cold chickens . . .

bev_w(6a)January 8, 2007

My first post on this forum. Greetings all.

None of the stuff I've read on chicken keeping deals with this question.

How warm a climate do chickens need? I live in southwestern Ontario where our temperatures are something like this: (temps in degrees C)

January Avg Low: -10 Avg Hi: -2° Avg Precip: 5.61 cm

February Avg Low: -9° Avg Hi: 0° Avg Precip: 6.2 cm

March Avg Low: -5° Avg Hi: 4° Avg Precip: 6.04 cm

April Avg Low: 1° Avg Hi: 13° Avg Precip: 3.38 cm

May Avg Low: 6° Avg Hi: 18° Avg Precip: 9.58 cm

June Avg Low: 13° Avg Hi: 25° Avg Precip: 9.55 cm

July Avg Low: 14° Avg Hi: 27° Avg Precip: 10.87 cm

August Avg Low: 14° Avg Hi: 26° Avg Precip: 7.15 cm

September Avg Low: 10° Avg Hi: 23° Avg Precip: 8.32 cm

October Avg Low: 4° Avg Hi: 15° Avg Precip: 6.09 cm

November Avg Low: 1° Avg Hi: 9° Avg Precip: 7.97 cm

December Avg Low: -7° Avg Hi: 1° Avg Precip: 6.61 cm

Do I need to insulate the coop? How much? I know I need to keep the birds draft-free, but it's the cold I need to plan for.

Thanks in advance.


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songbirdmommy(UT 5)

Are your numbers correct?

That seems pretty low for southern Canada. I know that even Nova Scotia and Vancover get warmer than that in the summer time.

Sounds like your coop should not only be insultated, but heated too.
You do not want to have your chickens get sick.... especially in this day and age with Avian Flu.

Good luck Bev!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 1:44PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

I'm sure that the numbers are in Centigrade rather than Farenheit :)

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 12:26PM
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Yes, they're degrees centigrade. Our Canadian zones are different than those in the US, but our equivalent USDA zone would be on the warm side of 5. Very hot, humid summers. With climate change hitting us now, winters are very unpredictable. Our first cold "snap" of sub-freezing weather hit last week and has really hung around. Before that it was like balmy west coast weather for two months.

Anyway, some of the farmers around here have clapboard/plywood chicken houses and they don't appear to have heat or insulation. I don't want the chickens to merely survive winter, though. It's not like they need luxury, but I'd like to minimize the stress without breaking the bank.

Any help appreciated.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 3:32PM
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strawboss(NV zone 6)

I keep chickens in Reno, Nevada. We're a zone 6. We had some below zero weather in the last few weeks and my chickens were fine. I have the north side of the coop insulated with straw bales and the lower 2' all around has bales as well. The rest is simply chicken wire. My secret weapon against the cold is an 'igloo' dog know the kind that is molded plastic and well insulated? I put a generous amount of straw in the bottom. The hens prefer to roost on their perches in all but the coldest weather but when it really gets down there they just all huddle together inside the igloo. My neighbor gave it to me but if you don't have access to one you could easily just build a little straw bale hut for them that would work fine.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 11:03PM
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The straw-bale home sounds like a great idea. When I was doing research on getting chickens myself, one woman said she only heated her coop if it got below 25 degrees F, which is, what -2C? I am also zone 5, maybe zone 6, and plan to string a heat lamp for winter, both to give them more heat in the coldest weather, and to give them more light so they will produce more eggs. Maybe build a little less air-permeable structure and use the strawbales for insulation outside and a light in the dead of winter to combate those cold temps. Oh, wait, if you are only getting down to -10 C, you are more like USDA zone 8. Zone 5 is -23 to -29 deg centigrade lowest temp. (I wish I lived in zone 8!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2007 at 2:46PM
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buffburd(z5 NY)

I read about a guy who built his chicken coop into a hill, out of stucco and cement block I think. Being partially in the ground it kept cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, without external inputs.

It sounded like a good idea to me.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 1:22PM
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My chickens are happy spring has come at last and they can leave their dirt floor coop. Last summer using scrap lumber I built this building. The door was left open all winter so they could free range if they wished. The coop's only proper structure was a recycled metal shed roof. Every day my daughter would have to go out in -25 c during February to bring water and layer food. Yes I had eggs every day this winter. I was going to correct things before the winter but due to a car accident I am laid up in bed, helpless watching my chickens struggle. Today for the first tie I was able to go outside and sit on my deck and to my joy several of my chick's came over to check me out. They are healthy, no frost bite signs and the egg production is extremely high. So cold - freezing temp did not seem to hurt them at all and as the saying goes what ever does not kill you makes you stronger.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 7:09PM
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We are starting this year with chickens (5 Rhode Island Reds) and I've read there are definitely differences within breeds when it comes to cold-hardiness. We chose the Rhodies for that reason. I'd do a little research and see which would be best suited for your climate. Good luck! :-)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 1:31PM
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I recently brought one of my hens to a vet. This vet has many of his own (call them hobby or pets) chickens. My Chicken had a problem with her leg and than it seemed to be both legs all of a sudden. Originally, it looked like she had a broken leg, but when she couldn't walk at all, I was completely lost. While we were waiting for him (the vet), I noticed she had a bug. He checked her and said that she had head lice.
He didn't really feel her legs like he would if it were my dog, but assumed that the chicken had neurological damage created from the head lice. He said she would not live.
3 months later, she is running around fine. She looks as if the break didn't heal in the correct place and limps a bit on it, but overall she is doing great. I fed her lots of tomatoes (vita c, although it may have had nothing to do with it!!)and kept her confined (until she could get up by herself) so she had to rest.

My object is to make you understand that you need to study your birds and your situation. You will be the only one who can answer most of your questions.
People kept telling me that my birds would be fine (in the winter) as long as they were kept out of draft. One of my hens (who had a large comb) and my rooster got frost bite on their comb the first year I had them.
The second year, I put up two heat lamps. One was too bright and they pecked at each other. It seemed to make them irritated. I spend a lot of time observing them. I have since purchased other kinds of chickens and have noticed that some hate the cold but will stay outside to be with their "clan".
This year, I have fully insulated the hen house. It was cold and windy (28 but felt like 16 degrees)today and most of them went outside but acted as if it were painful for them (standing in one spot and not moving as they typically did). They had a choice to go in but chose to be outside (like children).

I have an infared heat lamp hanging from the ceiling and the insulation I used was that aluminum stuff that reflects heat. Where they roost, their body heat will reflect back at them.
They act calmer and more comfortable at this point.
The moral to the story your birds long enough so that you will be able to tell if they are comfortable or not. It is easy to tell whether they are cold, hot, unhappy, etc if you get to know them. And remember--they are not all alike.
Although I believe that you can make your birds dependant on heat and if it goes out and you can't get it back for them, this could be harmful (because they are used to the heat). But if you supply them with a source of heat that they can go to if needed (250 watt infared bulb) and keep the place dry and draft free..I think all should be fine.
As far as keeping the water thawed, keep it near where the lamp is shining and it should stay above 32 degrees and not freeze (lower the lamp if this is not the case), but I do swap the water out each day to keep it fresh and just in case of a very cold snap.

Hope this helps.

I am not on here much so if you need to contact me I am at

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 9:39PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

All animals are stressed by low and high temperatures. The fact that they can survive doesn't mean that they are comfortable or are thriving.

Minus-ten Celsius = 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your chicken coop is insulated against cold, and has a series of small mesh-covered windows (that open and close) low on the shady side and high on the sunny side, natural convection will keep them much more comfortable in summer, too.

Size your coop to the number of chickens you expect to have. A few chickens in a smaller coop or more in a larger coop (insulated) will create a lot of their own heat, and may not need a heat lamp. But they will need some kind of ventilation, too, to keep the air quality up. Chicken manure produces a lot of ammonia in closed containers, and the gas from that is not good for animals or people to breathe. Chickens also exhale a lot of moisture, and you don't want that to build up, either.

If you use heat lamps, use red bulbs, which will calm them and help prevent them pecking at each other.

If their water is freezing in their pen, it's probably too cold for them. If it isn't freezing, the temps inside are obviously above freezing.


    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 12:59AM
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I'm in a similar zone. Big thing is keeping all drafts out of the chicken house. Tightly sealed.
I use a heated water dish, completely priceless and the birds appreciate it.
During cold snaps leave a heat lamp going day and night, definatly wards off frostbite.
Another would be good high protein feed.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2007 at 2:43AM
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