Cold Weather Chickens

Jul 3, 2020
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I live in Wisconsin and as you can imagine it gets pretty cold here in the winter. We are currently in the middle of a cold snap and the temperature has been in the negatives every day. We have a radiant heater in their coop at night and it stays on during the day so that they can go up there anytime. It’s not that much warmer but it is out of the wind and if they perch right by the heater they can warm up a little. They have tarps on their run to keep the wind out as much as possible but they like to sit right where there is no tarp and watch everything that’s going on in the yard, which isn’t much right now. My question is, how cold should it be before I lock them up in the coop? I have only done it one day this year when it was about -20 windchill but today it is -16 windchill. Does anyone have a certain temperature they wait for before putting them all up in the coop? I know it’s not good for them but frostbite isn’t good either!
 

Callender Girl

Free Ranging
Sep 18, 2018
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I truly feel your concern. It dipped to minus 17 last night -- not counting wind chill. Depending on the girls, I opened some of the coops yesterday, but none of the expected "fluffy" girls wanted to venture out. Only the tiny Cochin Bantams braved the cold for a few minutes, mostly just for a quick sip or two from the water dish. Even the ducks and geese are now heading back to their shelters after breakfast.

If mine had a radiant heater, I doubt ANYBODY would step outside until it warms up -- which won't be until next week!

I try to make myself remember that even little sparrows can survive this frigid crap. And, there's more to come. Good luck keeping your girls safe and healthy.
 

Gallinarium

Songster
Apr 15, 2020
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America
I live in Wisconsin and as you can imagine it gets pretty cold here in the winter. We are currently in the middle of a cold snap and the temperature has been in the negatives every day. We have a radiant heater in their coop at night and it stays on during the day so that they can go up there anytime. It’s not that much warmer but it is out of the wind and if they perch right by the heater they can warm up a little. They have tarps on their run to keep the wind out as much as possible but they like to sit right where there is no tarp and watch everything that’s going on in the yard, which isn’t much right now. My question is, how cold should it be before I lock them up in the coop? I have only done it one day this year when it was about -20 windchill but today it is -16 windchill. Does anyone have a certain temperature they wait for before putting them all up in the coop? I know it’s not good for them but frostbite isn’t good either!
I also live in Wisconsin, and I feel your pain.
My chickens are currently in the coop not because they're trapped in there, but because there's snow in the run. They hate to walk in snow.
They often stay indoors on their own when they decide it's too chilly. But if they're outdoor during particularly horrible weather, which for me is below zero, high wind, high moisture, or sleet, lock them up. This means your chickens are a bit stupid and their judgement is not to be trusted.
Of course, if there's high moisture you must first ensure that your coop is well ventilated, as that is what gives them frostbite. As long as they're out of wind, precipitation, and they're dry, chickens can sit through a lot.
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
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USA
My question is, how cold should it be before I lock them up in the coop? I have only done it one day this year when it was about -20 windchill but today it is -16 windchill. Does anyone have a certain temperature they wait for before putting them all up in the coop?
I would not lock them in because of temperature. Not at any of the temperatures you name, and not at any other temperature I can think of.

You say they have access to the coop
And they have a sheltered run
And they choose to sit in the LEAST sheltered part of the run

So I would think they are fine. Chickens are pretty good about moving into a more-sheltered spot if they need it.

And I would completely ignore the "windchill" measurement, because your chickens are not IN the wind. The tarps block a lot of wind, but even wire fencing or hardware cloth slows the wind down.

(If the run was uncovered, and they were sitting in rain or falling snow or sleet, I might lock them in then--but it sounds like that is not what you are dealing with.)
 
Jul 3, 2020
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Mine have access to the out doors when they want to, but right now they've been hanging inside more often due to the extreme cold. It's been getting really close to the negatives during the night, & surprisingly frostbite hasn't been a problem for my birds. Only 2 have it very mild.
2 out of the 6 of my chickens have it on their combs. No too badly though, I’m just concerned about it getting worse because we have about another week and a half of very cold weather.
 
Jul 3, 2020
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I don't take the wind chill into account for the chickens, who are safely indoors. I whine about it for ME because I am outside, bundled up like little Randy in "A Christmas Story", cursing frozen latches and electric waterers that are filled with ice. And, yet, I continue to choose to live in Iowa and have outdoor critters.
Haha! The frozen latches and waterers are frustrating aren’t they?
 

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