is insulation needed?


In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
We live in central Alberta. Our winters are on ave -20oC (-4oF) but we can get down to -35oC (-31oF). I was reading lots of posts and it seems like most people are saying that ventilation and draft proofing are more important than insulation. But I couldn't find any posts from Alberta.

We are looking to build a large coop again. Roughly 10-15 ft by 30ft. Maybe bigger. I'd like to get multiple breeds, but I "think" I should separate them in the coop. But again, not quite sure. If we have enough birds they'll keep it nice and warm. But again for such a large coop we're wondering if we can save $ and do no insulation.

Many thanks for all your input.
I am interested in this too, as I also live in Alberta, we move to our acreage next month, but the animal talk is starting, there is no coop on the property, so we have free run to do whatever we want/need to do.
I don't know the answer however I can tell you that I insulated my coop and this is what I have found. I live in Maine. Our winters don't get as cold as yours but we do get well below zero on occasion! My coop is only 4X4 with 3 big hens as reference. I have a wireless thermometer so I can always see from inside my house what the temp is in the coop. In the winter the coop is a good 10-15 degrees warmer than the outside temp. In the summer 10-12 degrees cooler which is what I'm most interested in. The girls seem to not be bothered by the cold all that much but the summer heat.... they can't take it.
Good luck!
Have fun!
Insulating a big coop can be costly and a lot of work; Yet, there would be benefits. If you decide to insulate then cover the insulation down where the chickens can access it by pecking! My coop is not insulated but well built so that any sub zero drafts will not be on the birds in the Winter and large panels can be removed for great ventilation in the Summer. I did insulate my exterior nest boxes with 3/4" rigid insulation. A lot of work but it keeps any heat and extreme cold buffered from the hens in the nest. I add a brooder lamp in the coop during the a few months of Winter. Hope this helps!

I just realized that I hadn't replied to anyone. I'm so sorry for that. Thank you for your thoughts. lots to think about.
I live in CT, so we get cold, but not as cold as you, and my coop is insulated. The coop is usually 10-15 degrees warmer than the outside air, particlularly at night. I added south facing windows to the coop to take advantage of as much solar heat as possible, and that also made a big difference. It is an expense, particularly in a large coop, but if you can do it, the birds will be warmer for it!

Pat’s Big Ol' Ventilation Page

Pat’s Cold Coop (winter design) page:

A couple of articles for you. The lady that wrote these was in Ontario.

The danger from cold is not so much that they will freeze to death. If the chicken is sick, weak, or in bad shape the stress from extreme cold might be enough to send it over the edge, but it’s really rare to lose a healthy chicken to cold. The biggest danger is frostbite. They can get frostbite any temperature below freezing, but other things have to be right for them to get it. Higher humidity in the coop is a danger that can lead to frostbite. Where dos the humidity come from? Their poop and their breathing. If the poop is frozen, it is not giving off any moisture. That leaves heir breathi9ng, which is still some but less of a worry compared to poop. A little ventilation can help with that, especially over their heads. Warm air holds more moisture than cold air and warm air rises. I know it’ll cool off pretty quickly but it will still be up higher.

Wind chill is real. You don’t want a breeze hitting them when they are on the roost. If all the ventilation is over their heads, they are not going to be caught in any cross-drafts. Those cross-drafts will be over their heads, taking out that moist air that rose.

Another risk is ammonia that develops from their poop when it is wet. Ammonia is real hard on their respiratory system. If the poop is frozen it’s not going to be giving off any ammonia but watch out when it thaws. Ammonia is lighter than air. If there is a hole higher than their heads, the ammonia will keep rising right out of the coop. Do you see a trend here? Maybe the ventilation should be over their heads when they are on the roost. If the poop is frozen, it really doesn’t need to be that much but beware when it thaws and freezes, thaws and freezes. It can get tricky when it’s going through that cycle

All that to get to insulation. There are two basic types of heat movement, convection and radiation. I’m lumping conduction with radiation for this. Convection is air movement. The warm air rising will move the warm air out of the coop. How fast? Well, how big is your coop and how much ventilation do you have? Anyway, insulation will not help you with this as long as you don’t have leaks in your wall.

Radiation/conduction is where insulation can help. It’s especially good in the summer right under your roof. That can keep it a lot cooler. It can make a difference in south and west walls too with the sun. In the winter insulation will reduce the heat lost through the walls and maybe roof. But you need to have heat before you can lose it. Where are you getting heat? The chickens themselves give off a reasonable amount. If your coop is on the ground the ground itself just might be warmer than the air and warm things up a bit, especially in those really bad cold snaps. Insulation is not going to heat up your coop but it can help keep the coop warmer. How much? That depends on how your coop is built and where it might be getting heat.

It’s not a clear-cut answer. There is a lot of “it depends” involved.
Thanks!! Summer has gotten away from us and we didn't get a coop built. I was so hoping to. But I'll work on it hopefully this fall and early spring. Our first coop is insulated so i know that its nice. And you are so right about ventilation. we didn't have enough and boy was it moist in there. So we will be fixing that before winter this year.

You might read this. Hokum kept an online diary last year during his cold weather. He’s a pretty decent guy. If you send him a PM, he’s probably give you a link to that thread or you can do a search.

You wanted someone with your climate so they would have credibility. He is the guy.

A lady in Alaska has a thread long thread about keeping chickens there too. I can’t remember her handle but if you run across that, it is someone else with credibility.
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