How cold is too cold?


13 Years
May 5, 2009
Twin Cities, MN
We have a small, suburban backyard coop and 4 hens. Our coop is elevated 3 feet off the ground and sits on an open run. There are two large screen windows in the coop which we covered with cardboard temporarily because we had a week of rain. There is also a hole in the floor of the henhouse which enables them to climb the ladder up or down to put themselves to bed or to let themselves out to the run.

The cold weather came upon us quite suddenly - it's about 35 degrees outside now. We haven't had time to seal the small portion of the run with plastic to help to keep the heat in. It is likely to get below freezing tonight.

Is it silly to worry about them being too cold? We should be able to get the plastic up and the light installed this weekend.
I am searching for answers too....

Can you post a picture of your coop? You can see my page for mine. Nebraska has seen the 30s already and I have not done any winterizing yet

Hope I can get it figured out this weekend!
As long as you make sure you coop stays dry and draft free at night, they will be just fine. I personally don't see the need to enclose the run unless your temps. are consistently staying below freezing. All of my chickens, bantams too, did just fine last winter. There was a week that the temps. stayed below 0 and I added a heat lamp to their coop and wouldn't let anyone out in the run, but other than that, I let my chooks come and go in the winter. They do get bowls of warm oatmeal in the mornings along with some scratch, but that's all I do here.

Also, if you do a search for threads about this you will find many that have asked this exact same question.
Are these basically-grown chickens? If so, freezing temperatures should not be a problem as long as there is GOOD VENTILATION and no drafts blowin' cold air at the chickens.

I don't know what you have in the way of ventilation besides the windows, but I will warn you that if you close it all off (or if the windows were the only significant source of ventilation -- a coupla little hole-saw holes don't count, nor does the popdoor if you close it at night) then you ARE likely to have frostbite, because of creating such high humidity. Dry air is more of a priority than keeping out the cold, at least til you get down to *very very* cold temperatures which no matter where you live are not going to be happening this time of year <g>

BTW, for the same reason, make sure not to wrap the entire run in plastic. It will be a giant super-strength humidity chamber -- remember there is more moisture in the ground in the first place than there is in your coop! -- and can humidify your coop even if the coop is seemingly well ventilated. Leave part of it open, probably the part that is both furthest from your coop and on the usually-downwind side.

Good luck, have fun,

I don't get concerned about my chickens until it gets down around zero Farenheit. Then I might add a heat light in the coop, if it is going to stay there for a few days. I did this last year and every one of them lived and it got down to -15 F for about a week. I leave the pop door open - it's on the east side of the coop (away from the wind). I'll also put some strong plastic on the run wire on the North and west sides.
Here's my coop (and my kid!). We added a run after this photo was taken. we are able to section off the large run and use only the small run pictured here for winter, if we want to.

Our plan is to leave the pop door open, so that it will work together with the vents on either side of the top of the house to provide necessary air flow for ventilation.

Our 2 older hens are about a year and a half old, and our 2 younger hens were born around Easter. All are laying and healthy and getting along (yay!)


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Hi! I'm in the Twin Cities too. That cold kinda came up on us out of no-where, didn't it? I was just getting used to the 70 degree temperatures.... sigh.

BTW, your coop is very very cute.

I would recommend finding some plexiglass (home depot carries it, as does any good glass distributor - there's one on Excelsior in Hopkins) and using that to cover your windows. Make it thick. I can't tell from your photos how your screens are mounted, so can't give any recommendations for installation. However, having some natural daylight is definitely a plus on the upcoming FRIGID days when they won't really want to go outside so much. By the time the days are around 30, I close up my windows for the season. This is where your ventilation will become important.

Don't know how much hassle it would be to close up their popdoor at night, but it might be advantageous to keeping the coop a little warmer and not have cold air blowing up at them from below.

Looking at your photos, do they have any other ventilation other than the windows? If not, you're going to need to put some in. Could you drill in that space right above the windows? It's better than nothing. You'll want it high, so the warm, moist air can escape, and above their heads if possible. If you can make it with flaps, all the better.

I think your idea of closing up the run will make it more appealing for them to maybe spend some time outside once the real cold sets it. Additionally, it would probably keep some of those blustery winds from whistling beneath the coop, making it colder. Mine didn't care to go into the run in the winter, even tho it's covered. I've considered closing up the western and northern sides to keep the snow out, but it hasn't happened yet... we'll see. Either way, make sure you leave a little gap at the top, or leave one side open, so that isn't sealed up in plastic and the air can circulate keeping it from getting too moist inside.

PM me anytime if I can be of help!

ETA: I just checked out your page and looked at the bigger photos. I see that you have two little round vents in the gables. That's not a ton of ventilation - you may find that once you close up the windows, you're going to need more. I had those little steel vents too -- they look great, but weren't quite enough for the wintertime when the rest of the coop is closed up. We ended up using white return air vents from Home Depot. And then made flaps for the inside so that they could be closed up temporarily when it gets really cold. It has worked for us. HOpe this helps.
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