The indoor air temperature in your coop is determined by how much heat is coming in from various sources and how much is going out. Learn how to...
By patandchickens · Jan 11, 2012 · Updated Sep 16, 2015 · ·
  1. patandchickens
    Pic by SyzyQlou

    The Cold Coop: What to do (and not do!) about it.

    The 'heat budget' of a chicken coop

    You can think of the temperature of your coop as being like a bank account. It starts with whatever amount of money it starts with, but on a day to day basis the balance will depend on how much money you're spending and how much you're depositing. Similarly, the indoor air temperature in your coop is determined by how much heat is coming in from various sources and how much is going out.

    What are some of the things that produce heat in the coop and thus tend to warm it up? Well, chickens themselves produce heat. A single 5 lb commercial laying hen produces something like 10 watts of heat, so having 10 chickens in the coop is about the same as running a 100W lightbulb. Sunlight coming through windows will warm the coop air and whatever the sunbeam falls on; sunlight will also warm the coop walls and roof, which may then radiate some heat into the inside of the coop depending on whether there's insulation in the way. Passive solar devices, some of which are quite easy to construct, can capture additional heat. If your coop floor is dirt or slab, i.e. it's built directly on the ground, then for as long as the ground is warmer than the air it will be another slow steady source of mild warmth for the coop, until mid to late winter when the ground becomes just as cold as the air. And of course some people use additional electrical heating devices such as lightbulbs, heatlamps, infrared emitting heaters, etcetera.

    As far as processes that remove heat from your coop, and thus tend to make it cool down, there are really only two major processes to consider: radiant heat loss, i.e. that which insulation is intended to minimize, and air exchange that kicks out warm air and takes in colder air through vents, pophole, or air leaks. (Note that while wind chill can increase the rate of heat loss from your coop, it can never make your indoor air colder than the non-windchill outdoor temperature, although if your coop is drafty, there could be indoor windchill affecting the chickens. So when the outdoor thermometer says 0 F and with windchill it's -20 F out there, the thermometer inside a nondrafty coop will not read lower than 0 F. Really truly.)

    Designing your coop for winter warmth

    Notice that all of the above are processes that have particular rates. If you reduce the rate at which heat leaves your coop, and/or increase the rate at which heat enters the coop, and you can have a potentially-profound effect on indoor temperatures. Over some factors you don't really have much control -- there's just not a lot you can do about the weather -- but others can be manipulated through shrewd design and management to give you a coop that stays warmer:

    Source of heat input: How to make use of it:

    Chickens More chickens ;) (tho crowding creates other problems...)

    Sunlight Windows for solar gain; passive solar heating structures;
    if wall/roof are poorly insulated, dark colors will capture
    more heat

    Latent heat of the ground Dirt or slab floor

    Electrical devices Use if all else has failed to keep chickens warm enough

    Source of heat loss: How to minimize it:

    Radiant heat loss Insulate walls and ceiling

    Air movement Prevent drafts; create windbreak; limit ventilation
    to minimum necessary in a severe cold snap

    And that's not all. There are some other important considerations that affect how these heat inputs and losses will affect your coop. For instance, your main concern will be nighttime low temperatures, so the more daytime warmth you can store in the coop overnight, the better. "Thermal mass" describes how well a structure or material absorbs heat for later release. Things like shavings or wood or insulation or air have fairly low thermal mass; things like concrete, stone, an earthen floor, and big jugs or barrels of water have a relatively high thermal mass. The more thermal mass (total) is incorporated into the indoor part of your coop, the more stable indoor temperatures will be. The coop air will warm less during the day, because much of the heat is going into changing the temperature of those materials; but then that warmth will be slowly released at night so the coop does not get as cold before the sun comes up again.

    Incorporating high thermal mass materials into your coop's inside is especially valuable if you are using some sort of passive solar heating device, such as a popcan heater or a greenhouse-like enclosure; but even if all you have is the normal daytime warming of the outdoor air, plus sun through the coop windows, the more thermal mass you've got in there, the less temperatures will drop at night. (Excessive thermal mass can cause condensation problems on occasional unusually-warm late-winter or early-spring days, though; this is not a reason to avoid it, just something to foresee).

    Other factors affecting temp.: How to manipulate them for a warmer coop:

    Thermal mass Use stone, concrete, earthen floor, barrels of water, etc

    Area being heated Make drop ceiling or insulated hover around roost; or

    or partition off just part of the coop, and let chickens
    choose where to spend their time.

    Total coop size Don't fool with this just for thermal reasons; although
    a smaller coop requires less input to warm, a
    larger coop has more thermal inertia and 'swings'
    less with outdoor temperature changes, and
    also gives chickens more living room.

    There is a common misconception that in the cold North you need a small tight snug coop to concentrate chickens' body heat... a coop "small enough that the chickens can keep it warm". On the contrary, there is NO SUCH THING AS TOO LARGE A COOP. By partitioning off part of it (either a coop-within-the-coop type arrangement, or a drop ceiling or hover or suchlike to keep body heat near the roost) you can have the best of both worlds -- a warmer area for the chickens and lots of room for them to utilize when the weather makes them reluctant to spend much time outdoors. Actually I would argue that in cold winter areas, you ideally should have a LARGER coop (more space per chicken) than you would want in, say, Hawaii -- simply because the chickens are likely to be shut in, even if only voluntarily, for long periods of time and you don't need them getting crabby and pecky and starting habits that may be hard to break.

    Indoor versus outdoor temperatures

    Just because it is, say, -20 F outside does not mean it's necessarily that temperature inside the coop. Indeed, unless you have vast amounts of ventilation open, or a pretty small and uninsulated coop, your coop will almost always be warmer than the outdoors during the cold part of winter... yes, even with some vents open! You may look at your coop temperatures in September and doubt me. But in fact, this effect becomes much more pronounced as the outdoor temperatures get colder, with the temperature differential being greatest on the very coldest nights.

    The larger your coop is, and the more thermal mass it has, the greater this effect will be. A slab, sand/gravel, or earthen floor will also increase the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures. And of course, the more insulation you've installed, the greater the indoor/outdoor difference.

    Do you need to insulate your coop? You probably do not absolutely NEED too - except in the very coldest regions, chickens will not die in an uninsulated coop, especially if you supply additional heating - but it will sure make your chickens more comfortable and your coop easier to manage. By helping your coop hold warmth better, insulation will allow you to have a bit more ventilation open without excessive cooling of the coop, and that will make it easier for you to keep good air quality in there.

    Why you need good ventilation even when it's really, really cold?

    The biggest mistake you can make is to say "ooo, it's cold, I'd better shut the vents up so I can keep in all the warmth I can!". You do avoid a bit of heat loss this way, but what you mostly avoid is MOISTURE loss... and humidity probably causes as much or more cases of frostbitten chickens than cold does per se. Chickens can get frostbite in air that's barely below freezing, if it is damp air (or worse, damp air with a draft blowing at the chickens) -- yet most breeds are pretty cold-hardy in DRY air, being good down towards 0 F or in many cases well below that.

    So even if it is cold, please resist the temptation to shut the vents. I'm not saying there may never be a time when a person might take the calculated risk of shutting them overnight, although blowing snow in a hard wind would be a likelier reason than cold per se... but if you do it some night, make sure the coop is as clean and dry as possible, and I wouldn't do it in a very crowded coop (chickens themselves put out a whale of a lot of moisture, from poo and breathing).

    The best arrangement for cold-weather ventilation is probably to have vents high on several walls, so you can close down the upwind vents when necessary and leave the downwind ones open. High vents will get rid of the warmest air -- and that is what you want, yes it really is, because that's the air that holds the most moisture and thus gives you the most "bang for your buck" in terms of dehumidifying the coop for insurance against frostbite. I know, it sounds perverse, but truly, getting rid of the warmest air (even though it cools the coop a bit) is the best way to avoid frostbite.

    What temperature is 'warm enough'?

    This is probably everybody's bottom-line question. The answer depends partly on your chicken breed -- some, especially bantams and breeds very large single combs, are less cold-hardy than others -- and partly on how dry your coop air is. In some climates, it is harder to prevent humidity from being a problem, simply because outdoor relative humidity hovers around 100% for most of the winter. But for most of us, having fewer chickens in the coop, more (well designed) ventilation, removing droppings frequently (a droppings board under the roost, cleaned every morning, works wonders!) and eliminating any leaks will keep coop air in good shape. Commercial chicken barns aim for roughly 50% humidity, if you want a number; but in a backyard coop it need not be that precise.

    So what IS warm enough, for cold-hardy breeds in a well-run coop? Sorry, it still depends, and you will have to keep an eye on your own chickens to decide if they're having trouble or not. If they're huddling in one place all day, or reluctant to move, or moving "slowly", then it is probably time for electrical heat; same goes for any visible signs of incipient frostbite, such as a change in the color of the points of the comb. But if you want a ballpark rule of thumb, cold-hardy breeds in a well-run coop are generally just fine well down towards 0 F, and often considerably lower (sometimes to -20 or -30 F!).

    During a real "cold snap", make sure the coop is clean (thus dry), add extra bedding for them to snuggle down into for warmth, make sure their roost is wide enough for their tummy feathers to cover their toes when they roost (the wide side of a 2x4 works well, or a *wide* dead tree limb), and make sure they always have lots of food available, and liquid water.

    One excellent feature for a cold-weather coop is a max-min thermometer. I like the mechanical ones rather than the electronic ones, because AA batteries often die in very low temperatures. Mount a max-min thermometer at roost level in the coop and get in the habit of checking and resetting it daily; this way you will learn how your indoor coop temperatures relate to outdoor temperatures, and how that changes with colder and warmer weather. In a few months, you'll be able to look at the weather forecast and decide with good certainty how much ventilation you should leave open, and whether the birds will be warm enough overnight.

    Don't get too hung up on thermometer numbers, though. In the end, what really matters is how your chickens are doing. "The eye of the master maketh the cattle fat"; it also maketh your chickens healthy and happy through the winter. Don't jump to conclusions based on how you would feel if you were out there in that weather, do what the chickens tell you, and you'll be fine.

    What about electrical heating devices?

    I will be honest and tell you that I think the majority of people who run heat lamps for their chickens don't need to be doing it and probably shouldn't. A single, actual heat lamp (250 w) will cost you something like $30+ per month on your electric bill, and sometimes they cause fires. And if you live somewhere that an ice storm may knock your service out for days, chickens used to a very warm coop could find themselves in real trouble.

    That said, sometimes you DO need something on top of what you can finagle out of Mother Nature. The safest and simplest thing is to run a regular ol' lightbulb, like 40 or 60 or 100w. Nearly all that wattage goes into heat production, same as a heatlamp, yet they do not cost as much to run, and because they do not get so very hot, the fire risk is less. Try one of those first and see if it suffices. In combination with a hover or partition it may well be all you need.

    If you do run a heatlamp, be very careful. Attach it at two separate points, to two separate points on the coop structure, so that if one fails the other will catch it before it hits the bedding and starts a fire. Never hang a lamp just by a clamp or just by its cord. A 250w lamp should be kept at least 18" from combustible materials -- that includes walls and bedding. And use a guard to reduce the chance of chickens getting burns on their combs, which may sound unlikely but really does happen.

    Fires are another thing that really do happen, and realistically it is unlikely that your chickens would survive even a small coop fire. Make very sure that your wiring is sufficient to the electrical load; that all electrical connections are tight and correct; don't use extension cords if at all avoidable, as they and their plug connections can overheat and cause fires; and it is not a bad idea to have a fire extinguisher just inside the coop door, or in a nearby outbuilding, just in case. I am not trying to scare people, and obviously MOST coops will never experience a fire, but you do want to take all avaiable precautions, because those coop fires do happen to somebody and you don't want it to be you. Also see here: Fire Safety in the Coop and Barn

    Other options for electrical heating in the coop include ceramic heat emitters (screw into high-wattage heatlamp fixture, emit only heat not light); and oil-filled electric radiators, which have the advantage of no intensely-hot parts that could set fire to bedding etc. There are other electrical appliances that some people press into service, but they tend to be questionably appropriate for a coop in my opinion, either because they get dangerously hot for such a dusty tinder-filled area, or because they blow air around, or because they are not meant to be used somewhere like a coop where they can be damaged and cause electric shock or spark.

    I would urge you to wait and see how your chickens deal with winter temperatures in their coop. Use as many design and management techniques as you can to warm your coop and cold-proof your chickens. See how they act. Then if you are getting a touch of frostbite on combs, or the hens just huddle in a corner looking miserable, sure, plug something in; but don't do it just because you wouldn't want to be out there wearing only a feather sweater. There is a big difference between what's good for people and what's good for chickens.

    Good luck, have fun, stay warm (but not too warm, and especially dry and un-humid),


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  1. Acook1679
    We are getting ready for a pretty severe cold snap in upstate NY. We currently have about 14 inches of snow with more on the way. my coop is an old garden shed I had. I added some things sheet insulation in the parts I could, tried to spray foam any cracks, towels in other openings and yesterday wrapped a portion of it in black plastic. Wind-chills are supposed to be as low as 35 below. I have an electric heater meant for outdoor use mounted securely to the wall. I have only turned it on once while I was in there working. It doesn't blow the heat out. I am cautious to turn it on more for the fact of heat adjustment. It doesn't heat crazy just a bit. I wonder if 35 below would warrant turning it on. Opinions please. I have 6 australorps and they love to be outside so these next 2 days will be hard for them because I am not letting them out and a few of them have frost bite on their Combs.
      CityslickerHomestead likes this.
  2. norain
    we run our coops at 50 f works for us .using oil heaters and we have slatted plastic over the run door for the chickens to walk through and minimize heat lost . im pretty sure they would do fine if it was colder . but we are well insulated even the floors . which is nice not having water freeze .
  3. BReeder!
    I appreciate your opinions on humidity versus temperature. I am prepping to winterize my coop soon, and I found this article helpful.
  4. Corys chickens
    i must say the chicken coop in the picture dose not look good at all for winter living . try building something nice with a small
    electric heater they thank you in eggs
  5. slordaz
    I live in Idaho which we can get pretty dang cold -20-40,but my chickens have never been babied, first flock didn't like the insulated coop other than when they were hatching babies out, they preferred an open horse stall with straw was all, we did have to shovel places as they still went outside even at -20 with 4 -6 ft of snow, second flock kept at the house instead of the farm is in a 4*4*8 coop divided with plenty of ventilation and a way to go between both sides, one side has a door and screen door and perch , other side has shelf they can perch on and covered with straw on the bottom as they lay pretty late into the year, neither has lighting or anything and this flock too has an area shoveled where they can go out and do what ever they want in the fenced yard, only modification is to their watering which I keep an extra bucket of water so if it's froze to solid for them to drink it can be replaced we get to cold to use the heated bases, watering bowls are rubber which don't tend to freeze quite as bad and the food is trough is moved inside the coop. oh and a meal worm colony I have for them. But do not attempt this with a flock that has been babied and heat and lighting used.

    farm flock was mixed breeds, roosters lost their combs first year but are fine. barred rock, buff orpington Amerecuana,black sexlink with barred rock and RIR roosters
    home flock is RIR hens with a pea combed Ameracuana rooster
      CityslickerHomestead and savaged like this.
  6. suzannebest
    Thank you, Pat.
    Your article on Winter Coop Temps is mostly basic common sense. Although, I must admit that it was very helpful. Perhaps the labor of putting it into words helped my weary old brain to process the info more efficiently. Either way you look at it, it's still greatly appreciated.
  7. csridgway115
    Great article!
      BlackHackle likes this.
  8. chantel with chicks
    Reptile lamps are great for a bit of extra heat when needed, with no light at night to stress the birds out -if needed. I also made a 'paint can heater' that I think is safer then a heat lamp to use in winter. FYI for those using bulbs for heat, it is getting difficult where I live to find incandescent bulbs, as most hardware stores now only stock LED and CFL bulbs now, due to the energy efficiency. Remember they do not generate the 'heat' you would be looking for.
  9. ducks4you
    Pat, SO glad to hear your words of wisdom, again!! Over are TEG we were wondering if you were still active. :hugsI have read your articles and tried to follow your good advice about ventilation. I now have a prefab coop with 12 hens (manufacturer, of course, said it could house 15!) We just survived a bad cold snap of off and on almost a full month of bitter cold, two days -22 degrees F wind chill.) ALL of my hens did great! They are EE's, SLW's and EE mixes, and the youngest, about 1 year old are still laying--go figure! My wooden coop sits off of the ground, facing east, next boxes on the east side. I have both windows (east side) closed now but I have kept the ramp door open for good ventilation. I added 3 plywood boards on the south, west and north (secured with cinder blocks) and have their feed bowl under the coop. It stayed dirt under the coop, even with the snow. Their roosts are above the draft. I have meticulously kept it clean and dry. I use Equine Fresh below the shavings and that REALLY helps. I am not comfortable using a heating element in the coop. I DO have a heated dog water bowl, but it is outside and fully exposed to the elements. That thing kept it water, even during the coldest days and nights. I prep my birds in the same way that I prepped my horses, leaving their two windows open as the Fall dragged on to encourage them to grow feathers (just like being outside at night during the Fall encourages my 3 horses to build their coat) and my hen's back sides all look like triple ply dusters. They really went through their feed, and had to compete with a local flock of starlings for feed and water. Mine was the only water so the starlings flocked to it, but only in the coldest weather. They have now vacated. I believe in changing out my bird's water everyday to make sure that they were not discouraged drinking. Every time I cleaned the coop, even during the bitter weather, I was warm inside of it. For all livestock it really IS about a proper wind block and dry bedding.
  10. SoMDChick
    I will admit, I have friends that raise chickens, asking me for eggs in winter. I, do little extra effort, during the winter months, BUT, I have no less eggs! I love my girls (16 mixed chickens and 2 ducks), all boys, Roosters and Drakes.....freezer, no need for extra stress. My girls, YEAR ROUND, WINTER NO DIFFERENT, lay year round! I give them daily FRESH veggies, Meal worms......AND, RED LIGHT HEAT in their 25x8 coop, (AGAIN....NO Insulation, was a Wood Shed....JUST keep the weather (and WIND) off, BUT a trying to keep a little fresh air) COVER the coop floor with Hay. Those that choose to lay in soft hay, via their boxes....just a little more careful treading the hay. Some choose the floor bed, via a perch...ALL happy! Chickens respond to "talking" too, and daily treats.....THEY ARE PETS, and more attentive THAN most think! MY EXPERIENCE ONLY! As for the numerous FOX, THAT I AM STRESSED ABOUT..... (trail cam tracks 7 DAILY! ---- I ONLY HAVE Shingles, Architecture between them and my girls, on the "WOODS side" of the coop.....BEEN WORKING FOR YEARS!!!!! I DO, HAVE NUMEROUS motion lights on my property, which also detour them, but nothing digging for fencing. I guess, per all I see from you all, I have "DUMB" luck? Not sure, but I have PETS, and have little of, listed issues (knocking on wood, as I am SURE, just by posting, I will have BAD LUCK)......COLD, oh dear, absolutely, BUT I spend the time to watch behaviors of girls daily, to make sure none are struggling with cold.....
    1. greenleaf
      What kind of hay? Alfalfa?
      SoMDChick and BlackHackle like this.
    2. SoMDChick
      LOL....Alfalfa, um no, my allergies would go crazy. Second cut hay, mixed with some straw, to cut costs down. All seem to do well. :)
  11. bwalters
    I actually house y pregnant does and babies with my few bantam rocks and have 2 to 3 heat lamps going most times for a constant 40degrees. Birds know where it's warm as when I open the people door to go in....they are all underneath the lamps! I find my plymouth rock bantams are a little on the 'delicate' side..anyone else feel the same? where my new hampshire bantams are tough seem to handle the cold better.
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  12. neiowa
    28F plus a heater? Our would be stripping down and streaking.

    In NE Iowa we have had a somewhat colder normal winter. A couple weeks after Christmas where it never got up to zero including several nights down to -20F. 9x assorted hens have 80ft2 inside with heated water and an outside 250ft2 run that has plastic wrap for windbreak on the upwind side Even on the coldest days they spend most of the day outside. No apparent ill effects and average 4-6 eggs per day. One the really cold days down couple. Though loosing some frozen/cracked if can't collect 3times a day.

    Supposed to hit 40s this weekend, they will be sweating.
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  13. Yellowbird
    Good article. I have two coops, one very small from a local farmstore and a larger one that is 4x8x10 feet. In the larger one I do have a hanging lamp but only use a 40 watt flat bulb, mostly for light. I do notice the girls tend to roost nearer it when it gets down below 15 degrees. I use a metal water warmer under the metal waterer (designed for chicken waterers). I have vents up near the roof which I never cover, two 28"x28" sliding glass windows that I keep closed and also put up Plastic window covering on the outside in the winter. If it gets around 15or below, I do closed the ramp door at night to keep it warmer. Also in the winter I use the deep litter method which means I just add shavings on top of the droppings. By midwinter there is about a 5" layer on the floor which starts composting and releases heat and also serves as an insulation on the wood floor. In spring I clean it down to the boards once it warms up enough to shovel. You can buy a safe additive to sprinkle on the manure to expedite the compost factor as it warms in the spring. I'm not sure if there is an article on this on this forum but I know there is info out there about the deep litter method. I have used this set up for 10 years and it works well for 12-15 chickens. As for the small coop, this is my second winter with it and it does worry me a bit as I only have 2 chickens in there this year, last year I had 4. The nest box hangs outside of the coop so I use a bale of hay or straw underneath it and put lots of shavings and hay in the nestbox. Its too small for a water heater inside so I keep a heated dog dish near the door for water in the outside run. For all the chickens, I supplement the regular ration with corn and oats in the winter (some oldtimer told me this) said they eat it better and it helps keep them happy and warm. Also I no longer keep a rooster as they aren't needed for layers. I had a rooster for a couple years and when I kept them inside he wasn't very nice! I'm considering adding a rooftop garden onto the gently sloped roof on the large coop as an insulation for both summer and winter-anyone ever used a living roof?
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  14. LaurieL
    Thank you for so much good information! I plan on having a cold-hardy breed (Speckled Sussex), my coop is uninsulated, it has a working cupola on the gabled roof for ventilation, and it rarely gets below 10* here, but I’m going to use sand for litter and I’m more concerned it will retain cold rather than heat. I would like to create a little something extra for their comfort and I guess that would be what you call a hover? Any suggestions for how to construct one? Does it also need a little ventilation in the top to let moisture escape? What about using an old woolen blanket?
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  15. rdcowman
    Awesome Article!
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  16. 8CityChicks
    Good article. I have a 40 square for house that I wrap in heavy rolled plastic on 3 sides, leaving ventilation at the bottom & top on the side away from the roost to avoid drafts. I put the plastic up with staples and can tear lose the front covering each day to let the house air & get sun and then staple the plastic back at night. I only wrap the entire house when temperatures go below 32 degrees. When I enter the house in the mornings the air is quiet comfortable with the bird heat & the insulation. Needless to say my house is not one of the stylish,expensive ones. I built it myself from wafer board over 2x4 framing with the wood floor 6 inches off the ground. With a good coat of paint it has lasted 6 years so far & still has time left. My 10 birds like the roominess & the large roost spacing is just enough to minimize pecking & bullying. My birds have never shown need for house heating even with this morning's temperature of 13 degrees. I do use removable styrofoam to close off the vents near the birds but always lave the ones away from them open for ventilation. The house is always dry and not usually smelly in the mornings, but I do clean the litter bin daily to avoid complaints from neighbors and keep down ammonia & disease.
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  17. iowachickens
    Thank you so much for posting this article! It was so helpful and detailed. I’ve now got some great ideas about how to warm my coop without adding external heat.
    Sincere thanks!!
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  18. bevis
    We are in central Florida and it never really gets that cold here. But the chickens have adapted to the hot weather here so when it dips below 40, im guessing they are cold. They have a 10x20 house with 8' ceilings. Half of it has insulated walls and the expansion of the house does not. Its all 2x4 framing and sheeted with osb on the outside and the inside. This morning its 28 degrees here and 57 inside the chicken house. I use 2 of the stand up oil heaters. 1 on low and 1 on medium in different spots of the house. The oil heaters remove almost any concern of fire as they have no exposed heating element. And they only cost $35 at wallyworld.
    My wife has said NO WAY to air conditioning for them :(
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  19. TeresaLH
  20. ourpeepers
    Thank you so much for this article. This is our first year with chickens. We have 10, of assorted breeds. My son and I built our coop of nice pallet wood, and added battens. We made a poop drawer under the roosts, which are made from the support beams from the pallets, plywood floor and roof of plywood and “tin” roofing. Left the soffits open for ventilation, closed in with hardware cloth. Has four windows, 2 on ea of long sides. Great ventilation in summer and winter.

    I’ve kept assuring my family that the girls are fine, even in the ‘deep chill we’ve had this year, with temps down in the single digits. This article finally helped me to convince them. We have a water heater that keeps the water just above freezing. We did add cardboard inside the walls, to reduce drafts through the boards and battens, but that’s the only insulation. The girls are happy and healthy. They stay in when it snows or when windy. A couple try to catch the snow flakes when they’re big, lol.
    Just looking forward to eggs, again. But, I won’t force them.
    Love this site. I don’t post much, (aren’t you glad?) but read a lot.
  21. Elizabeth Johnson
    How long of a really cold snap, say about 1-2 degrees during the night, can a chicken take? I could swear my lavender orpington was shivering this morning. I have had a heat lamp on 24/7, for 4 days straight in their coop, because it has been THAT cold. There is ice built up on the walls and windows. Thoughts? Ideas? I saw on Amazon that they make "pads" that heat...thoughts on those? Its a steady 20 degrees in the coop right now, but we are going to get hit with another freeze.
      BlackHackle likes this.
    1. Phoenixxx
      Your weather is nowhere near as cold as mine, even during the polar vortex events we're having! Even my quail are surviving the -20 (-2 or something for you), albeit there is a 75w heatlamp in one corner that they can go to when needed. Back to chickens: most of us in canada don't even BEGIN to worry until it gets down to, oh, -25 coastal (damp) or -45 elsewhere (dry) before we consider additional heat. Orpingtons are heavily-feathered large birds and should not even bat an eyelash at anything below the lowest temp you mentioned, except maybe if it's a roo (tall single comb). My BO has light frostbite on the tips of his comb (we got damp -20 here and getting it again shortly) but him and the barred rock roo are the only ones showing any signs but they're still happy amd healthy otherwise. The ones i have that are less-inclined to go out are my bantam cornish; but, even though they're a tight-feathered breed and tiny, i don't worry about them - they've proven to be just fine in the nasty atlantic chills ;)
      HennyPennyCO and BlackHackle like this.
    2. Indoroowet
      <<There is ice built up on the walls and windows. >>
      If that is the case then your ventilation is really inadequate !
      The moisture has to be removed by at least 1 sq foot of opening per chicken ! (for passive ventilation)
      Or you can add a small 110 volts fan, the size of computer fan, in one of the openings. DO NOT create cross ventilation because that will create draft which is also NOT GOOD !
      BlackHackle and Gavinthesheep735 like this.
    Wow! This was a ton of information to process. I'll try to take what I can to put into my coop renovation. I am going to expand the physical coop area by about 8 square ft. with a second roost area. I am also thinking about adding hinged walls to control ventilation. I am a bit paranoid about our hens getting too cold. I probably should not as our neighbor has a mini barn and leaves the door open at night, and so far has not lost a bird. We sometimes get single digit temps and, rarely, below zero a few days a year here in my part of Virginia.
    I am learning a lot in this community. Thanks all!
  23. Julie Speas
    I've got two small windows and another larger one on the other side of my chicken coop. I'm beginning to prepare for our cold winters up in the mountains of NC. Should I keep a sliver of the window open for circulation during the winter months?
  24. RezChamp
    Thank you for posting this info. I have heard most of these points before but just like that...point form. The explanations go a long long way.
    Personally I like to use a 40watt bulb under the coop.
    My winter coop is 3ft of the ground. I "staple-gun 3or4 layers of plastic tarp to the base of the wall (all the way around with 1ft or so laying on the ground[weighted down with billets of wood or snow or ????[)and put a light fixture in a large roaster or a metal pail or a metal box. Keeps the floor slightly above freezing even in the coldest weather (like-50*C). It also helps to keep the deep litter dry"ish".
    I also occaisionally use a small 'interior car heater' to suck in dry air, warm it and push it into the coop. I use that only when the eggs start to freeze. This last method helps to push out some of the old air(humid/stale/ammonia smelly).

    Again, thanks for posting.
    May I please use this "printed" info in my presentations? I will of course give you credit. And of course I will give credit to BYC site.
  25. IdyllwildAcres
    I have decided on an open air coop, closed on 3 sides with windows open in the summer, wide open to run year round. Idyllwild CA here, at 5300' above sea level we get snow and lows rarely drop into the teens.
  26. firestomp
    Unlike me , you are very well spoken and did a great job with this article. I have been doing this in IN. since old enough to do it. We raised a LOT of our own food, and I learned the OLD ways from dad. Now in my mid 50's I am and have learned many, what I call modern ways. We weren't even allowed to have a light on at night let alone any extras for animals. Our house had a a main fuse box with 4 fuses. wire were in walls on insulators behind the od slat, chicken wire, and plaster walls. No AC, and cold in winter. I learned then, just as people, animals adapt to the temps, as the seasons change. Unless you bring in a new animal in the winter used to a warm barn.
    I give what life advice I have on here the best i can describe it, and have learned much, still new to this stuff. I wonder if you would or can, re-post this in another area or even in this one again. Today, people spoil their pets as they do kids. This is real life info that you have given and there hasn't been many views in the last years. Great job at this again.
  27. jrob53
    I am building my coop now and I have some insulated foam board with aluminum facing. 1 side is dull any thoughts about putting this on the inside of the coop. I watn to put it under the nesting boxes for sure
  28. Chickenlovers6
    Nicely organized. In other words, good job!
  29. H3xan01c
    Thanks for the article. good information. I'm going to be watching for those temps we had last year -30C cheers,
  30. woodmort
    I've been keeping chickens for over 20 years in this area of upstate NY (zone 5b) where temperatures can get down to 30 below F and have had no problems other than a few frozen combs . I do keep northern breeds--think of the types like RIR, BO, EE, and their hybrids of same size that can take that kind of cold. I try to avoid those breeds with big combs and wattles but even they (my Brown Leghorn rooster for example) don't show any discomfort. My flock size has varied from as few as a dozen to 40 depending on the year--all in the same sized coop. I have never used any form of heat other than the accumulated manure on the floor which is left until spring.

    IMHO, there are two basic requirements: adequate ventilation and a heater to keep the waterer from freezing. The former is necessary to avoid too much dampness--if you're getting frost inside the windows it may be too wet. For the latter I recommend a base heater or submersible heater designed for this kind of use--DO NOT USE AN AQUARIUM HEATER!!. Aside from that a diet with a little scratch corn and the birds will do just fine.

    This tends to be one of the things some beginners worry too much about, especially in areas where "cold" means 0* F. Feathers and down are very good insulation and, on at least one occasion, I have had a single chicken survive the winter outside living in the trees. Also, last winter my neighbors guinea cocks spent 30 below nights happily roosting in my windbreak so they could meet up with my hens the next morning.
  31. RezChamp
    @ -50*F, warmth can be very hard won and we had a a few odd nights and then a whole week straight of it last Winter. I've seen owls and chickadees freeze to death. Eggs freeze in less than 10 mins., humid or not.

    I've made some big, big improvements over my previous coops of poly on hoop, plywood and poly covered plywood.

    I've insulated the 2x4 walls and 2x6 ceiling of my coop. The floor is uniinsulated 3/4" fir plywood. the rest of the interior is finished in 1/4 pine plywood. Even the chicken door is insulated and has its own stormdoor. The ddbl pane window and the insulated door with screen & dbl pane sliding(lifting?)window face the south by south east to get the morning sun.
    My coop is 3 ft off the ground. For winter heat I use 3 systems.
    1 is, later on in the fall I staple 3 or more layers of poly tarp to the perimeter of the floor joists. I let it hang down with a foot extra so when the cold comes I weigh down with billets of wood or whatever. Till then it's just kinda tied up like a curtain.
    2 is, I attach a light fixture into a 5 gal metal pail. I use a 60-100 watt bulb depending on the weather.
    This put on a cement sidewalk slab on the ground under the coop about the middle of the floor. I secure the cord to the joists and run it to and up the outside wall. When I let the curtain down we have a little hothouse. Bugs, spiders and mice don't like light..
    My 3rd is, I put a metal dryer hose, with a flow restricter in it, through the wall of the coop about a foot from the ceiling. I secure a 500/700 interior car heater to eave and hook up the hose to it.
    When the heater is running it forces in warmed fresh air and the stale air is pushed out the small vent at floor level. ***I never close the flow restricter more than half.***
    Another cold beater I want to try this winter is afix the full length dryer hose(25ft in the box) to the ceiling like the rows of piping in a radiator then hook it up to the car heater. i just want to see if that will improve the efficiency.
    LOL. Crazy Cannuck....

    Because of Pats article I have just armed myself with more cold battling tools.
    I will add to my arsenal especially the passive solar heat thing.
    Thank you Pat.
    And I hope what I've shared will assist others.

    Hmmm. Black paint and ABS hose a plywood box, plexiglass. Yup, got the materials, now just to get away from this keyboard.
    HAGD everyone
      jjulian812 and Chlady55 like this.
  32. sunflour
    Very well done, thanks for your research and specific instructions.
  33. cstronks
    This is a great read. I have 14 birds in a 6 x 8 coop, all of which fit great. There isn't any overcrowding or problem, and they really confine themselves to small areas when the weather gets very cold. I have thoroughly insulated the walls and ceiling, however I use no other additional heating tools. There are two 12"x12" exits into the run on both sides of the coop which provide more or less enough ventilation, so I close all the windows I have when it gets around 32 degrees (usually lower, like 20) at night. This has worked great for me so far!
      Chlady55 and Ms Monk like this.
  34. hdbrat84
    This was so helpful! Thank you so much!!
      Chlady55 likes this.
  35. lightchick
    Awesome! I'm building a coop before winter.
  36. jaseyboy1986
    Great read. Everyday's a school day!
      Taylorp61 likes this.
  37. dufusanddingus
    Thank you for this article. I wish I would have read it sooner. I woke up at 4:00 this morning to a coop on fire, and I had a heat lamp in it. I hope others will heed the warning and use a safer form of heat if it is necessary.
  38. ShelbyCoral
    This is really nice, I love this! Also in the summer, the coop can stay nice and cold if the coop is nice and big.
  39. craftiekids
    This was Excellent info and answered a ton of questions! I have an open air coop that I put some plastic planking on top to keep out the rain and put old towels one of the perches that sits just under it. Its good and dry and I hope that keeps toes warmer. That was all we could do till our new coop is up. I do feed warm Beet Pulp just before bed for a warm tummy for all my critters. What about Summer? In North Carolina we have 90* or higher temps all the time. We need some really good hints on keeping them cool in summer posted in May or June before the heat hits. Again, Thanks Bunches!!!! Susie Q
  40. AVintageLife
    Great information. I wasn't concerned about heating my coop until my daughter got four silkies last summer. They don't have the same feathering as the rest of the girls and they don't sleep piled together on the floor (as I had heard they would). Instead I had to build them a sleeping loft under the roost. For my own piece of mind, when the temps are really low, I fill a kitty litter jug part way with hot water and bury it in the shavings under their loft. Even after 0 degree nights, it doesn't freeze and I feel that it must take the edge off the cold for them.
  41. Lizard Lady
    This is an EXCELLENT article! With temps dropping into the single digits here, and wind chills in the negatives, I'm constantly worried about my crew. My rooster already experience frostbite on his combs when temps dropped into the negatives, with wind chills around -20 to -30. Thank you so much for all your great advice!
  42. Our Roost
    One item not specifically mentioned is the R-value of materials used when building and erecting a coop. Simple things such as the grade and material thickness of exterior plywood is very beneficial to prevent and protect heat loss. Any metal products used will extract and hold cold in winter and absorb heat in summer verses using dry treated and sealed wood. Hope this helps.
      Jukasorenson likes this.
  43. mame1616
    That's probably the best cold-weather article I've read, especially the tip about watching how your birds act in the cold as an indicator. I have an uninsulated coop that is draft-free (in the winter, because I wrap it in plastic sheeting,) and ventilated. I add straw in the winter, which I stir and fluff daily. After almost ten years with chickens, this year if the first time I've had any frostbite, despite weekly applications of bag balm. Guess those two single-digit days were too much. Sharing this article!
  44. myhenhouse
    Our 5 chickens have an 8x6 coop, not insulated. 3 windows that I cover in plastic through the winter. Ground is dirt with bedding scattered. I leave our 2 brooder lights on in the coop and since I've done that they started laying again and basically that's the reason I put the lights on and also one is faced on the water to help keep it from freezing. They still love to go outside but unless the sun comes out they rather hang out in the coop.
      Taylorp61 and Ms Monk like this.
  45. jimmyp
    To: aoxa
    Sorry for the long delay in answering......if the power goes out the coop will stay warm enough so that the water doesn't freeze for at least a day (the heater is on a thermostat). I do have a generator for backup.The hens get daily access to the outside (I leave the door open when I go in)every day even when it is -30! In nice weather they have over 1/2 acre of wire-fenced and topnetted run.
    We have our lights on timers...12hrs.white flourescent / 12 hours red incandescent. Our hens seem happy to lay an egg a day, year round and are bred to do that; Leghorns and Loman reds.
    In addition to free choice layer ration the get appx. 10 lbs. per day of restaurant prep. greenwaste.
  46. jimmyp
    This year we have about 30 layers(and 2 roos) in a well insulated, with 6" of recycled styrofoam, 12 X12 coop. The additional heatsource is an infared heater on a thermostat. The inside temp is never lower than 50F. A rangehood fan unit runs constantly, on low, to exhaust moisture laden air. We use lots of woodshavings on the floor and in the nest boxes. There is a 1 ft. wide 'henshelf' 4ft. off of the floor on two sides instead of roost poles. Clean out is when the hens leave tracks in the litter. Our average is better than 28 eggs per day, year round. We get 'new' girls in June month)
  47. tenthround
    Good article. Seems to me the best thing to heat in very cold climates, (such as Michigan where I am) is the water.
  48. theoldguy
    very good info, Pat thanks
  49. LottieLou
    Thank you, very helpful article. This is our 2nd winter in Utah with chickens. It's our first year with our new coop. This article really brought some peace of mind, thank you.
  50. DuckRaiser
    I think this is good information, thank you BYC!:D

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