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How cold is too cold for Chickens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Liv4birds, Nov 6, 2014.

  1. Liv4birds

    Liv4birds Chirping

    May 27, 2014
    Salt Lake City
    This is my first winter as a chicken owner so I need some reassurance! My question is: how cold is too cold for chickens? Nights here in Salt Lake City have already dipped down to 30. My coop (although insulated) doesn't seem to stay much warmer than it is outside (I check the thermometer inside and there's no big difference). I have no plans for heating but I am concerned about these girls nevertheless. I could run electricity out and was thinking of putting in a radiant heater panel. I don't put in extra lighting since I believe in giving the layers a break during the winter.

    Please let me know if they are going to be alright when the nighttime temps dip down into the teens or even single digits!!

    Thanks so much!!

  2. Primo

    Primo Songster

    May 1, 2013
    They will be fine. No need to heat. There are members here in Canada and Alaska with unheated coops. My grandfather in Massachusetts had birds in 3 sided unheated coops for years. They are wearing down jackets after all
  3. LanceTN

    LanceTN Chirping

    Aug 31, 2014
    You don't have to be concerned until -20F. If you get prolonged periods of time where it's that cold and you don't have winter hardy breeds you may need to do some things.

    Temperature is not your problem, wind/drafts and moisture are your potential problems. Moisture leads to frostbite and moving air prevents them from fluffing up their feathers and trapping warm air by their body.

    So make sure your coop is well ventilated and allows hot moist air to escape and that the birds are protected from wind/drafts.

    Also don't forget their body temperature is much warmer then ours, for every one pound of body weight your chickens produce 8 BTUs of heat per hour. Chickens are their own space heaters.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2014
    1 person likes this.
  4. pdirt

    pdirt Songster

    May 11, 2013
    Eastern WA
    From my limited understanding, "most" breeds of chickens are quite cold tolerant. There are a few that don't handle cold well, but I don't think they're common. Perhaps listing your breeds here someone (more knowledgable than I) could comment on your breeds. Or you can look up your breeds online as to their cold hardiness.

    Good suggestions on ventilation.

    If you have any birds, especially roosters with very tall/large single combs, they might get a bit of frostbite if it gets cold enough and/or your ventilation to keep humidity down isn't ideal. One thing I've read from an old-timer who raised show-quality roosters was that daily massage (at night when they're on the roost) of their combs will stimulate circulation and help prevent frostbite.

    We had a couple hens with very tiny specks of frostbite on the tips of their combs last winter. I measured it down to -9F that winter and our humidity ranges around 10-20% in winter (very low). Nothing that hurt them and I can't really tell much difference now, though I'm sure a show-bird person would.

    One surprise I learned was that Silkies are known to be especially cold tolerant. Upon looking at them, with their thin and fuzzy feathers, I would have thought otherwise. But yes, our silkies did just fine in the cold. They even got wet on their head and neck regularly until we fixed our watering system. The old system dribbled water onto the chickens and the Silkies feathers seemed like a magnet to the water. We didn't think this could be a good thing for them and switched watering systems. The new system doesn't drip water on them.
  5. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I'm in Indiana. My birds are babied. Now, some of that is because I have a few tiny, specialty breed birds (seramas). And part of it is because I have some oldies who I can tell don't handle the temps like they did when they were youngsters (and mine are pets who've been with us for years). But I can assure you that if you have regular, hardy breeds, a draft free coop, and your birds have nutritious feed and good water available to them, they will do fine without heat.

    As for being warmer in your insulated coop...insulating doesn't make it warmer/colder than outside temps. Insulations job is to help retain the heat or cold that is generated or already exists within the coop. Now, if your coop has windows, and it's a sunny day, then it should be warmer inside the coop than outside (like a greenhouse), and that warmth should last longer into the evening as the day cools off. Same as in summer - the overnight cool should last longer inside the coop as the day warms up, thanks to insulation.

    In my opinion, if a coop doesn't have windows, or a heating device of some kind isn't used, then insulation really wasn't needed for winter cold. I guess if the coop had cracks and such in it, the insulation might serve to provide draft free protection...but that's it.
  6. Liv4birds

    Liv4birds Chirping

    May 27, 2014
    Salt Lake City
    Thank you so much to all who have replied. I am reassured!! I have a Buff Orpington, Australorp, Easter Egger, one Golden and one Silver Wyandotte. They seemed fine this morning (25 degrees through most of the day) and ran around the yard. The coop is a "garden coop" style with a clear roof to promote solar heating in the dead of winter. I wrapped clear plastic around the run so they could get out of the wind if they wanted. Despite 40 mph wind gusts today they mostly stayed outside in 25 degree weather. I guess I have to trust their feathers work fine. I have a heater base for their water (the nipple waterer froze up pretty quickly) and will go out first thing at sunrise in the morning and replug it in to keep it going all day. I give them a little warm oatmeal (1/2 c.) just because I imagine they would like a little something warm. It is supposed to snow the next few days here in Salt Lake City so I will be very interested in what they make of snow on the ground.
  7. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Free Ranging Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Think of this - our ancestors raised chickens in unheated coops for hundreds of years. If the chickens' feathers didn't work fine, there would be no more chickens because they'd all have frozen to death a long time ago. [​IMG]

  8. Fletch83

    Fletch83 Chirping

    Jan 27, 2013
    Mine were so fluffed up on their roosts last night that it looked like a line of fat, round, feathery fluffballs. [​IMG]

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