good ventilation vs drafty hen house


8 Years
Aug 6, 2014
South West Wisconsin - Driftless Area
My Coop
My Coop
I find this confusing. If the vents stay open in the winter, won't that be drafty?

I have a vent towards that top of my hen house, one on the north side and one on the south side. They are approx 7" X 14" and have a louvered cover on the outside and hardware cloth on the inside. I made them with no way to shut them up, thinking that they needed to stay open year round.
I also have a 2' X 4' window on the east side and a 1 1/2' X 2' window on the west side that I will shut when it gets cold.
Both of these windows stay open all of the way now.


Mar 12, 2013
New Jersey
I usually shut most of my windows when it gets cold because my coop is large enough to prevent a lot of humidity issues, however I will say this...

Windows do not need to be fully closed to prevent draft - especially if they are crank out windows or something of that sort. As long as a wind gust cannot come straight through the coop, then your chickens should be ok. Also...

There is nothing wrong with closing windows when the temperature gets ridiculously low (-10,-20,-30). A few times last winter in NJ I had to close up my coop almost completely because the cold, with wind, was about -25. I know that can do much more damage to my hens than can some time in a boarded up coop. A lot of people will advise against it, but as long as you have a dry coop with fresh/fresher pine shavings then the humidity should stay down. I try and keep the inside as warm as possible, and I've had success getting my coop to 35-45 degrees at night when the outside temperature is near 0. Chickens provide around 10W of heat each, so my flock was like a bunch of light bulbs running. Frostbite can't occur when it is above freezing! My main concern with closing windows is the thought of respiratory problems, but again, a clean coop with little humidity and very low dust can reduce that risk drastically as well. Your birds should be fine overnight in a coop with minimal ventilation. Mine have been for the past two winters at least.


6 Years
Apr 4, 2014
New Jersey, "The Garden State"
I also live in NJ.

We experienced record breaking cold temperatures, but no where near -25 in NJ without wind chill factors.

As long as the ventilation is draft free, you do not have to worry about wind chill temps, just ambient temps.

This is why we talk about draft free.

I have well over 1 square foot of open air draft free, indirect ventilation per bird.

Birds were unfazed with the record low temperatures we had last winter.

I do nothing to insulate their coop. just the opposite. I ventilate.

Keep the draft off the birds.

Ventilation helps keep moisture down.

Moisture will cause much more uncomfortable and unhealthy conditions than cold temperatures, when it comes to chickens.

Do whatever you can to keep the moisture down.

If you can without ventilation, good for you.

Chickens create a lot of moisture.


Premium Feather Member
14 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
Ventilation is an exchange of good air for bad. A draft is a breeze hitting the chickens. That’s two different things.

If you vents are over their heads when they are on the roost, a draft won’t hit them.

There are two components of bad air. One is ammonia. That is created when poop decomposes. For poop to decompose, it needs moisture. So if you can keep the coop dry you won’t have a big ammonia problem. This problem is normally when the poop builds up to enough of a thickness to stay wet. So maybe a droppings board to catch the worst of the poop so you can keep it from building up. Also, frozen poop won’t decompose. If your coop is cold enough that the poop freezes you won’t have an ammonia problem. However, look out for when it thaws.

The other bad component is moisture. Excess moisture can lead to frostbite. Moisture will come from their poop and their breathing. If your bedding absorbs the moisture or the poop freezes, you’re not going to get much of a moisture problem from that, but they still have to breathe.

Ammonia is lighter than air. An opening above their heads will let ammonia out before it builds up. Warm air holds more moisture than cold air and is also lighter than cold air. Warm air could come from warm poop or their breathing. There may not be a lot of difference in the temperature of that warm air long out there, but you’d be surprised how much difference that does make. So openings above their heads in winter is a good thing.


8 Years
Aug 6, 2014
South West Wisconsin - Driftless Area
My Coop
My Coop
Thanks for the reply's.
I think I get it now. The air should be well over their heads.
The one vent on the north side, I'm going to close the bottom half off when it gets real cold. It'll still be 3" X 14" so there will be some cross ventilation.
Mid 30's here tonight.


11 Years
Apr 26, 2010
North Eastern Md.
You CAN have your winter ventilation right at chicken level. It depends on the coop's design. I get temps down into the single digits, not including any "WindChill", and my birds don't have any problems at all.


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