Winterizing? How cold is too cold?

AlyssaB87

In the Brooder
Aug 7, 2018
13
10
31
Hi friends!! This is our first winter with chickens and we are curious about heating the coop. I’ve read mixed things so I’m just not sure what to do. We are in Nashville, TN and unfortunately it’s already quite cold (30s and 40s overnight). I understand that they are cold hardy birds and don’t think we need anything extreme.

We have a large coop house and 4 hens (copper maran, Black maran, ISA Brown, and Ameraucana) who have been roosting on one of the roof supports as high as possible (despite 2 other roosts ). There are windows on both sides of this as well as a window on the front and an extra on the side. There is a door opening 10”x10” to the run that we haven’t closed.

Should we be closing all the windows? Should we close the coop door or install some heavy duty plastic “blinds” to prevent drafts? Should we get a solar heated mat? Or are they just fine huddling together?
 

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~ Dreaming Of Springtime ~
Aug 18, 2017
5,547
19,908
707
Caliente Nevada
If its getting colder then shut the windows. Chickens can handle cold it’s 26 here at night and it’s not a problem for them at all. Coldest temperatures here are single digits and all survived.
The blinds have me SCARED!!
They can get caught in their feet wings around their necks. Just like they have warnings for blinds around children. I would not use them.
If you do close the windows make sure you have proper ventilation.
And chickens like to perch high. As high as they can get. The problem with that is injury’s when they flutter down (another good reason for no blinds). Don’t know how high your perches are off the ground. But if you want/need them off the rafters you could wire them off.
I did the same thing as you when I went through my first winter with my lil babies. But in truth I freaked more than they did.
When the ground is frozen and it’s bitter cold. Put staw down for them. I give a serving of cracked corn before bed so they have something long lasting (digest slowly cause it’s so hard). You’ll be okay and they will too best wishes!
 

RWise

Songster
7 Years
Dec 25, 2012
1,270
1,006
216
Oakhurst Oklahoma
They are just fine huddling together, my coop is very open, it has been as cold as -22*F, not for days . My coop is open on the north (100%) and south (60%) end covered with hardware cloth. Only change I make for winter is to hang a blanket over the north end closing 80% of it. IF we have a really strong storm (from the north), I may cover the rest of the north end until the storm is over.
A dry bird is a happy warm bird, ventilation is a must, my broodies take their chicks out to scratch in the snow (if and when we get snow),,,
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
94,924
125,426
1,807
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
We have a large coop house and 4 hens (copper maran, Black maran, ISA Brown, and Ameraucana) who have been roosting on one of the roof supports as high as possible (despite 2 other roosts ). There are windows on both sides of this as well as a window on the front and an extra on the side. There is a door opening 10”x10” to the run that we haven’t closed.
Do you have ventilation other than the windows?
Pics of coop, inside and out, would really help here.
You might want to block off rafters from roosting.
Pop door(10x10") can stay open, at least during day, unless your prevailing winds blow right into it.

Keep them dry and out of the wind, but well ventilated, and they'll be fine in your climate.
 

Firefoot

Songster
Jul 8, 2018
134
255
131
Baltimore County, MD
I am in MD and last year we had a terrible winter. Multiple weeks in the single digits or below zero, wind chills in the -20's, for basically half of December and all of January and February. Ugh. I had my birds in a pre-fab coop. I hated this coop, but it was high up off the ground and the roosting bars were very low to the floor of the coop so on the bitterest nights I put jars of hot water for them to roost with or a baked brick from the fireplace. They were only 4 birds and sometimes I worried it wasn't enough to generate sufficient heat. That said, I only closed the coop up if it was like 10 degrees or below. I had eave vents facing east and west that provided lots of ventilation. Because the walls of that coop were so thin and shitty, I banked pine shavings up high and thick.

IME, chickens are pretty hardy. They are covered in downy feathers that trap heat. When they puff up, it's not necessarily them being too cold, it them puffing the feathers to trap more heat. As long as where they sleep is draft-free while still maintaining some ventilation, they should be good. So, depending on the height of the windows in relation to where they should or are roosting, I'd close a couple of the windows, or all of them and crack a couple from the top. Are there other vents? I do wonder about just a few birds in a big open coop -- hard to trap the heat generated by the birds at that point. So maybe block off your rafters so they roost a bit lower and closer together. This will also help with not having to fly down so far onto cold hard ground. The pop door is probably fine to leave open until much colder unless it drafts right on to them.

I can't imagine you needing any supplemental heat. Just make sure the birds are dry and out of wind, eating and drinking well, and the coop stays clean. When the ground is really frozen or there's snow, straw (NOT hay) is a lifesaver.
 

trudyg

Songster
Jun 3, 2013
887
683
221
North Alabama
Folks have chickens in Alaska, no additional heat, but usually enough birds to huddle together. As long as they have good ventilation and no drafts, they're good. I leave my big door (5'wide) open all the time except when it's very windy/rainy. They do fine, but I'm in AL so it's not often below 25. We do get lower, sometimes for several days in a row, but rarely. Just because you are cold doesn't mean they are.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,885
11,098
636
western South Dakota
You don't want to think heat and cold. You want to think dry and out of the wind. I too struggled with the whole, ventilated but no draft advice.

In the beginning, I shut things up, trying to trap the heat, but what you trap is the moisture, and a damp bird is a cold bird. Instead, deeply bed the floor so that it will absorb moisture from the poop. Have openings above their heads. Set up the roosts so that they are away from the walls and ceilings. I too, think you might need to block off the rafters for a bit.

Keep them dry, keep the prevailing wind off of them, and mine have been fine at -30 degrees, one night we actually went to -35. That is cold.

Mrs K
 

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