At what point is it too cold for chickens to sleep outside?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by thornhill, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. thornhill

    thornhill New Egg

    Dec 21, 2014
    Starting this summer my hens began roosting outside in my enclosed run (I assume because it was so hot and humid at night). I kept the coop door open 24/7 because the run is 100% secure.

    Winter has come and they haven't moved back inside.

    I'm inclined to do nothing because the run is secure, I don't have to deal with opening the coop door early in the morning, and it's a lot easier to cleanup poop outside of the coop than inside.

    But is there a point that it gets so cold that they need to be forced backside to protect them from frostbite or exposure? Or will they go inside on their own if it gets to that point? Where I live it rarely drops below 30 at night, but we'll get a few hard freeze warnings a year — so it's certainly not all that cold of a winter, but technically sub-freezing. One thing I worry about is that it rarely hits freezing during the day. When the chickens go to roost it's usually in the 40s, so if freezing was a cutoff point, for example, they wouldn't know it's going to eventually be that cold.
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    If your coop is open to the run, I doubt it's much warmer in the coop than in the run itself. My climate sounds similar to yours, and I had a trio roost in the trees outside the coop for about 2 years without problems. I worried about them during windstorms, but they were always fine the next morning.

    Unless they're where they're going to get drenched or windblown, I wouldn't worry about it.
  3. shortgrass

    shortgrass Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 14, 2015
    Northern Colorado


    I have 4 that got a serious case of "iced chicken" a week ago in a blizzard... Their own fault, they roost in a tree above the coop and got hit pretty hard.

    They were fine after they melted, but the couldn't get back into the tree the next day because they were too heavy with ice, so they finally came in to warm up.

    Then back to the tree, at 11 degrees F at night, they're pretty tough when they're used to it :)
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    If the run is predator proof, don't worry. Birds in trees get picked off by predators at night here, so everyone has to go in at night. Mary
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    My birds not expected to produce eggs can handle direct exposure to elements even with temperature dropping below -10 F with considerable windchill. They have to contend with rain, freezing rain and snow. They must be in good feather and fully mature. Birds with poor feathering which can include what is normal for breed (silkies, frizzles, necked necks), small (bantams) and with odd body shapes (modern games) and large comb and wattles will no be so tough. The birds need to be in good health. I state again no expectations of egg production. For eggs during extremes my birds need to be protected from the extremes so not all nutrition is devoted to staying alive.
    2 people like this.
  6. Spartan22

    Spartan22 Overrun With Chickens

    Sep 2, 2014
    North Canton, Ohio
    The chicken pop door from my coop to the run is open 24/7. They go in before dark and out by dawn, I guess they trained themselves that way since they were chicks. I only closes the door when the temps drops below 20*F and extremely windy at night.

    So I guess if they have their roost inside the coop, they will naturally go inside @night wether it's cold or warm, and they have free will to go in and out on day time regardless of the temps.
  7. thornhill

    thornhill New Egg

    Dec 21, 2014
    It's been raining pretty heavy for the last week and that has caused the hens to go back into the coop at night, even on nights when there is no rain.
    So I guess if they're uncomfortable they'll go back inside.
  8. thornhill

    thornhill New Egg

    Dec 21, 2014
    While I don't think it's a huge difference in temperature, the coop does offer some wind proofing and should capture some of the warm air given off by the birds.
  9. cstronks

    cstronks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 12, 2013
    New Jersey
    They would be fine if it were not for the exposure to wind and draft. That is the only reason I would be hesitant to keep them outside. Frostbite can do a lot of damage to the birds flesh. Mine have all been trained to sleep inside, they love their hen house. I spent a small fortune on the thing, so they better! I also close them up due to predator fears. Neighborhood has a bunch of raccoons and I'd rather be safe than sorry.
  10. thornhill

    thornhill New Egg

    Dec 21, 2014
    Training is a pretty loose word when it comes to chickens.

    When I first got my hens I too trained them to go into the coop at night. And I always also closed the door after them.

    Because the run was predator proof I didn't see the point of closing the coop door at night during the summer (and I didn't want to have to worry about getting up early to open it), so I just left it open. For a while they kept going inside at night, but then they stopped.

    So it would seem that when given the choice, they prefer to stay outside. I'm sure that in the summer the climate outside is a lot more pleasant, and even in the winter the outside air is fresher.

    But as I noted in a recent post, a long spell of rain appears to have motivated them to go inside again. So the hens know they still have access to a sheltered roost and will use it if the weather outside is bad.

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