Keeping Your Coop Warm in the Winter

Sbfitzge

Chirping
Apr 11, 2018
23
15
54
Roanoke, VA
How does everyone manage this? Our chickens have survived the cold without frostbite in the past, but I want them to be comfortable. I've seen mixed information on insulation or using a heat source, like an electric pad. However, I've seen reviews of even the safest heating sources causing fires. That would be terrible, so I want to make sure we are being as safe as possible. What do you do? We're in SW Virginia, so it doesn't get to negative temps or anything, but it still gets cold for birds!
 

WindingRoad

Songster
Nov 21, 2018
1,345
2,424
243
Maine
How does everyone manage this? Our chickens have survived the cold without frostbite in the past, but I want them to be comfortable. I've seen mixed information on insulation or using a heat source, like an electric pad. However, I've seen reviews of even the safest heating sources causing fires. That would be terrible, so I want to make sure we are being as safe as possible. What do you do? We're in SW Virginia, so it doesn't get to negative temps or anything, but it still gets cold for birds!
How many birds do you have, what size coop for them, do you have good ventilation?
 

Annalyse

Songster
Mar 24, 2020
608
527
141
New Jersey
Put clear plastic tarp things over the run or wherever snow can get I. It traps the heat from the sun but also keeps snow out. Try and get and a waterer that heats up or make one and keep that outside and not in the coop if anything happens it wont hurt the chickens and hurt the coop it will be outside.
 

humblehillsfarm

Crowing
Mar 27, 2020
1,934
3,336
281
Southwestern Pennsylvania
How does everyone manage this? Our chickens have survived the cold without frostbite in the past, but I want them to be comfortable. I've seen mixed information on insulation or using a heat source, like an electric pad. However, I've seen reviews of even the safest heating sources causing fires. That would be terrible, so I want to make sure we are being as safe as possible. What do you do? We're in SW Virginia, so it doesn't get to negative temps or anything, but it still gets cold for birds!
I've worried about the same thing, Last winter we didn't have any consecutive negative temps in PA, but the winter before (and the first year I've ever owned chickens), we experienced quite a few days where temps were below zero, consecutively. At that time, I used a heat lamp on the coldest of nights but I didn't realize how dangerous that was. Still though, I had several birds with huge combs and was worried about frost bite. Last year the coldest we got was 1-2 nights where it hit close to zero, and I didn't provide heat. I would like to know something safe to do for them if I get several days of negative temps again.
 

Folly's place

Enabler
Sep 13, 2011
21,776
33,666
1,036
southern Michigan
Roosters with big single combs and wattles definitely can have issues with frostbite, especially if the coop isn't well ventilated and gets damp. Heating the coop is tricky, though, and heat lamps, if not very carefully set up, can cause fires. And in a power outage, your birds will have lost their heat, also not good.
Insulating the roof, if it can be managed without giving rodents a nice home, does help with summer sun, and somewhat with winter cold.
Mild frostbite on the comb tips heals pretty fast, and is a minor problem.
Here we don't keep roosters with large single combs and big wattles, and our few single combed hens haven't had frostbite issues in winter.
, with no heat in the coop.
If you decide to use a heat source out there, make sure it's well protected and that the coop is wired safely, it's not possible to be too careful about it!
Mary
 

KarynVA

Songster
May 29, 2020
230
575
133
SW Virginia
I live not far from Roanoke and my concern is more about wind than cold during the winter. Chickens do fine with cold as long as there is good ventilation but not actual wind on them while they are roosting. I don't plan to use any heat in my small coop for 3 hens. I use the deep litter method, so that also creates some warmth inside the coop (it needs to say dry, though).
 

NatJ

Crowing
Mar 20, 2017
3,996
6,622
386
USA
We're in SW Virginia, so it doesn't get to negative temps or anything, but it still gets cold for birds!
It's not really cold for them. They are wearing down jackets! But they don't like wind when it's cold.

Make sure they have a place to get out of the wind, especially when they sleep.
Fresh air is good, direct wind not.
Sometimes it works well to have a solid roof, 3 solid sides of the coop, and hardware cloth on the entire front (if that front is not facing toward the prevailing wind.) When I say "solid," that can even be tarp over hardware cloth--I just mean the wind doesn't come through.

Use a heated water dish, or else replace water every morning and as needed during the day.

Typical chicken waterers have a narrow little trough, and the water has to flow through a small hole--those parts freeze fast, and then the chickens cannot get any water (even if the main part of the waterer has not frozen).

A bowl of water starts to get ice at the edges, but the middle stays thawed longer, so they can still drink. Rubber bowls make it easy to dump the ice without breaking the bowl, or you can give the chickens a fresh bowl and bring the frozen one inside to thaw.

If you worry about them needing extra calories--just add water to some chicken food to make a warm, wet mush. They seem to love it, and will happily eat enough to fill their crops. Good in the morning when they wake up, and the evening before they go to sleep. (Not required, but they like it, it does no harm and might help, and it makes the person feel better.)
 

RobertaD1

Songster
Apr 30, 2020
545
963
166
South West Ohio
My Coop
Keeping your birds cool in summer is WAY harder than warm in the winter... they wear a down filled coat all year!
1. Good ventilation
2. No drafts... especially in roost areas.
3. Plenty of feed! Their metabolism goes WAY faster in the winter keeping their body temp up... so make sure they are fed well!
4. Boredom busters.... If they are stuck inside in a small area, they will become bored WAY faster than they will get cold...... Thats when the trouble REALLY starts!
Really... good ventilation is the KEY to healthy birds through winter! saying that....
Last winter we had a girl who was sick and we did turn on a heat lamp for 2 nights... but thats all. The other hens didn't care it was on at all.
 

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