I know there's a million opinions, but how cold is too cold?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Lucy4, Dec 17, 2009.

  1. Lucy4

    Lucy4 Chillin' With My Peeps

    This is my first winter with the girls, and I'm worried about them.

    I have four (2 BO, 2 EE) in a coop that is very well ventilated, but not well insulated. It's pretty much 4 boards and a roof. I threw a lot of shavings in there tonight, but I'm wondering if I should put in a heat lamp. Yes, I know all the negatives of providing artificial heat, and I agree with them. But how cold is too cold?

    It will be about 10 degrees F tonight. Should I be concerned?

    Thanks for indulging the newbie fraidy mama.
  2. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Well...you hit the nail on the head when you said there would be a million and one different opinions on the subject. So anything I'm saying is just my two cents.

    I don't think many people would disagree that the IDEAL temp for chickens would probably be 60-70 degrees. Now hold on, don't go throwing rocks and sticks. IDEAL being key word. I'd say that for most wild birds too. Of course most people live in areas that get quite a bit hotter and quite a bit colder than that. So while chickens can survive in much colder temperatures, IMO they don't much like it. And for a fact, based on watching mine, they don't like it. The book advertised on BYC, "Raising Chickens for Dummies" suggests that IDEALLY a coop would be kept above freezing (I believe it states around 34 - 40 degrees) in cold weather areas.
    Once more, IMO!!! when people say their chickens do fine at temps down to zero or below, I think "do fine" is code word for "survive." If I have the option to provide more for my chickens (which are pets) than mere survival, then I will do so. Some people don't have that option. I TRY to maintain my coop 35-40 degrees. Do I think my birds would live if I let it dip down to 15???? Yeah, I think they probably would. Do I think they'd be a little miserable during the night? Yeah, I do. Now, my chickens are young. So maybe after they're bigger and fluffier next winter, I won't worry as much (although I'm sure I'll still heat my coop a little.)

    If you do stick a heatlamp in there, be sure to adhere to all of the safety warnings I'm sure you've seen on these threads. Get a lamp w/a guard. Some wrap wire around the front as an added safety measure. Make sure there is plenty of clearance from bedding and chickens. Make sure the lamp housing is appropriately rated for the bulb you're using. Etc. Ultimately, you have to do what's best for you.
  3. danielle82

    danielle82 A Good Egg

    Apr 27, 2009
    Tonasket Wa
    So far our outside temps have gotten down to about 7. I don't know how cold my coop got, as I don't have a thermometer there. I have an insulated coop, but no heater. Theyve done marvelous, no frostbite or anything. I do plan on getting a heat lamp though though. Just because they "did okay" dosn't men it was pleasant for them.

    NYREDS Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 14, 2008
    Oh no, that's much too cold. I think you should bring them in the house until spring.
    I'm not serious but I'm sure someone will offer this opinion as well.
    They're chickens [birds]. They come with down coats. Wild birds do fine outside in the elements. Your chickens are in a coop with bedding.
    Here we go-"my chickens do fine" in similar temperatures & by do fine I mean do fine.
    That said I don't regard mine as pets, they're livestock. Livestock means things we eat, pets means things we don't. In this [and most] culture we eat chickens regularly.
    Bottom line for me is they're your chickens. If you feel you need to provide them heat go ahead but understand it's more for your benefit than theirs. Also be aware that heat lamps over deep beds of shavings present a real fire risk so be careful.
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I don't think it's possible (or sensible) to try to nominate a particular temperature -- it will differ greatly depending on your climate, your weather, your coop, your coop location, your coop management, and your particular chickens (their breed, and what they're like as individuals).

    However I would like to comment that the thing about taking advice from books written by people in warmish climates, or people who've always heated their coop, is that they do not necessarily have much direct experience of what chickens act like in the cold to compare to, and imagination starts to come into play [​IMG]

    All I can say is, you should watch your actual personal real chickens -- hold off on heating them at first, just OBSERVE them -- and actually *see* if they start having problems with circulation in their combs, or acting very cold, or limiting their activities, or anything like that.

    In an awful lot of cases, they don't have any detectable problems. It isn't just "technically surviving but being miserable in" subfreezing temperatures; many times if you did not know how cold it was out there, you wouldn't know it from looking at the chickens, you know?

    Pat, who would hate to be subject to a yak's preconceptions about what's reasonable environmental conditions to live in, or even a horse's. I do not come equipped with enough fur for a yak's intuitions about what's too hot; and horses do waaaay better at standing out in the rain and wind than I ever would (and they seem to LIKE that, as long as they have some shelter from the very worst of it)
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009
  6. Andi

    Andi Chillin' With My Peeps

    There's so many things that toss every idea out the window. Smaller coops will allow the chickens' combined body heat keep it warm. Too small and you get squabbling (and occasionally cannibalism) and increased moisture that could result in frostbite. Insulate well to protect them. Insulate too well and reduce air quality. No heat in sub-zero temps can make for frostbite and possibly other health issues. Heat in too small of a coop creates a fire hazard.

    I'm finding that chickens are tough. Its when we over pamper them that I'm wondering where some of the problems are arising. You'll have to do what's comfortable for you. You do have cold hardy breeds.

    More important than keeping them warm is upping their protein in cold weather and making sure their water is drinkable at all times (and fresh).

    For me, I have 4 girls (standard size) and a coop that is 4' X 8' and I turn on the heat lamp when the temp drops below zero. Mine started showing signs of their feet hurting at around 10-15°F. Above that they preferred to be outside and didn't seem phased.

    It was nerve racking for me at first, too. Now that I've seen how they handle it, it makes it easier.
  7. Fanny

    Fanny Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 22, 2009
    Manitoba, Canada
    I have 4 chickens in a small, partially insulated, well ventilated coop.

    I have a 50 watt bulb in a cookie tin heater underneath the water, but otherwise no heat (had been a 25 watt, but had been freezing over on the really, really cold nights). It got down to -35C/-31F the other night and they were all fine, so I'm hoping they'll be fine all winter. It's regularly been -25C/-13F during the day here for the last couple of weeks and the chickens have been out running around and acting normal, not huddled up or staying inside the coop.

    It's ultimately of course up to you - but that's what my experience has been so far. You have cold hardy breeds - I'm guessing they'll be fine no matter what you do.
  8. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    It would be really helpful to know the size of your coop--is it a small one? If so, I would be very nervous about adding a heat lamp, as it could heat up in there very quickly. The first thing you can do is put a thermometer in there, to see what the temperature actually is. The chickens themselves can heat it up quite a bit. Another thing you can do is wrap batt insulation around the outside and bungy it on. I did this last year with my small coop (make sure the ventilation is always open a little). If you feel like you need to add heat, use a small wattage bulb that is black or red, and monitor the temps carefully. Mine have been into the teens in their coop, and single digits outside, and I have not noticed any change in their behavior at those temps. They liked 8 degrees and dry better than 45 and rainy! I think you will be surprised at how well they do acclimate to the cold.
  9. RocketDad

    RocketDad Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 25, 2008
    Near US 287
    I have more heat in my coop than necessary, but that's more to keep my wife from freaking out at 3am and waking me up to go check on them than for the chickens' benefit.

    Now that the arctic front has passed I'll probably try to notch it back further and see how the hens respond. I'm looking at lows in the 20's for the next week.
  10. Lucy4

    Lucy4 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks to you all for your replies and the abundance of information shared. I feel more confident now. The girls did fine last night... I did put hot water in a milk jug and put it in the coop to appease my conscience. But I do think that heating it would be more risk than not. (My coop is only 4 by 4.) It's 15 degree outside right now, and they're all out in the run or the pen.

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