How cold is TOO cold for a chicken?

oldhenlikesdogs

Great Horny Toads
Staff member
Premium member
Jul 16, 2015
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central Wisconsin
This will be our first winter with chickens and I have a few questions. First off attached is the coop we are using for 4 hens. We live in south central Wisconsin and get some pretty blustery, frigid winters. The coop is located in the corner next to a 6 foot tall wooden fence and a garage so there should be some wind protection.

My main concern is that the chute has no covering either inside where they roost or at the bottom in the run area, and I am worried about the cold coming up into the top roost area. Should we make a door for the bottom, making one for inside would be too cumbersome and get covered in poop/bedding. If we do put a door should we also add extra ventilation in the top roost area, currently there are 3 holes at the roost end and we could add three to the nest box end.

Also I was thinking of getting something to cover the lower slanted sides where the hardware cloth is, in order to keep the snow out of the run area and provide some more wind protection during the day. Maybe corrugated roofing?

Currently the coop is attached to a pallet on the base to keep it from sitting in wet mud as well as to keep predators out, but this way the hens cannot scratch. Not a big deal right now as they have access to a much larger fenced in area during the day, but come winter I feel like they may spend more time in the lower run when the rest of their space is covered in feet of snow. Not sure if we should make more of a foot print border to attach to the bottom of the coop (with a buried hardware cloth apron) so they can access the dirt or if the frozen ground will even appeal to them. I don't think putting this coop directly on the ground is the best idea as far as longevity is concerned as their run area is pretty wet/muddy in the fall/spring and the coop is made of fir wood.

Last thing, not related to the cold but I was thinking we should divide the nest box in two, will a hen lay if there is already an egg in the nest box? (only one of our hens is laying right now, just started, and will probably stop as the daylight lessens. The others may not even start till spring.)

TIA!
Hello neighbor. That coop is going to be a nightmare for winter, especially if we get lots of snow or long cold spells. Some days chickens stay inside due to the weather. Your chickens will probably start pecking each other under confinement.

Where do you keep the food and water? You have some thinking to do as I don't think it will be practical to leave them in that set up all winter unfortunately.
 

FarmDreamer

Chirping
10 Years
Nov 13, 2009
4
0
65
Hello neighbor. That coop is going to be a nightmare for winter, especially if we get lots of snow or long cold spells. Some days chickens stay inside due to the weather. Your chickens will probably start pecking each other under confinement.

Where do you keep the food and water? You have some thinking to do as I don't think it will be practical to leave them in that set up all winter unfortunately.
Not the answer I was hoping for, lol. Do you mean to say they would spend the day in the roost and not even enter the enclosed run with 3 solid sides?

Currently their water is outside the coop completely, while their food is in the lower run area. We do put the food away at night to keep the mice at bay and in the summer I moved an extra water into the bottom run area 24/7.

The coop is under cover, so it stays mostly dry in the lower run area, depends on the angle of the rain! On top of covering the sides of the lower area I was thinking of making a lean-to style shelter along the garage just outside the coop, so they would have another covered/dry/snow feee place to be outside on the really cold days. They do have an covered plastic compost bin, the ones with the door at the bottom, thet they like to hang out in and I keep some bedding and a perch in there. Also adding some perches to the lower run area, they don't spend a lot of time down there now since they have access to a much larger outdoor space during the day full of places to perch.

Any thoughts on my main concern, making a door for the chute or not?
 
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oldhenlikesdogs

Great Horny Toads
Staff member
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Jul 16, 2015
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central Wisconsin
Pictures of your set up would help to see the changes you have made. If you have it set up so they can escape the elements and still stay in the run portion they may come out into it.

Which way will be the open side be facing? Generally winds blow out of the the northwest, but sometimes snow comes up out of the south. Positioning of the coop will be important.

Here in central Wisconsin we can get weeks some winters of -20's with those brutal -40 wind chills. I assume you get that too? My birds generally won't leave the shed during those times.

What is your plan for those deep snow storms or the big drifts? Your first winter will definitely be a learning one. You can make it work. I haven't dealt with a small coop like that so I might not be the best person to give advice except on our winter weather.

You could try posting in the coop build section, there you will hopefully find people who can help you get it all figured out before the real weather sets in.
 

StacyAnt

In the Brooder
Nov 26, 2016
3
4
11
Long Island, New York
I just added some new two month old pullets to my coop. They will not go into the coop with the older hens. They are perched on a roost in the run which has some protection from wind. Temperature is about 38 degrees. Any suggestions?
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
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SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop

Valoradia

In the Brooder
Feb 18, 2016
21
6
43
I'm sort of worried about some cold fronts coming around my area. it hasn't been a problem until now, because I live further south. can anyone tell me when chickens will catch sicknesses or need a heat lamp? In farenhiet OR celcius?
They do not need a heat lamp, they are more likely to get sick if do use a heat lamp. they produce plenty of heat on their own..they need a dry, draft free coop..they are very well acclimated to cold ..and if you put a thermometer in the coop , you can see it is much warmer in the coop then it is outside!!
 

Phoenixxx

Songster
7 Years
Aug 8, 2012
675
114
192
Boutilier's Point, Nova Scotia
We're in the deep-freeze, too, right now with lows at -20c. My coop is no longer insulated (ripped it all out due to rats making a mess of it) and i have not sealed off the 12"x32" grate that serves as the vent. Not only do i still have birds (young cochins and brahmas) wishing to roost outdoors but i walk into the coop and it is toasty warm! 8'x6' floor dimension, 8' high front tapering to 6' high at the back, 27 birds. Concrete floor with straw on top. Water bucket has been freezing, so to save the trouble of punching a hole in the ice (it rests against an exterior wall) we dropped in an aquarium heater.
 

bonnyrae

In the Brooder
Nov 30, 2019
5
47
39
Everett WA
I have had the temperature get as low as 17. My chickens didn’t care in the slightest. I have battery cage rescue hens now tho, they dont seem as hardy. I admit that they have a sweeter heater. I have it at lowest setting this year. Next year I won’t use it.
 
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