Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by bigmommy, Oct 31, 2008.

  1. bigmommy

    bigmommy Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 12, 2008
    South Lyon, MI.
    O.K. so chickens don't need heat unless there are extremely low temps. How low? I have done all the standards to my coop...insulated, plugged up holes,vcaulked gaps, etc. The interior of my hen house, at night, with all the doors, and windows sealed up tight, is only a few degrees warmer then the outdoor temp. I thought they were supposed to be making their own heat!!! My house is small 4x4x4 and it should be toasty warm in there with 8 silkies (6 are roosters, in case anyone is looking for one, or 6). If someone could PLEASE help me figure out what I have done wrong (or not done) I would appreciate it. How cold do they have to get before I do need to worry, and how should I warm them up when it does happen? I live in Mi. I guarantee there will be weeks of below 0 nights with ugly wind, etc... I am not trying to create a spa for them, just keep them safe and healthy. I KNOW if they get too cold they will die, or get frost bite.[​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2008
  2. jjthink

    jjthink Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 17, 2007
    New Jersey
    Hi. This is a copy of the response I placed in another post asking similar - there is a lot of diversity of opinion on this topic! Hope some part of it is helpful to you:

    The answer is that there's no one answer.

    Depends on the constitution of each bird, how many birds (for keeping each other warm) and how large or cozy the coop, how draft free, etc.......

    Also depends how quickly temps plummet (or escalate) and whether there's time for them to acclimate. (Today temps where I am in NJ are 30 degrees less than a couple days ago - a significant shift, difficult to adjust to. In June we went from 70's one week to 110+ with heat index the next - it was really tough on the birds.)

    While people had chickens years ago largely without creature comforts we cannot assume there were no cold/weather related die-offs. It's like saying wildlife is still here in the spring so the winter doesn't bother them. Truth is that only the most hardy are still here - there are plenty of die-offs over winter.

    Do most chickens tolerate pretty cold weather - probably. Do all - nope. So it's a matter of observing closely our feathered friends and judging as best we can how they're feeling and providing accordingly.


    Right now where I am in NJ we're having snow/hail/ice/fierce winds. Wind chill is 27, balmy for Alaska I know (brrrrrrr...can't imagine those temps!!!)! My roo and hen want NOTHING to do with any of it, and are inside bummed out! Their coop resides within a larger building - during the day they can choose to hang out outdoors or in the unheated large building or in their coop which has a heat lamp and is keeping temps above freezing......the temp differential is not so much as to be startling, but enough to give them relief if they need/want it. My roo is an older fellow and has been getting less cold tolerant. And since there's only 2 of them altogether, they don't produce much body heat. If there were a power outage I could bring them in the house if need be, clearly much more difficult a prospect for folks with umpteen chickens!
  3. bigmommy

    bigmommy Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 12, 2008
    South Lyon, MI.
    Thanks for taking the time to help... You're right.. I should just bring them all in with me!!![​IMG] Husband and kids would probably move out and get me counseling, but I do love my chicken babies!!!! I completely agree that there was die off in the "olden days" and I absolutely do not want to eat my chickens because I could not keep them at a safe temp. My house is so small I am concerned with fire if I do have to put an emergency heat source in there.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2008
  4. BawkinOnTheBench

    BawkinOnTheBench Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2008
    Quote:My mini coop for my babies - basically just a secure box where they sleep at night till they are bigger - is smaller - only about 3x2x2. I have a 50W IR in it on a drop light. It keeps it plenty warm - in fact, I wish I could find a lower wattage. Currently I only have it coming on for 2 half-hour intervals throughout the night. I also have a wireless remote sensor in there so I know what the air temp in the coop is. Yes, I know, IR doesn't heat the air - but if heats the birds and the birds heat the air ... at any rate, it cannot be colder than the measured air temp, though I guess it could feel warmer.
  5. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    jjthink- good answer!

    And you could build a tiny shelter inside the coop for your birds to huddle. I'd use something about the size of a small dog house and insulate it for them- would probably do the trick! Now, all we need is to keep the water liquid...
  6. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    The good news, is that you don't have a breed with a huge comb sticking up! And giant wattles hanging way down. The more compact or covered with feathers the comb and wattles are, the smaller the chance they will get frost bitten. I think it's because the smaller appendages have better blood circulation.

    The other important thing for a chicken, is to be covering their feet with the feathers of their body, when they are sleeping. A wider, flat roost helps with this. A 2x4 with the wider side up is often recommended for standards. For silkies, I don't know what a good size would be. If they prefer the floor for sleeping, they should definitely be covering their feet. I also don't know if silkies are less tolerant of cold weather, due to having a different feather type. Can someone with more experience with silkies answer that?

    How much ventilation do you have open in the coop? Ventilation is important, but sometimes needs to be adjusted in more frigid weather. If wind is a huge problem for your vents, you could always make baffles for them.
  7. BeckyLa

    BeckyLa Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 11, 2007
    N. Louisiana
    I think this might be a question for Silkie people. I have no experience with Silkies, but have read that they huddle together instead of sitting on a roost. With some good deep bedding on the floor, I think they would keep each other warm. Also, how many birds are there and in how big an area? This has a lot to do with their ability to keep warm. Maybe more info would be helpful?
  8. LyonFuzz

    LyonFuzz Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 28, 2008
    South Lyon, Michigan
    I can tell you that my silkies love to huddle together:). They are in a small coop and can choose to either roost or go into the nesting area. They never roost....never, just snuggle all together in a box with wood shavings. Now my mille fleurs are another story. They fly up into the trees when they want to sleep, although I make sure everyone is in the coop at nite for safe keeping.
    Bigmommy, I did buy a 150 watt ceramic bulb today and am going to get a thermostat to regulate the temp. I just don't think I could enjoy watching them in the freezing temps that we get here in MI while I sit comfortably in my house without giving them the same comfort. We'll see how it goes;)

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