Help winter proofing


Jul 15, 2016
Way upstate New York
I live in upstate NY about 3 miles from the Canadian border. This is my first year with chickens and I'm not sure the best way to winter proof their pen. I am housing my chickens in a section of a old cattle barn with a door leading to an outside pen. It's definitely not air tight and has a lot of draft which is great for the summer but won't be good this winter. I know they need ventilation but this goes beyond ventilation. I can't use a heating lamp due to extreme risk of catching my barn on fire. Do you have any suggestions on how I can keep them warm over the winter?

Hokum Coco

9 Years
Dec 6, 2012
New Brunswick,Canada

I am subject to -40º weather l live in Canada think North Pole. I have been keeping chickens and birds for decades.

Your best practice I find is to not be too concerned about winterizing or heating your coop to help your birds combat the cold.

Predator proofing "ABSOLUTELY".

Your efforts should be spent in winterizing your birds and letting them acclimatize to their surroundings.
This is done by feeding them whole corn as an added supplement in a separate feeder.

The extra nourishment is more then adequate to bring them through the
"COLDEST" winter.

Do keep an eye open for birds that maybe not be adapting well to the new menu and may be at the lower end of the pecking order they can sometimes run into problems and may need extra TLC.

That being said in a perfect world the flock will flourish and do just fine .

I do not add any extra heat or lighting.
Egg production does slack off but I have more than enough eggs for the table all winter long (24 hens).

Some people may disagree with my method but it has worked well for me and I am not about to change.

I look at it in the same light as winterizing your car.

You really do


have to winterize your car if you can keep it in a controlled environment at all times otherwise you are in for

"MAJOR" problems.

When it comes to lighting if you find you are short on eggs it does apparently help. I personally do not bother in my operation eggs are sold only to neighbours when they are available (if the sign is out I have eggs). Eggs in my operation have a tendency to crack and freeze during the winter months (we do not discard them and are fine but use them in house not for sale) the more eggs you produce during these months the more eggs will fall into this category.

I have roughly 24 Golden Comet hens the longest I ever been out of eggs can be measured in hours >12<24. You will find that the egg supply in any hen is a finite resource the quicker you milk the eggs out of a hen the faster it will be spent and end up in your stew pot.

On average one hen produces somewhere between 600 to 700 eggs in its life time. Lighting only effect the speed of delivery of the eggs which at the end of the day would amount to less than a year in the hens life is my guess

If you do decide extra lighting is necessary have your light on a timer to lengthen the day "MAKE SURE IT IS SECURED BY 2 MEANS OF SUPPORT" one being a "SAFETY CHAIN" in case one fails especially if it is an incandescent bulb or heat lamp.

I personally raise hens as a hobby; and for their manure to enrich my vegetable garden any thing else the hens provide is merely a bonus.

Here is one BONUS NOW not many people can enjoy seeing in their back yard on a regular basis.

Nest boxes
In my nest boxes I fold a feed bag to fit (nest boxes are 1 ft³). When a bag gets soiled; fold a new one; pop out the soiled; pop in the new. Feed bags are a nylon mesh bag.
Frozen poop just peels off in below freezing temperatures and just flakes off in summer when left out in the sun to bake and dry.

I have 65 trips around the sun it is the best method I have stumbled upon.

Make sure the twine is removed from the open end of the bag it can get tangled around your birds.

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Howard E

5 Years
Feb 18, 2016
To piggyback onto what others have said, in cold weather, dry is warm. Wet is the killer. The moisture to be concerned about comes from the birds themselves. Wide open ventilation to help dissipate / eliminate the moisture is what makes for a dry house. Some draft and air movement will help with this, so is OK. What is not so good are drafts to the point where wind chill becomes a factor. One way to visually test for this is to hang long strips of flagging tape from the rafters or ceiling. If they they mostly hang straight down at the roost level, all will be OK. If not, one old time trick was to use droppings boards beneath the roosts, as much as an air baffle to create a pocket of still air for the roosts as to catch droppings.

No building insulation is needed and if it traps or condenses moisture, may run counter to what is intended. The feathers the birds come with is all the insulation they need.


Team Spina Bifida
8 Years
Feb 25, 2014
Northwestern Wyoming
My Coop
My Coop
I'm up in Northern Wyoming, not too far from Yellowstone Park. Here our big issue, winter and summer, is wind. It's not unusual for a few days to go by with sustained winds in the 40mph range, gusting to 60. Clark, Wyoming recorded a wind gust of over 115mph a couple of winters ago. Yeah, that kind of wind. Snow can get driven in through cracks that aren't even visible to the naked eye!

Initially I planned to heat and insulate my coop. Yeah, well, smarter folks than me helped me drop that notion. I don't insulate, I don't heat. I leave their ventilation (which consists of windows on 3 sides, operable vents, a gable vent, their pop door open 24/7, and an exhaust fan that can either be just open or open and running) open all year round. Chickens have all they need to survive harsh environments as long as they are strong and healthy going into it, and a good dose of common sense is employed by the owners. In a space as large as what you are talking about, insulation doesn't do much good. The only concessions I make to winter temperatures are closing the window on the windy side of the coop - depending on which direction that's coming from - and putting greenhouse plastic over most of their run. But the plastic on the south side can be rolled up or down like a window shade. On really nasty, nasty days I can roll it most of the way up. Warmer days it's down and stays down. But it's never closed all the way up - runs need ventilation too. There is also a gap on the west side and on the east side. Otherwise the condensation buildup would be counter-productive to what I am trying to achieve....a ventilated, dry, airy run they can use even on the coldest days, with the plastic keeping out most weather and allowing the sun to warm the space enough to encourage them to go out but not to heat it.

If it's windy enough in the coop to ruffle their feathers, cut back on it a bit. Imagine the warmth and comfort of the perfect, top of the line down coat. Keeps you toasty by trapping all your warm air inside, next to your body. But you need ventilation to be able to function in that coat without overheating. You sure wouldn't be able to wear it comfortably in a house kept at 70 degrees. Now imagine that coat with a broken zipper....yeah, you lose heat. If it's drafty enough to lift the feathers on a chicken then their trapped body heat escapes, just like that broken zipper on your coat. So as long as whatever air is coming into the coop isn't enough to ruffle, it's all good.

Insulation is trickier. It's essential in a house where you have heat artificially produced and circulating throughout the house, because it provides a barrier between the warmed air and the outside. But in a chicken coop with good ventilation, it's just a place where mice can set up house. Dryness and good air exchange is what I want, and that's what I get. Also dry, loose litter is good - my birds dig holes in it in the summer, lay in the holes and spread their wings around the upper edge of the holes to cool down, and they dig holes in it in the winter and burrow down into it, like cozy little nests, in the sun shining through the plastic. Egg production drops in winter. Some folks use supplemental light to keep production up, but I figure that natural drop in eggs is there for a reason, to give the birds a rest and to allow them to use their energy to survive, and it's a system that I ain't messing with!
Not that there's anything wrong with using lights - I just prefer not to.

You, of course, will make up your own mind about what you think is best for your chickens and your situation. I haven't lost a bird in winter yet. I don't have birds that are more suited to warmer climates, preferring all around chickens that are suited for our hot, dry summers and cold, windy winters. That said, this will be my first winter with some Silkies (for my little granddaughter) so I plan to make them a huddle box, since they don't care if they roost or not. I'll pile some straw on the floor of the coop, put an upside down box with a Silkie sized hole in the side on the straw, and they'll cuddle in there at night. They already use something similar since they prefer that to roosting, so there won't be any training required. Oh, and welcome to BYC!


8 Years
Apr 12, 2011
OP, don't know how wide the gaps are on the barn wall, but if wide enough for wind to blow through, I would suggest thin plywood or poly from the inside but leave the top for venting.

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