How cold is too cold for my chickens?

Momma*chicken

Songster
Jun 14, 2018
210
311
121
Upstate NY... Adirondacks
So I have 14 chickens and winter came early this yr. I live in the Central ny area, up in the Adirondacks and get tons of lake effect snow. Last night it went down to - 5°F and the coop was 0°F. Is this too cold for my peeps? For reference our coop is 8 by 6ft, lifted 2ft above ground, and made of plywood. 3 of the walls r insulated while one is not (we ran out of insulation). We plastic wrapped our run with thick plastic from Lowes. We tried putting in a heat lamp, last night it didn't do much. How cold, is too cold for them? We have 1 girls which r ISA Browns and 3 boys which r Belgian D'Uccles, so they r winter hardy.
1116180831_HDR.jpg
 

Saaniya

Crowing
Aug 31, 2017
2,439
7,404
482
New Delhi India
I live in New Delhi India not so much cold here still my chickens feel so cold in below 20C
11 is cold or below 11
When it's 11 in the morning my chickens don't like come out
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
Premium Feather Member
Jul 23, 2018
29,434
235,550
1,612
NY Southern Tier
My Coop
My Coop
I'm in NY too. It went down to 0 F last night. They were all out in the run waiting for me when I went out at 7 to feed them. They are all out wandering around my paths through the snow now and it's 9 F.
I've read of others keeping chickens in UN-HEATED coops down to -30 F.
The key is and always will be: DRY, WELL VENTILATED and DRAFT FREE coop with liquid water in the run and a full crop before roosting. They will be fine.
 

Momma*chicken

Songster
Jun 14, 2018
210
311
121
Upstate NY... Adirondacks
I'm in NY too. It went down to 0 F last night. They were all out in the run waiting for me when I went out at 7 to feed them. They are all out wandering around my paths through the snow now and it's 9 F.
I've read of others keeping chickens in UN-HEATED coops down to -30 F.
The key is and always will be: DRY, WELL VENTILATED and DRAFT FREE coop with liquid water in the run and a full crop before roosting. They will be fine.
OK, feel a little better then. I was worried last night... Don't want them to get frost bite
 

Blooie

Team Spina Bifida
6 Years
Feb 25, 2014
17,197
32,576
827
Northwestern Wyoming
My Coop
My Coop
I’m in Northwestern Wyoming not too far from Yellowstone Park. I live in a basin surrounded by mountains. We often see a few weeks consecutively where we never get UP to zero - sometimes 2 weeks in a row with -20 for daytime highs. And we have super long winters - my first year with chickens our last snowfall was June 6th, and it has been known to snow any month of the year.

One of the things a lot of people cite when talking about their weather is “wind chill.” Wind chill is a computation of the affect the combination of wind and temperature have on exposed skin. Now, I don’t have bald chickens and even if I did, they would be smart enough to stay in the coop or run OUT of the wind, so wind chill is a moot point when talking about chickens and temperatures if they are out of that wind..

When I go out to do morning chores, I leave the people door open and they can choose whether they want to go out or not. Many do....including my Silkies. They’ve been out there putzing around in the snow in temps as low as 9 degrees. Here in Wyoming we don’t have the issue of lake effect snows, but we do get mountain snows. And WIND!!! Man, it’s always windy here! Winds of 40+, gusting to 60 aren’t at all unusual. Interstates 80 and 25 are often closed down due to high winds and semis being blown over. Two years ago in January the National Weather Service recorded a wind gust right here in our area of 90 mph. In January! I don’t even want to know what the wind chill was that day!

I gave you so much information because so often it’s not as much a matter of the chickens’ comfort zones as our own personal comfort zones. How much winter are we each comfortable having our chickens living in? Even with our extreme winters, they are much more hardy than we think. The things that are key are:

Ventilation WITHOUT direct drafts. How can you have both? Think of a chicken’s superb insulation as your expensive down coat. You go out in that coat and you’re pretty darn comfortable because of those layers of insulation trapping your body heat and keeping you warm. But now imagine that the zipper suddenly breaks.....all the warm air trapped next to your body is lost and you know you’d better do something fast. Direct drafts on your chickens have the same effect. You want air flow to vent out stale, humid air, but if the feathers on your chickens are ruffling and moving, THAT’S a draft and they are losing body heat. Fluffed out feathers are different.,..they are just using their bodies’ thermostats to regulate their heat. So no drafts on the roosts, and no winds blowing in. You can mitigate a lot of cold wind by simply blocking it with plastic (leaving open areas for that air flow), or bales of straw or hay around your setup, and if your ventilation is directly above the roosts, move the roosts or add ventilation up away from the roost and block the ventilation that’s right on them. Come summer you can unblock it again.

Humidity buildup. This ties in strongly with ventilation. Here’s another analogy. You and your family go out to your cold car and get in. What happens almost immediately? Yep, the windows fog up. That’s condensation settling from your respirations and from your warmer bodies hitting the cold air. So until the defrosters kick in, you crack the windows to allow the temperatures to equalize and to vent out that humidity. Ventilation. Humidity is the hidden enemy of chicken keeping. We see it all the time on BYC - reports of frostbite on combs “but we sealed our coop up tightly and keep them confined.” Well, humidity has built up in the coop from their waterer, their breath, the close, constant confinement, and their poop. It settles on combs and wattles and freezes. Frostbite. Good ventilation takes that humid, stale air out and replaces it with outside air. That’s one reason why I never got into the habit of bringing them nice, warm oatmeal or refilling their water with hot to melt the ice. They bend down to eat or drink, and where is that condensation settling? Yep. Suddenly you have chickens with damp faces exposed to freezing temperatures. Oops. Not to mention the humidity being added to the coop faster than your ventilation can remove it. And those amazing, insulating outer feathers can’t do their job when they’re wet, anymore than wet insulation in a house can be effective.

So those are your keys. Tackle those things and chickens can pretty much handle any average winter temperatures, even sub-zero. I’d never be foolish enough to suggest that those two things alone would make for comfortable chickens in areas where it can get - and stay - at 50 and 60 below, and I think we do have a couple of members in the far reaches of Alaska who do see that. But for average winters like yours and mine, they do fine with a little preparation on our parts.

Heat lamps. Don’t get me started. :he I detest the things. I won’t have one within a hundred miles of my place, not even for chicks! Watch BYC as the winter progresses, and again during chick season for reports of fires from heat lamps....and there will be some. Maybe not hundreds, but even one is too many. People have lost coops, barns, and even their homes. Personally, cruel as it sounds, I’d rather lose one or two chickens to weather than lose everything. Usually (and I know not always) losing one bird who couldn’t handle winter can be partially attributed to a bird that wasn’t as strong as it’s flockmates - what they could handle, that bird simply couldn’t. Now, if they start dropping like flies, better look at all factors again. Ventilation good? Ammonia can be building up in a too-tight coop before we can even smell it sometimes. Humidity under control? Plenty of fresh water and a little added fat and protein to their diet? (Suet balls or cages once a week or so are good for this) Selection of birds correct for weather extremes? Chickens going into winter strong and healthy, without internal or external parasite overloads? Space adequate with a few boredom busters provided to help prevent bullying and feather picking in confinement? And a predator proof run they can get out into for a little fresh air and exercise?

How cold is too cold? I’d be taking stronger measures in those arctic conditions we touched on, but with preparation and hardy breed selection, they can handle about anything.

Yes, there are chickens under there, with no heat, no insulation, and just the precautions I’ve talked about! ;) :

83F27B90-F631-44C0-BBBF-2D74C3CF527F.jpeg
 
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Momma*chicken

Songster
Jun 14, 2018
210
311
121
Upstate NY... Adirondacks
I’m in Northwestern Wyoming not too far from Yellowstone Park. I live in a basin surrounded by mountains. We often see a few weeks consecutively where we never get UP to zero - sometimes 2 weeks in a row with -20 for daytime highs. And we have super long winters - my first year with chickens our last snowfall was June 6th, and it has been known to snow any month of the year.

One of the things a lot of people cite when talking about their weather is “wind chill.” Wind chill is a computation of the affect the combination of wind and temperature have on exposed skin. Now, I don’t have bald chickens and even if I did, they would be smart enough to stay in the coop or run OUT of the wind, so wind chill is a moot point when talking about chickens and temperatures if they are out of that wind..

When I go out to do morning chores, I leave the people door open and they can choose whether they want to go out or not. Many do....including my Silkies. They’ve been out there putzing around in the snow in temps as low as 9 degrees. Here in Wyoming we don’t have the issue of lake effect snows, but we do get mountain snows. And WIND!!! Man, it’s always windy here! Winds of 40+, gusting to 60 aren’t at all unusual. Interstates 80 and 25 are often closed down due to high winds and semis being blown over. Two years ago in January the National Weather Service recorded a wind gust right here in our area of 90 mph. In January! I don’t even want to know what the wind chill was that day!

I gave you so much information because so often it’s not as much a matter of the chickens’ comfort zones as our own personal comfort zones. How much winter are we each comfortable having our chickens living in? Even with our extreme winters, they are much more hardy than we think. The things that are key are:

Ventilation WITHOUT direct drafts. How can you have both? Think of a chicken’s superb insulation as your expensive down coat. You go out in that coat and you’re pretty darn comfortable because of those layers of insulation trapping your body heat and keeping you warm. But now imagine that the zipper suddenly breaks.....all the warm air trapped next to your body is lost and you know you’d better do something fast. Direct drafts on your chickens have the same effect. You want air flow to vent out stale, humid air, but if the feathers on your chickens are ruffling and moving, THAT’S a draft and they are losing body heat. Fluffed out feathers are different.,..they are just using their bodies’ thermostats to regulate their heat. So no drafts on the roosts, and no winds blowing in. You can mitigate a lot of cold wind by simply blocking it with plastic (leaving open areas for that air flow), or bales of straw or hay around your setup, and if your ventilation is directly above the roosts, move the roosts or add ventilation up away from the roost and block the ventilation that’s right on them. Come summer you can unblock it again.

Humidity buildup. This ties in strongly with ventilation. Here’s another analogy. You and your family go out to your cold car and get in. What happens almost immediately? Yep, the windows fog up. That’s condensation settling from your respirations and from your warmer bodies hitting the cold air. So until the defrosters kick in, you crack the windows to allow the temperatures to equalize and to vent out that humidity. Ventilation. Humidity is the hidden enemy of chicken keeping. We see it all the time on BYC - reports of frostbite on combs “but we sealed our coop up tightly and keep them confined.” Well, humidity has built up in the coop from their waterer, their breath, the close, constant confinement, and their poop. It settles on combs and wattles and freezes. Frostbite. Good ventilation takes that humid, stale air out and replaces it with outside air. That’s one reason why I never got into the habit of bringing them nice, warm oatmeal or refilling their water with hot to melt the ice. They bend down to eat or drink, and where is that condensation settling? Yep. Suddenly you have chickens with damp faces exposed to freezing temperatures. Oops. Not to mention the humidity being added to the coop faster than your ventilation can remove it. And those amazing, insulating outer feathers can’t do their job when they’re wet, anymore than wet insulation in a house can be effective.

So those are your keys. Tackle those things and chickens can pretty much handle any average winter temperatures, even sub-zero. I’d never be foolish enough to suggest that those two things alone would make for comfortable chickens in areas where it can get - and stay - at 50 and 60 below, and I think we do have a couple of members in the far reaches of Alaska who do see that. But for average winters like yours and mine, they do fine with a little preparation on our parts.

Heat lamps. Don’t get me started. :he I detest the things. I won’t have one within a hundred miles of my place, not even for chicks! Watch BYC as the winter progresses, and again during chick season for reports of fires from heat lamps....and there will be some. Maybe not hundreds, but even one is too many. People have lost coops, barns, and even their homes. Personally, cruel as it sounds, I’d rather lose one or two chickens to weather than lose everything. Usually (and I know not always) losing one bird who couldn’t handle winter can be partially attributed to a bird that wasn’t as strong as it’s flockmates - what they could handle, that bird simply couldn’t. Now, if they start dropping like flies, better look at all factors again. Ventilation good? Ammonia can be building up in a too-tight coop before we can even smell it sometimes. Humidity under control? Plenty of fresh water and a little added fat and protein to their diet? (Suet balls or cages once a week or so are good for this) Selection of birds correct for weather extremes? Chickens going into winter strong and healthy, without internal or external parasite overloads? Space adequate with a few boredom busters provided to help prevent bullying and feather picking in confinement? And a predator proof run they can get out into for a little fresh air and exercise?

How cold is too cold? I’d be taking stronger measures in this arctic conditions we touched on, but with preparation and hardy breed selection, they can handle about anything.

Yes, there are chickens under there, with no heat, no insulation, and just the precautions I’ve talked about! ;) :

View attachment 1597866
Wow! Thanks for all that info! Good to know!
 

MANNA-PRO

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