Cold Winters


Jun 20, 2020
How cold is too cold to let your chicken's out of the coop? I live in MT and we are starting to get days where the high is only 15 degrees Farenhiet. I'm assuming there comes a point temp wise when they shouldn't go out. It's going to get where the highs are only zero or below. I have a small, insulated coop for my 10 hens. I believe they have adequate space in the coop to be confined during cold weather (4-5 sq ft per bird). Also, any small heated waterers that you use in the coop when temps get too cold? I don't like to keep water in the coop so as to keep it as dry as possible but I am anticipating days where it's going to be frigid and I need them to have access to water in the coop. It needs to take up as little space as possible. Thanks for your advice.
For us up here in Nova Scotia, it's not the cold temperature that matters so much, but whether it's windy and snowy. If it's too windy and cold (or blizzard conditions), they are more comfortable in the coop without having drafts blow in the chicken door. We usually give them the option to go out unless it's absolutely miserable.

We use a tall 3.3 gallon heated waterer that is wonderful, but might be larger than what you are looking for.
Best to let the chickens decide if they want in or out, especially as you do not have enough space inside the coop to confine them for extended periods of time. The ideal situation would be to provide wind blocks (whether in the form of bales of hay, pieces of clutter, or partially covered run walls) so they can be out but not getting hit by any wind chill.

For water, if possible, I'd place a heated waterer outside but fairly close to the coop, hopefully under a bit of shelter, and keep the path cleared to it, so the birds still get a little exercise outside.
Good ventilation is really important! Make sure you aren't closing things up too much, the birds should be able to go out as much as possible. What's their run like? If it's not roofed, you will be shoveling snow there this winter, because chickens don't love snow. Here we have a small roofed run, and use rolled sheet vinyl on the lower six feet of the run walls to keep the wind and snow from blowing over them. They go out to free range unless it's really snowing, but have their coop doors open to the covered run all year.
Get a thermometer/ hygrometer, and see that the humidity inside is close to ambient. If it's dripping, or much more humid inside than outdoors, there's not adequate ventilation.
I have a small, insulated coop for my 10 hens. I believe they have adequate space in the coop to be confined during cold weather (4-5 sq ft per bird).
That may be a recipe for CabinFeverCrazy.
I kept too many birds my first winter, using the 4' rule, it was not pretty.
A good run can really help, solid roof and wind proof wall coverings.
I took this photo when t was 4* F. It was colder earlier but I had to go back to get a camera so it warmed up a bit. I leave my pop door open and let them decide what they want to do. If a cold wind were blowing they would not be out in it. But it was calm and they were enjoying the sunshine. I have not faced the cold you will see later on and my coop design allows me to leave that pop door open in any weather. That may become a concern for you.


You can see how I water in winter. I use a black rubber bowl. When it freezes I can knock the ice out and refill it. The black rubber used solar heat so if it is in sunlight it keeps water thawed down into the teens. The sun doesn't always shine, especially at night, and you will see colder weather than I do.

Chickens often don't like change. When they wake up to a white world that can be a pretty big change. When that happens mine tend to stay inside for two or three days before any get brave enough to venture out. Usually some eventually will but some never do. I think it helps to have some reason for the to come out. With mine they can forage some even in the snow.

The day I took this photo they did not wake up to a white world. The snow started after they were already out and built up to about an inch. The change was gradual enough that they never bothered to go in. I don't think it is the snow itself that they are afraid of but the change.

Snow Feb 2013.JPG
An inch or two of snow during the day isn't a big deal, but several inches, or more, and our birds want nothing to do with it! Then it's staying in their roofed wind protected run, or using paths.

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