Winter with Chickens: To Heat or Not Heat the Coop

10/11/2012 8:56:27 AM

Tags: heating the coop, winter chicken keeping, snow, cold hardy flocks, winterizing, Melissa Caughey

Happy chickens in the snow 

Chicken owners that live in cold climates often have to make some decisions when it comes to colder fall and winter weather.  One such dilemma is whether or not to heat your coop.  We live on Cape Cod, where we have windy winters and temperatures that occasionally dip below zero. The Cape is a man-made island surrounded entirely by the ocean. The ocean greatly affects our weather and causes us to experience small temperature fluctuations between day and night.  Snow fall varies from year to year.  Some years we have very light snowfall and others deliver a wallop of 2 feet or more.

One decision that people need to make just as important as personalities and egg color is weather hardiness.  I will never forget hearing that Martha Stewart one year wanted to add "exotic" chickens to her Connecticut flock.  She soon realized that they were not cold hardy.  They perished early their first winter.  All of our eight chickens are cold hardy, including the Silkies.  Choosing the right type of chicken for your environment is a very important factor not to be overlooked.

Chickens are birds and not mammals.  Their bodies, circulatory system, respiratory system, reproductive systems are different.  Therefore, we cannot assume that they interpret, adapt or react the same way as our mammal bodies do in the cold.

We do not heat our chicken coop.  Knowing that we do experience occasional power outages, we did not want our flock to become accustomed to an artificially warmed coop.  Tales of flocks perishing from lack of a heated coop after an extended power outage was just something that we did not want to encounter.

Here are some tips for you to consider to help keep your coop warm without an additional heat source:

1. Consider the size of your coop.  Smaller coops heat up more quickly from the heat produced by the chickens than larger ones.  Coop size and flock size should match.

2.  Insulate around your coop with bales of straw.

3.  Keep your flock away from drafts, yet allow for adequate ventilation.

4.  Provide a thicker layer of pine shavings in colder weather than you do in the summer.  Introducing, straw on the floor of the coop can also be a welcomed addition.

5.  Provide your flock with warm treats and warm water throughout the day.

6.  Feed your flock scratch 1 hour before they retire for the night.  Chickens' metabolism is higher in the winter as they burn more fuel keeping warm.  A full tummy of scratch helps them to generate heat and an egg if they desire.

7.  Ensure that your chickens' roosts are wide enough and their feet are completely covered by their bodies when perched.

8.  Allow for winter's sunshine to warm the coop by clearing away unnecessary trees and shrubbery.

9.  Repair areas of the coop that are vulnerable to water leaks.

10.  During the coldest evenings, apply Vaseline to the flock's combs and wattles to prevent frostbite.

The Northeast can experience huge storms called Nor'easters, with strong winds and lots of snow.  Storms like this can cause extended power outages for long periods of time.  In the winter of 2010, such a storm blew across Cape Cod. Not only were many affected by the loss of power, but many folks lost their entire flocks from their inability to acclimate to cold.  They were accustomed to a warm, cozy, heated coop.



Related Content

Heating With Wood

Robyn is thankful for her woodstove at the homestead.

More than One Way to Raise Chickens

Just like raising children, people have many different opinions and styles regarding how to raise an...

Rural Arkansas Cold Remedies

Some of the plants, herbs, and medicines that my mother used for colds. We country folks couldn't ge...

Growing Root Vegetables for your Chickens

Autumn is the time to harvest your root vegetables. I always plant some extras for our chickens. The...

Content Tools
RSS




Post a comment below.

 

Robin Lambert
11/5/2013 9:14:06 AM
I have 3 smaller coops for just this purpose, We get the extreme heat in the summertime as well. We use last yrs hay ( grass) and pile it on like the old timers did, It generates heat from the poo mixed in with the hay and is the best compost for the garden next spring.

THERESAW
11/4/2013 10:49:15 PM
The chicken/goose house is really 3, 8x10', partitions. The doors face the south. There is a little door between the two main chicken rooms, while the goose room is not. In the winter, I stuff grocery bags between the roofs and the walls to keep the wind from breezing through from the north. I keep heat lamps in there all the time. In the summer, they are just lightbulbs, but in the winter, they are clear heatlamps. I have found that the birds beat up on each other when I use the red ones. In fact, it is a dangerous thing for anyone to go into the chicken yard with red pants on, because the rooster will spur you, thinking you are another rooster. Last year, I put shavings on the floor. Straw is really good too. Usually, I let them out early in the morning in the spring/summer since our temps get up into the 100's in the summer. In the winter, I leave them in until about 10-11 am since it is cold outside. If it is snowing, I won't let them out at all, but will feed/water them inside. I keep water in old milk jugs/soda bottles at room temperature so that I can give them water in the winter when everything is frozen. They are accustomed to having a light inside 24/7. It is safer for all concerned. Younger chickens can get away from older birds and they can all see any danger before it gets them. I also don't relish reaching in and feeling a snake in a nest. creepy.

nuttyz
11/4/2013 7:56:03 PM
does anyone know if my guineas need heat// Would a heat lamp like i use for baby chicks be enough???

Diana
11/4/2013 7:43:05 AM
Here in Colo. Springs our winters are cold. My flock is hardy breeds (Barred Rocks, Silver Laced and White Wyandottes and one Red Comet). I don't heat the coop, but do have a heated waterer (for my convenience!). My coop is roomy, but only about 4' tall and has about a foot of shavings in it now at the end of fall. The hens will nest in the bedding rather than sitting on the perch when its really cold. I'm going to try Judi's idea of plastic on the side of the run to cut down on drifting snow and maybe I won't have to clean off a place for them to go out this year!

Judi
12/7/2012 6:47:15 PM
Thanks for this good information, Melissa. I only have 3 hens (1 Partridge Plymouth Rock and 2 Buff Orpingtons), in a 4 x4 coop but I put a 40 watt light bulb in it to warm it up during the daytime and turn it off at night. I also have a heated waterer & I put lots of pine bedding in the coop, (5-6 inches deep) and wheat straw in the covered run. We wrapped heavy fiber around one side of the covered run and clear plastic around the west side to keep the wind down. They also have an fenced open run they can access from the covered run during the day. Winters here in east TN are generally mild, so we hope to collect eggs all winter. I collect grass for them a couple times a day as well as give them treats of canned corn & cooked long grain brown rice as well as scratch. They're spoiled girls but we think they're great.

LouElla Menefee
12/7/2012 2:37:56 PM
Here in Alabama duiring the winter our flock removes their sun glasses and set back dreaming of the spring that is comming in the next 90days. Roll Tide LOL

NEBRASKA DAVE
10/13/2012 1:32:44 PM
Melissa, you are very wise to acclimate your chickens to the expected weather patterns of your area. We, when growing up, never had chickens for egg production so our coops were empty in the winter. Our winters in Nebraska are similar to yours. The snow fall can be allot or not so much. The temperatures can be mild or -20. It's one of reasons that I don't have chickens. The temperature fluctuates from the below zero in the winter to a sweltering 100+ in the summers. Then there's the issue of the higher food chain. Foxes, coyotes, hawks, and many other wild life animals and birds high up the food chain just love fresh chicken. Well, and the city ordinance only allows three chickens which is hardly worth the effort. You have some very good points to keep chickens alive and well during those blackouts. Have a great day in the coop.

JOAN PRITCHARD
10/13/2012 12:14:35 AM
Good info. Thanks so much.



Pay Now & Save 50% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Live The Good Life with Grit!

For more than 125 years, Grit has helped its readers live more prosperously and happily while emphasizing the importance of community and a rural lifestyle tradition. In each bimonthly issue, Grit includes helpful articles, humorous and inspiring articles, captivating photos, gardening and cooking advice, do-it-yourself projects and the practical reader advice you would expect to find in America’s premier rural lifestyle magazine.

Get your guide to living outside the city limits delivered straight to your mailbox. Subscribe to Grit today!  Simply fill in your information below to receive 1 year (6 issues) of Grit for only $19.95!

SPECIAL BONUS OFFER!

At Grit, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to Grit through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of Grit for only $14.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Grit for just $19.95!