Keeping chickens warm and comfortable can be a challenge during the winter months, especially when you live in a short warm season like we do.
Keeping chickens warm is essential for their health and productivity during the wintertime.. However, many chicken owners are unsure about when to heat their coop and if it is even necessary.
After all, chickens have a thick layer of feathers, and they produce a lot of body heat on their own. A coop filled with chickens produces a lot of heat on its own.
The question is whether this is enough for them to get through the winter months.
The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the climate in your area and the breed of your chickens.
While some chicken breeds are cold-hardy and can tolerate freezing temperatures, others require a warmer environment to thrive.
Chickens can usually tolerate temperatures down to below freezing. Optimal temperatures range from 65-75°F, but they are perfectly fine with 40-45°F.
If you live in an area with particularly harsh winters, a heated coop will be necessary to prevent frostbite.
However, it is important to note that providing too much heat can also be also harmful to your chickens, so it is important to strike a balance.
We’ve had chickens for several winters, and it can be a challenge. Heating a chicken coop in -40 degree weather is very costly if using natural gas or propane. Using electric heaters can also wrack up your electricity bill.
Why Chickens Need Heat in a Coop
While chickens are cold-hardy and can withstand low temperatures, extreme cold can be dangerous for them. When the temperature drops below freezing, chickens can suffer from frostbite, which can lead to permanent damage to their feet, combs, and wattles.
Additionally, when chickens are exposed to cold temperatures for prolonged periods, they may stop laying eggs or become ill.
We had an insulated chicken coop that we heated with a heat bulb. This worked great, for the most part.
However, our door didn’t hut properly at times, and during an extreme cold spell, it got too cold and drafty in the coop. Several of our hens had frost bite on their combs, and frozen feet. They all survived, but it was hard to see.
It’s important to provide some heat in the coop during the winter months, especially if you live in an area with harsh winters.
However, it’s crucial to provide heat safely and not overheat the coop, which can be dangerous for both the chickens and the coop itself.
One way to provide heat in the coop is by using a heat lamp. Heat lamps can be hung from the ceiling of the coop and provide warmth to the chickens.
However, it’s important to use a heat lamp with caution, as it can be a fire hazard if not used properly. The heat lamp should be placed at a safe distance from any flammable materials, and it should be securely fastened so that it cannot fall or be knocked over by the chickens.
Heat lamps have always been our choice for heating a coop, as they are easy to install, and don’t overheat a coop easily.
Another way to provide heat in the coop is by using a heated waterer.
A heated waterer can prevent the water from freezing, which can be beneficial for the chickens’ health. Additionally, the waterer can provide some heat to the coop, which can help keep the chickens warm.
Our favorite way to heat a chicken coop is using a wood stove.
If you live in an area where wood is readily available (we live in a prime logging region), heating with a wood stove is an extremely cost-effective heating source.
It is more work than a heat bulb or another source of electric heating, but it’s a better heat for the chickens. It’s also a great option if you are off grid.
Overall, while chickens are cold-hardy, they still need some heat in the coop during the winter months. Providing heat safely and not overheating the coop is crucial for the chickens’ health and safety.
When to Provide Heat for Chickens
Temperature Guidelines for Chickens
Chickens are hardy animals that can tolerate cold temperatures much better than hot temperatures. Chickens are most comfortable in temperatures between 4°-18°C (40°-65° F)> When temperatures drop below freezing, it’s important to provide some heat to keep your chickens healthy.
According to Backyard Poultry, unless you’re brooding chicks, you don’t need to keep a coop toasty warm, but it’s suggested to keep your coop around 4°C (40°F).
This is about the temperature inside your refrigerator.
This temperature will prevent frostbite and keep your chickens comfortable. Plus, they will continue laying at this point.
Factors Affecting Chickens’ Need for Heat
Several factors can affect a chicken’s need for heat. The breed of chicken, age, and feather coverage all play a role in how well a chicken can tolerate cold temperatures.
Some breeds, such as Silkies, have a difficult time keeping warm in cold weather due to their feather coverage.
Older chickens and chickens that are molting may also need extra added heat to stay warm.
Several Breeds That Are Cold Hardy
Chickens with small combs do better in the northern states. Most large birds with thick feathers do best. Several of these breeds include the Russian Orloffs, Jersey Giants, and Barred Rock.
The climate in your area is another factor to consider. If you live in an area with harsh winters, you will need to provide heat for your chickens.
However, if you live in a milder climate, your chickens may not need heat at all.
Keeping an eye out for your chickens is one of the most important things to do.
If you notice that your chickens are huddled together and not moving around much, it may be a sign that they are too cold and need more heat. Place a thermometer in the coop to keep an eye out for temperature drops.
How to Provide Heat for Chickens
Types of Heating Equipment for Coops
When it comes to heating your chicken coop, there are a few different options to consider. Here are some of the most common types of heating equipment for coops:
- Brooders: These are small heaters designed to keep baby chicks warm during the first few weeks of their lives. They are not intended for use in adult chicken coops. Brooders need to be well insulated for extreme cold weather.
- Infrared Heat Lamps: These lamps emit heat without producing bright light, making them a good option for keeping chickens warm without disrupting their sleep cycles. They can be easily found at farm and feed stores, and screw right into a regular light bulb socket.
- Ceramic Heat Emitters: These heaters emit heat without producing any light, making them a good option for use in coops with easily spooked chickens.
- Electric Radiant Heaters: These heaters are designed to be mounted on the ceiling of the coop and emit heat downwards, warming the chickens from above.
- Woodstove: A wood burning stove needs to be installed properly to prevent a fire hazard. Make sure no bedding and other combustible material can get in contact with the stove. A separate area is a must.
Safety Considerations for Heating Equipment
Heating equipment is a great way to keep your chickens warm during the winter months, but it is important to keep safety in mind.
Here are some safety considerations to keep in mind when using heating equipment in your chicken coop:
- Fire Safety: Make sure that any heating equipment you use is rated for use in a coop. It needs to be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep bedding and other combustible materials away from heating equipment.
- Electrical Safety: Make sure that any heating equipment you use is properly grounded and that all electrical cords are in good condition. Do not overload electrical circuits.
- Chicken Safety: Make sure that any heating equipment you use is positioned in a way that chickens cannot come into direct contact with it. Chickens can be curious creatures and may peck at or otherwise damage heating equipment if it is within their reach.
Tips for Keeping Chickens Warm
In addition to using heating equipment, there are a few other things you can do to help keep your chickens warm during the winter months:
- Insulate the Coop: Adding insulation to the walls and roof of the coop can help to keep heat inside and cold air out. Insulation in itself goes a long way in heating a coop.
- Use Deep Bedding: Adding a thick layer of bedding to the floor of the coop can help to insulate it and keep chickens warm. It is chickens feet and combs that are most susceptible to frost bite.
- Provide Plenty of Food and Water: Chickens need extra energy during the winter months to stay warm, so make sure that they have access to plenty of food and water.
- Block Drafts: Make sure that the coop is well-sealed and that there are no drafts coming in through cracks or gaps in the walls or roof.
Our biggest hurdle with keeping a warm chicken coop was high humidity levels.
It is very important that your chicken coop remains dry during the winter, as it can cause frostbite and illness more easily. The normal actions of chickens breathing and pooping creates humidity.
Make sure your coop has proper ventilation. Using pine shavings instead of straw also helps, as shavings absorb moisture better than straw.
Chickens do need heat when it goes to below freezing. While there are some breeds that can withstand cold temperatures well, their eggs will still freeze below zero.
Eggs that freeze crack, and aren’t sanitary.
With a little extra TLC, you can still raise chickens in the winter (but is egg farming profitable?). Make sure you have a well-insulated coop and a heat source for those extreme cold spells.