Keeping chickens warm in Minnesota winters

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by spiritpots, Dec 9, 2018.

  1. spiritpots

    spiritpots Chirping

    This is my first winter with chickens and living in central Minnesota I have concerns that they will stay warm enough in our cold winters, especially when we hit -20 (actual temps not wind chill). I've read a lot of great information here with recommendations both for and against adding heat to a coop but still am unsure of what to do. My biggest concern with using any form of supplemental heat is the risk of fire. I live on a 20 acre heavily wooded property, which is surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods, so a fire would be beyond devastating.

    I have 4 chickens (2 orpington, 1 maran and 1 brown leghorn) in a 4'w x 7'd x 6'h coop with an attached run. I've covered some of the run walls with plastic to help block the wind during the winter. I close the pop door at night but open it every morning as their food and water is in the run. I built the coop out of pallets (I didn't have time to add wood siding to the coop this year but will do that in the spring) and have lined the inside walls with straw for a bit of winter insulation. I have venting at the top of the coop walls that is always open and three windows, which are currently closed but that can be propped open if needed. I'm using the deep litter method and it is very dry in the coop - no indication of moisture anywhere. I am going to add some additional straw to the inside of the coop for the girls to nestle in but am wondering if that will be enough to keep them warm enough. We've had low temps of 7 degrees overnight and all are doing fine. In addition to their regular food I give them some black oil sunflower seeds in the afternoon and will add a little cracked corn as well. My main concern is when temperatures drop into the negative range. Any thoughts or suggestions would be very much appreciated!

    photo 1.jpeg photo 2.jpeg photo 3.jpg photo 4.jpg photo 5.jpg
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Waiting on a Fresh Garden Salad

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I definitely would not add heat. You have lots of combustible materials. I'm in Central Wisconsin and we have similar weather. I have never provided heat. Healthy chickens don't require it from my experiences. The colder weather can at times weed out the weak or those with underlying health problems unfortunately.

    My chickens can look cold on some days, this year with winter settling in before winter is officially here has thrown a few of my birds off, especially a few late molters, but in general mine are doing fine. Yours should too.

    All those windows will be nice on those bitter cold days so they can sun themselves. The one good thing about really cold temperatures is they often come with clear skies and sunshine.
  3. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    The coop looks nice.
    I don't think you need to do anything but provide more ventilation.
    Your chickens are warm. They go to sleep wearing a down coat, not PJs.
    -20 is cold but it has gotten to that here with no heat.
    The only time they would need heat is if they were sick. The main reason they would get sick is from not having sufficient ventilation.
    I have several buildings. The one with the smallest ventilation has a fan in the window blowing in toward one of the roosts year round. Chickens seem to vie for a spot where the cold wind blows in.
  4. proudmommie31

    proudmommie31 Songster

    Mar 2, 2016
    Northern Lower MI
    i think they'll be fine as is (cute coop by the way). I had a freerange chicken that we couldn't catch last year (she wasn't one of our original flock) that decided sleeping in the shell of a gutted pop up was the way to go. No wind block, there were openings on every side, no buddies to cuddle up with. She stayed looking just fine all winter, even with cold snaps down to -30 for a few days. On days that were warmer than 0 she would come running around into the yard again. I don't even know what she ate. I just know at spring time she was back to laying eggs and clucking happily. Yours will do great in that coop.
  5. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Love that post and should be required reading for those that think, just because they are cold that their chickens need warmth of some kind.
    spiritpots and proudmommie31 like this.
  6. Callender Girl

    Callender Girl Crowing

    Sep 18, 2018
    North Central Iowa
    I am in northern Iowa and we also sometimes get those minus-20 days. My chickens have never had supplemental heat and have successfully survived with much less substantial shelter than yours. Even knowing that, I still worry about them on frigid days -- I also worry about my miniature goats, hair sheep and ME! I hate the cold, whereas my runner ducks and geese seem to relish crappy weather.

    As long as your chickens are dry, out of the wind and have some ventilation, they should be fine.

    BTW, love your coop!
  7. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Crossing the Road

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Welcome from a fellow Minnesotan! You've gotten good advice. The main thing to remember is not to button up your coop too tight. Ventilation and plenty of it is a good thing. I don't close the pop door until it's below -10. The windows are still open at the top - they tilt in, so the wind will be directed upward rather than blowing directly on the birds.
    spiritpots, ChickenCanoe and aart like this.
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I think you have a very nice set up, and the fact that it is dry, that is what is important. Dry chickens with wind protection will do fine below zero. -35 temperature is as cold as we have had, and mine did just fine.

    However, do keep an eye on them. Chickens that are active, eating, drinking, moving easily are fine. Bright eyes and good feathers are both signs of healthy chickens. Signs of lethargic birds, that won't move, won't eat, not interested in anything, those are bad signs, and then you might have losses.

    I too agree, no heat, keep it dry and they will do fine.

    Mrs K
    spiritpots, ChickenCanoe and bobbi-j like this.
  9. spiritpots

    spiritpots Chirping

    Thank you everyone for your comments! I have not wanted to add any heat and your insights give me the assurance that my small flock will be fine without it. I have at least 3 sq. ft. of venting that is always open (not viewable in the photos) but I will open the windows to add more. The coop and run are very predator-proof with double locks on all doors and hardware cloth everywhere (if I never have to attach or bury hardware cloth again I will be a happy woman!) so leaving the pop door open unless it's really cold sounds like a great idea and is an easy way to add ventilation. The girls are very active and I check for eggs regularly during the day so will definitely be able to address any health issues that may come up right away.

    Now if I could just convince them that free ranging in winter is fun and that it really is OK for them to walk on the snow if they'd like!
    ChickenCanoe and Callender Girl like this.
  10. BielefelderHen

    BielefelderHen Songster

    Mar 27, 2018
    Hertfordshire, UK
    I love your coop set up!:bow

    I think your chickens should be fine, as long as they are old enough to have grown enough feathers to keep them warm (just echoing what everyone else has said.);)

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: