Barn heating


Apr 27, 2021
I am looking ahead to our first winter with chickens up here in New Hampshire. We have 11 chickens that are 15 weeks old.
This area pictured is about 1/4 of my (unheated) barn and is 15'x8'. One wall to the right has hardware cloth, the rest and ceiling are full wood walls. They also have an access door to an outdoor 12'x9' run.
Forgive me because I am new and learning...I realize chickens can withstand a cold environment, but what is the limit to how cold?
Also, do I understand correctly that if the temperature stays warm enough, chickens will continue to lay normally? Or was I misinformed?
This barn gets pretty cold in the winter with concrete floors and it's drafty. We would like to provide them with something (other than the brooder heat plate that does nothing) that can heat this area just to a "comfortable" level.
Does anyone have a similar setup/situation? What did you do?


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Scarborough Fair
6 Years
Jul 3, 2016
WA, Pac NW
My Coop
My Coop

Percheron chick

9 Years
Apr 12, 2013
Hudson, Colorado
My chickens used to have a horse stall for a"coop". Open wire on the top and walled lower half. Winters get down to single digits and can dip to negative single digits once or twice. I would cover the front of the stall to keep blowing snow out but other than that, I didn't do anything special for the cold months.
If it is drafty enough to ruffle feathers then drop some fabric or plywood sides to help block the wind. The concrete will radiate the cold so cover with a foot of bedding materials (leaves, pine needles, shavings, wood chips, straw, dried lawn clippings...). Continually add over the winter as it breaks down and settles. A heated water source will save you some time and work but it will increase the coop's humidity level and increase the risk of frostbite. My chickens eat significantly more feed (2x) in the winter. I also ferment my feed in the winter to increase their water intake.
Because it's the chickens first winter, they should continue to lay at a high level. You will have a problem with eggs freezing so plan on collecting eggs multiple times a day when you can.


Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Jun 7, 2020
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
BYC has owners in Canada, Alaska, etc with unheated coops raising chickens at -30, -40F. Based on age, your chickens are full feathered, no concerns there.

While I have no personal experience with cold, I can confirm that the very solid advice you've recieved above is consistent with everything I've read, from numerous reputable sources. Dry, well ventilated, draft free.

Heat plates are not radiant sources (such as ceramic heat bulbs), while safer than those bulbs (less fire risk), and more efficient than those bulbs, I still wouldn't use one unless you have a hatch in winter you need to raise in that barn. Birds need to be in contact with them to be effective. Focus efforts on blocking breezes from the ground to some height above their heads as they roost, while allowing ventilation above to move damp, ammonia laden air out. Trapping humidty in cold environments promotes frost bite - part of why ventilation is more important than heat.

Even something as simple as stapling a visqueen, tyvek, or similar plastic wrap barrier up against your stud walls will do what's needed - and incidentally, it will create a "dead air space" between the outer walls and the inside, creating a primitive insulation effect. Any warm moist air hitting that temperature gradiant will tend to cause condensation - which in this case will form on the water-proof plastic sheeting and run down, rather than on the wood where it might encourage rot, mold, or mildews.

and yes, dry brown organic material - straw, leaves, etc - on the floor is always a good idea, inches thick, add to as needed. Come spring, you can shovel it all out and turn it into the soil of a raised garden bed - works great!


The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
14 Years
Jul 26, 2008
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
My Coop
My Coop
what is the limit to how cold?
I think sustained levels of -30F or colder needs a bit of heat. (Not windchill, not brief dips, sustained)
Also, do I understand correctly that if the temperature stays warm enough, chickens will continue to lay normally?
Sudden temperature drops will decrease or stop egg production.

But, it is mostly light that determines rate of lay. Pullets of high production breeds can often lay all winter even in cold and dark. Other breeds, and older hens need light to keep them laying.

To stay warm they need to eat, and they need light to eat. If you get below zero F, then a light on a timer so they have 10 to 12 hours to eat per day will keep them warm.

As for drafts.... as long as the sleeping perch is draft free, and snow drifts aren't building up, you should be fine.

If you have a solid poop shelf below the perch, and a solid bit of something behind the perch, that should keep the perch draft free.


Mar 5, 2020
Central Illinois
With respect to the concrete floors, I would simply add a deeper layer of bedding to help insulate it. I would also recommend figuring where your drafts are coming in and solving that problem first. Ventilation is good, but drafts can be deadly. You want your ventilation sources as high as possible to keep the chickens from being exposed to drafts. It may require some modification to your existing structure.

We would need to see more photos to advise further.

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