When (at what temp) is it too cold to let the chickens out of the coop?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Kluk-Kluk, Nov 20, 2014.

  1. Kluk-Kluk

    Kluk-Kluk Songster

    Apr 11, 2014
    upstate New York
    The temps have been unseasonably cold (in the teens) here in upstate New York, and when I opened the coop three days ago, the chickens didn't want to go out - understandably so. And, yes, there was some snow on the ground. So I closed the door and have kept them in ever since. Last winter was brutal here, and the chickens were indoors for months. But I had fewer chickens and was new to keeping them. Closing the door and having two tungsten lights on keeps the coop significantly warmer than the outdoors, so opening the door would drop the indoor temp. The temperature is supposed to go up in the next few days, but the whole winter is ahead.

    At what temperature should I open the coop door and let the chickens have the option to go out (knowing that those inside will be colder)? What do you do in the snowy wintertime?
    ChickyG likes this.
  2. duluthralphie

    duluthralphie Sr Chicken Wrangler

    Jul 11, 2014
    Orrock township, Minnesota
    I have a covered run on my coop. I let the chickens have access to the run 24/7 even in the cold. It has been below zero here almost daily. There area few chickens that go outside, but most stay in the coop, scratching the wood chips and sand, some stay on the roosts for hours.

    I leave the chicken door to the run open to allow them to go outdoors if they want and to give a low point of air intake to have cold air come in and rise with moisture to vent up and out. I am going to open the coop to the open air again soon, I am training young hens to use nest boxes now.

    I have no heat source in the coop other than a light bulb on a timer to extend light hours.

    I have 4 CX's that live in a coop I call the igloo this time of year, no heat, no light they have access to the outdoors and come out daily.


    I feed them outside. I should mention I feed the layers mash in the coop, but I throw all the scratch into the run. Here you see my 4 cx's. a couple guineas and a turkey eating corn in about 5 degree temps yesterday. BTW I think my CX's have a body mass equal or greater than the turkey.

    On the "bottom left corner" of the coop use see a "box/window" on the igloo. It is open screen ( hardware cloth) to allow venting. Their coop breaks wind and keeps little warmth inside.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2014
    Skipper81 likes this.
  3. JackE

    JackE Crowing

    Apr 26, 2010
    North Eastern Md.
    I get winter temps down into the single digits. I have an Open-Air style coop. The whole front wall is nothing but hardware cloth. there is no heat, or insulation in the coop. And my birds will come out everyday, unless there is a bunch of fresh snow outside the door. Then, I have to clear an area for them, then they will come out. You are doing your birds no favor, by heating the coop. You are making them dependent on that added heat. They are much better off, to be allowed to adjust and acclimatize to the cold. Hopefully, you have a big roomy coop. Chickens can get irritable if too many are kept in too tight a space.
  4. Kluk-Kluk

    Kluk-Kluk Songster

    Apr 11, 2014
    upstate New York
    Thanks for the input, duluthralphie and JackE. I just went out and opened the coop door enough for the more adventuresome to go out and scratch in the snow.
  5. deacons

    deacons Songster

    Oct 8, 2013
    New Hampshire
    I always give them the option to go out in the morning, but I do shut the doors once they're in to roost. I have an uncovered run, but they have a small lean-to style overhang so they do have an option for being out but covered. In the next couple of weeks, I'll throw some straw down to cover the ground in the run, which is basically frozen at this point. Last year, all 8 were almost never in the coop during the day time. This year, I have 3 in a hard molt, who are wanting to hang around in the coop most of the day, and I think they have convinced the others to hang out in there with them as I don't see the flock out much. Our daytime temps have been in the 20-30*F range for the last week or so. No snow yet (thankfully!!)

    On the most miserable days in January and February (single digits, driving snow, heavy wind, etc.) I have a small "playpen" set up in my garage, so they have a decent sized space to move around some while still being covered and sheltered from the wind.

    Neither coop nor garage have heat, I don't add supplemental light either.
  6. JackE

    JackE Crowing

    Apr 26, 2010
    North Eastern Md.
    As far as shutting the door after they go in for the night. That would depend on how secure your run is. A lot of people will shut it for nighttime security, to keep out any night roving predators. I leave my pop door open. The chickens get to come out first thing in the morning when they want, and don't have to wait for me to drag my rear out there. My coop is surrounded with electrified poultry net, and I have come to have a lot of faith in it.
  7. whittychick

    whittychick Songster

    Jul 28, 2013
    Cape cod
    I do the same thing all year long. I lock them up at night and leave door open all day to their outside run. I let them fee range n afternoon. I live in Massachusetts so I know that weather you're talikng about! It can be brutal but my girls love the snow!! But have the option to stay inside of they want.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2014
  8. azygous

    azygous Crossing the Road

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Every winter I'm amazed all over again at how my chickens are able to cope with extremely cold temperatures with seemingly no ill effects. The colder it is, the longer they seem to want to linger inside their coops in the mornings, but they always opt to come out and spend the whole day in the run, which is enclosed and covered to protect from direct effects of weather.

    The secret to managing temperature for chickens is to make sure they aren't subjected to extremes. This means if you choose to heat the coop and they go outside during the day, the two temperatures shouldn't be too far apart. I choose to heat my coops to keep it just above freezing, but the run isn't heated except for a heat lamp for the ones who are still molting to warm themselves under. The run typically will be fifteen degrees warmer than the outside temperature, so on a five-degree day, it'll be fifteen or twenty degrees F in the run, while the coop is around 35 degrees when they roost at night.

    If I were to heat their coop to a comfortable (for me) 65 degrees, and they had to endure fifteen degrees out in the run all day, they would have problems. Several years ago, I brought one of my hens into the garage one day during an especially cold day. In just a few minutes, she was panting like she was suffering from the heat, even though the garage was in the fifties. It seemed like the 90s to my little hen. I returned her to the run, and she was far more comfortable. It's sort of like you getting all decked out in snow gear, and trying to be comfortable sitting in a heated house like that.

    Chickens have their own built-in down jackets, and they're just as comfortable as we are in ours.
  9. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    We covered our run with plastic, except for two small areas directly across from each other for ventilation, and we leave the pop door open all of the time. My chickens head out of the coop into the run the moment the sun comes up, and except for laying or coming in to snoop to see what I'm doing out there, they stay in the run until just before sundown. I give them the option, they choose. Our temps all last week and part of this week have been in the negative numbers.....down to -17 one night and daytime highs around -2. They are fine. No insulation in the coop, no heat source. But with the covered run acting like a greenhouse, trapping the sun's energy and the pop door they get good air flow into the coop from it, and that air flows up and out through the higher vents inside the coop. This will be our first full winter with them, and if this is an example of how well they'll do in prolonged sub-zero temps I'm a happy chicken lady!
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I always give my birds the option to go out, my coop is never closed. I may be projecting some, but I know I go freaking crazy when I'm cooped up in the house and can't get out. I figure the birds feel the same way.
    1 person likes this.

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