How much cold can the girls take?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by leash, May 12, 2008.

  1. leash

    leash Hatching

    May 12, 2008
    Hello everyone, I have just joined your forum finally after being just a reader for quite some time. I have learned so much from all of you. I just had to go for it and join though because I have some questions too I think you all could help me out with. We are in Ontario Canada (zone 5a) which can have pretty cold winters. I was wondering if anyone knows how much cold the hens can take before they really don't do well. We have had hens in a non insulated shed for the last couple of years with heat bulbs hung in winter to keep the water from freezing but am I being cruel to keep them in there at such low temps? or should I be insulating our shed? What is the preferences of hens. Do they thrive in cold or not? I have never had a problem with egg production dropping significantly, but want to make sure I'm not putting them into conditions they shouldn't be in. We want to redo it to expand the flock next year but don't know whether insulated would be better or not worth the expense. Any thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks!
  2. Dawn419

    Dawn419 Lost in the Woods

    Apr 16, 2007
    Evening Shade, AR
    Hello and Welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    I can only answer you question to a small degree, since I'm in TN, but the chickens can handle the cold alot better than they can the heat. Personally, I think it's worth it to insulate coops and am using TekFoil for insulation as it helps hold the warmth in winter but also helps keep the coop cooler in the summer (which is our biggest problem).

    We have several members from Canada and hopefully they'll see your post and will reply soon.

  3. kstaven

    kstaven Crowing

    Jan 26, 2007
    BC, Washington Border
    They will be happier in an insulated coop. They eat less during the winter because they don't have to expend so much energy keeping warm if they have a warmer coop.

    Having said that, I must note that extreme heat is harder on chickens than cold.
  4. BaronRenfrew

    BaronRenfrew Songster

    Gidday from Ottawa eh. We didn't get it last winter (we got 10 feet of snow instead) but we usually have a few weeks of -30C or -20F.

    Yep birds can take the cold. As long as its draught free they can keep themselves warm. This applies to bantams as well. Egg production is more affected by daylight hours so removing a heat lamp will reduce the light. Put a light on a timer in addition to the daylight to add up to 14 hours of light.

    We had them in an unheated barn so the water would freeze solid. I put water in an old cooking pot and they would drink until it froze. I'd hit the pot with a hammer or back of an axe to break the ice. I'm off the farm now and now have a workshop half divided for chickens. Now i'll be using a heated water base.

    General rule the bigger the bird the better they deal with cold. That's why we have turkeys in the wild and not quail. The combs will freeze on single comb birds if it's below -25C and will thaw in the spring. They will not lay with a frozen comb. This is more a problem with roosters or birds with a big comb (leghorns) but not with most hens (RIR's). For this reason i'd recommend birds with a rose comb or pea comb. This includes light brahma, dark cornish, RC rhode island reds, silver spangled hamburgs, wyandottes, etc.

    When a bird gets very old they might pass away on a real cold night. Lost my last dark cornish this way, bird was 5 years old.

    Good ideas are to put a windbreak on the north-west of the coop. This will signifigantly warm up the coop. Have a south facing window. Insulate or better yet build with straw bales (google straw bale construction) etc.

    For general health, cold isn't bad. Damp conditions and a temp of 2-10 degrees is worse for health. One real wet autumn I had problems with CRD (chronic respiratory disease) and this kills birds in 48 hours. They have a runny nose and gasp for air. You can buy a dry mix that you add to water to deal with this.
  5. Omeletta

    Omeletta Songster

    Jun 12, 2007
    Alberta, Canada
    Alberta, Canada, here...we got down to -52 C this last winter...I have 4 birds, 2 standard and 2 banty. They did well in my insulated, small coop with a heat lamp. The water did freeze, but not solid. They did really well, no problems. Not even frost bitten combs...

  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Hi, I'm in Ontario too (about an hour north of Toronto). If you insulate, and seal up any drafts -- while still maintaining decent ventilation!! -- you will save yourself a bunch of money on your hydro bill from not having to run the heat lamp [​IMG]

    If you are concerned, you can make a smaller enclosed area around the roosts, using aluminized bubblewrap or whatever, to help keep in their body warmth at night.

    As long as their combs/toes are not getting badly frostbit and they're not losing weight, they'll be fine. As BaronRenfrew says, cold is not such a problem as *damp*.

    Good luck,

  7. Tekfoil is great stuff and we used a combination of Typar and fibreglass insulation plus vapor seal to modify part of our barn. Pics and instructions are on the homepage link below.

    I think it's worth doing for YOU as well as your hens. You'll find the time spent more pleasant and you'll accomplish more.[​IMG]
  8. leash

    leash Hatching

    May 12, 2008
    Thank-you all for the great advice and so many wonderful ideas to choose from! Love this forum!
  9. Mrs MIA

    Mrs MIA Chick Magnet

    Mar 3, 2008
    Yeppers... combination of insulated coop (draft-free), 2x4's as roosts so they can cover their feet, and enough heat to keep the eggs and water from freezing, and your girls will be just fine. We were down in the -30 to-40C range for most of February, and though there were a couple of days I really didn't see anyone out in the yard, for the most part they came outside in the snow to get out and stretch.


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