without proper ventilation, the respiration from the chickens at night can raise the humidity to dangerous levels in a closed environment, greatly increasing the odds of frostbite.
Where are they spending their nights now? Do you have a picture of their coop/run?
Edited by KYTinpusher - 9/22/15 at 7:57am
I’ve seen chicken sleep in trees in below zero Fahrenheit weather. One trusted forum member told a story about chickens going feral in northern Michigan and surviving the winter in the open, even foraging for themselves and probably eating now for water. I won’t say they thrived in that Michigan winter but they survived. With a bit of help they can thrive. Those chickens were not roosting on a bare tree limb overlooking a cliff, squawking defiantly in the teeth of a blizzard. Like the wild birds they found protected places out of the wind but with great ventilation.
Chickens keep themselves warm by trapping tiny air pockets in their down and feathers. Their body heat warms these tiny air pockets and that provides insulation for them. If a wind strong enough to ruffle their feathers hits them and releases those air pockets, they can get cold. So provide them a place to sleep where the wind doesn’t hit them directly.
You want gentle air movement though. You need to remove the ammonia and excess moisture from the coop. Ammonia comes from their poop decomposing and can be hard on their respiratory system. Moisture comes from poop and their breathing and can lead to frostbite if the temperature is below freezing.
You need good ventilation but you don’t want to have a strong breeze hitting them. There are many ways to do this but easiest way to me is to have openings high over their head when they are the roosts. Ammonia is lighter than air so it will rise. The air is generally warmer in the coop than outside so even on a perfectly calm day there is air movement up. If the wind is blowing outside, and strong breeze will be over their heads but will create a tiny bit of turbulence to suck the bad air out of the coop.
With decent breeze protection and good ventilation, your only concern in the winter should be keeping the water thawed.
As stated above, you don't want warm, you want dry. Think of trapping people in a car, almost immediately the windows fog over, and dampness is evident. That is what you want to avoid.
Good dry bedding, shelter from the prevailing wind, and roof over their heads, and chickens can thrive at 20-30 below 0F.
I live in Alberta Canada. We can get real cold in the winter -40. Should I use a heat lamp when the temperature really dips?
If so? how cold is too cold?
Plus I have sand in my coop for easy cleaning. Should I put pine shaving down or Straw?
My coop is 8x8 and its fully insulated. I have a window. I also have 11 hens and one rooster. All winter hardy breeds.