Keeping chickens warm enough

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by squat, Nov 8, 2008.

  1. squat

    squat Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 26, 2008
    Another question about the coop. In the very top of the coop there is screening to allow for light and ventilation. Should I cover the screening with clear plastic or something else to help hold the heat in? As it gets colder and colder, I worry about any heat escaping at the top of the coop through the screen. The coop is about 4X5 feet. We have six chickens.

  2. BeardedChick

    BeardedChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Where are you? How cold does it get?
  3. squat

    squat Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 26, 2008
    I'm in Salt Lake City, Utah. It gets down in the teens and some winters in the single digits.
  4. ThePamperedPullet

    ThePamperedPullet Chillin' With My Peeps

    I spent most of last winter in Lyman, Wyoming, just over the hill from you. I would cover up any openings you can and maybe even try to use something to help insulate. I know first hand it gets cold there. If you have heavy breeds you should be good to about 20 if you can keep their water warm enough to not freeze. If it is going to get colder than that, you might want to have a light on for extra warmth.
  5. Chicken of the Sea

    Chicken of the Sea Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 1, 2008
    Wellsboro, PA
  6. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    May 7, 2007
    Forks, Virginia
    Don't cover those roof vents with plastic. You need the air to be able to vent and winter moisture to escape. With good ventilation, no drafts, and thick bedding, your chickens will spend a nice comfy winter in their coop at night.

    If you do cover those vents what happens is you trap moisture inside, that moisture will condensate. Not only will the inside of your hen house become stinky, but the moisture will cause frost bite to the combs and wattles of your chickens.
  7. MaransGuy

    MaransGuy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 25, 2007
    Greenfield, MA
    I agree. Closing up those vents is only going to cause serious problems. 20's are nothing to a chicken. I am in Western Mass and our winter temps can go to -20. We can go weeks with temps below freezing both day and night. Breaking ice out of waterers is a contstant chore. I have a vent at the top of the coop that is open throughout winter. If you close things up moisture builds up from the birds breathing overnight causing frostbite to combs and wattles. Molds can then start growing causing other problems as well. The birds simply do not feel the cold the same way you do. They will be far more comfortable with the ventilation.

    Last edited: Nov 9, 2008
  8. pdpatch

    pdpatch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 5, 2008
    Hastings, Nebraska
    When deciding to heat there is serveral things to look at.

    1. What type of Chickens do you have.
    Some are much more hardier then others and do just fine with temps as low as 20. Other you need to keep warmer especially if they are layers. Currently we Have Buff Orphantons, Barbed Rocks and Red sex links. All are considered hardy.

    Some hatcheries will list if the Chickens are hardy or how hardy they are considered.

    2. Where do you live and how cold does it get and does the wind blow a lot?

    In our case it can get really cold , and lots of wind. Temps can get down to -20 with wind chills of -40 for a weeks or two at a time.

    3. How is your coop constructed?
    If it is well built and insulated, with proper ventilation. There is a chance that just the heat the chickens give off is enough. The waste will cause methane and ammonia build up in the coop if it is not ventilated

    4. How lazy are you?
    I am not exactly a spring chicken myself, So I hate to haul water in the winter to them when it freezes or break ice out of the waters. So I try to keep the temps up above 32.

    5. Now much do you want to spoil your chickens?
    A lot, we only have layers at the moment, and they give use eggs.
    so we like to spoils the "working Girls".

    What we did may not be what you need.

    So in our case we shoot for about 30 to 32 degrees in the coop. Last years winter coop was brick and not insulated. so when it was windy we had a lot of heat leached out by the wind blowing against it.

    Also we didn't make it to our target temp a number of days. so we did have a heated waterer.

    Last year we had a couple of large snow drifts in front of the coop. That made it hard to get freash water to them earily in the winter season. So we kept modifying the coop to try and get it warmer.

  9. WoundedEgo

    WoundedEgo Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 1, 2008
    This winter I am going to provide heat for my chickens in the form of straw and leaves. The straw provides wind protection, and as the organic material breaks down, it heats up. Here in NE Alabama, that is really all they need, apart from protection from rain. I was going to use wood, but now I think I'll use old windows, so the sun can shine on them.
  10. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2009
    I've been thinking about this question a lot because this is my first winter with chickens. I live in North Texas, so our winters are not terribly harsh, but we do get occasional short spells of quite cold weather, which in some ways is worse than having sustained cold because the birds don't really have a chance to get gradually acclimated to the cold. Plus, I have Serama hybrids, and Seramas aren't known for being cold hardy.

    Anyway, I've been doing a lot of reading and research, here and elsewhere on the internet. Something I read made a real impression on me: the suggestion was that it was critical to make sure your birds go to roost on cold nights with a crop full of food. Makes sense: they need to be able to heat their bodies all night, and they need fuel to do that.

    So I've started going out to feed my flock a special treat at around 5 p.m. I make a plate of the cooked grain and vegetable mix I give to our parrots (warmed), then I chop some sunflower seed hearts on top. Other days it's been half a pumpkin with the chopped sunflower seeds. When I have none of these things handy, it's just good old scratch.

    I love to see them go to bed with those bulging crops.

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