Cold weather chickens – 8 things NOT to do to in winter December 6, 2021

How to prepare your chickens for winter isn’t especially intuitive. In fact, many people may take steps that can actually make things more difficult for their flock rather than helping them to become cold weather chickens!  Choosing cold-hardy breeds (if you live in an area of cold winters) is certainly an important first step! But presuming you’ve already made good breed choices, you’ll also want to know what NOT to do for your cold-weather chickens.

chicken in winter

Cold weather chickens – 8 things NOT to do to in winter

1. Don’t keep your chickens closed up in their coop when it’s cold.

Good cold weather chickens can be allowed to decide when they want to stay in or come out. You might think that your chickens won’t want to go outside in the snow, and sometimes that’s true. Some of your chickens will hate it, and will stay inside most of the day, but others won’t mind it at all.

The only time I keep the coop door closed during the day is when the snow is too deep for my cold weather chickens to walk in, or when it’s just so bitter and windy I know no one will come out. (And even then, I sometimes open the door just in case).

2. Don’t tightly insulate your coop.

I know that seems strange, but it’s true–tightly insulated coops can cause more harm than good. If your coop is tightly insulated, not only will it retain heat, it will also retain moisture… and retaining moisture in the coop is very, very bad.

Chickens create a lot of moisture from their respirations. A lot of moisture also evaporates from their droppings. And in winter, they’ll be spending more time inside, even if just because of the longer winter nights! More droppings build-up—and more moisture. And the problem is that lot of moisture in the air can condense, freeze, and contribute to frostbite. All that humidity also increases the risk of unhealthy conditions in the coop leading to respiratory ailments and mold-related illnesses. Plus, poor ventilation can also cause ammonia gas to build up inside your coop, which is damaging to your chickens’ lungs.

You can have some insulation in cold areas, but remember that cold weather chickens need a coop to be well ventilated, to avoid moisture build-up, but not drafty

3. Don’t assume you need to heat your coop

This is another piece of advice that seems completely counter-intuitive…however it’s good advice for a number of reasons, unless you live in a region that regularly drops below twenty degrees outside.

Chickens adapt to lower temperatures over time. If the coop is heated, they’ll never become real cold weather chickens; they’ll never get used to the cold winter temperatures outside. Then, if you lose power and their heat goes out, the sudden sharp drop in temperatures with no time to acclimate means you could lose your whole flock in one terrible, fell swoop.

Even if it doesn’t come to that, if your chickens are hesitant to spend time outside, they will spend even more time inside the coop making the air wet and breathing the unhealthy, moist air. Finally, heating the coop is a fire hazard if you’re using an infrared heat bulb (they can get up to 435 degrees!)

You might heat your coop during sudden, precipitous drops in temperature, just to help ease the transition for my cold weather chickens , or when the temperatures are below zero for extended periods. If you live in an area where you have to heat your coop, consider getting a backup generator so you don’t lose birds during a loss of power.

You might also choose a heater like the Cozy Coop Heater or Sweeter Heater, which don’t heat your whole coop, but rather take the edge off when your chicken cozies right up next to it for a reprieve.

4. Don’t forget to gather eggs more often than usual.

If you have cold weather chickens, some may continue to lay during the winter, and the eggs could freeze. While this doesn’t really hurt them, you can’t then eat the eggs because they’re at high risk for bacterial contamination. What happens is that the frozen egg contents expand, and can create tiny hairline cracks in the shell you might not see with the naked eye. The cracks can let bacteria into the shell. Of course, at cold temperatures, the bacteria doesn’t grow very quickly, but nonetheless, keeping cracked eggs is just not a good idea.

Plus, there’s nothing like opening your refrigerator to find that an egg has thawed and seeped out all over everything—ugh, what a mess!

Frozen eggs

5. Don’t let your water freeze.

Keeping fresh, unfrozen water for your flock in the winter can be a challenge. There are always the heated waterers, but—I admit it—I don’t care for these very much. (There are people here at My Pet Chicken who swear by them, though, and they may work for you just fine.)

Personally, I don’t like the fire risk, although they are much safer than as trying to heat the coop. I’ve also found them to be generally harder to use and clean than regular waterers. One heated waterer I had filled itself so close to the rim that it needed to be EXACTLY level so it wouldn’t simply pour its contents out on the floor. Another worked well, except for the fact that the chickens kept unplugging it. A third functioned nicely in reasonably mild cold weather, but in very bitter cold, the top of the reservoir would freeze, so that the bottom heated portion where the chickens were meant to drink from would run completely dry.

I haven’t found a heated waterer that works very well for me and my cold weather chickens. Instead, I just use multiple waterers. In the morning, I bring in a fresh waterer, and bring in the waterer that was in the coop overnight, and is now frozen. By the time that one is thawed, the other one is nearly frozen, so I switch them out. It requires a lot of walking and carrying, but my preference is to do it that way rather than use expensive heated waterers for my flock.

6. Don’t put off coop cleaning.

Because your cold-weather chickens will be spending more time inside and creating more droppings inside as a result, the coop will need cleaning more often. For myself, I like to use the deep litter method for managing my coop rather than frequent cleanings, but even doing that, new bedding needs to be added more frequently in the winter to make sure everything stays dry and cozy.

7. Don’t let your birds get too bored.

If they have a very small coop and run, there may not be a whole lot to entertain your flock like there is during warmer months. When snow is on the ground, there will be little or no sunbathing. With the ground frozen, dust bathing is unlikely. There won’t be lots of bugs to catch or greens to forage. Bored birds may become snippy or even aggressive with one another if there isn’t anything to think about or do other than reinforce the pecking order over and over again.

Alleviate some of the boredom for your cold-weather chickens by adding treats to their area. For instance, hang a head of cabbage in your coop for your girls to peck at. As they peck, it swings, making it more difficult to eat immediately, and keeping them entertained for hours. My chickens, seemingly unlike any other chickens in the world, don’t care for cabbage. Still, there are other treats that work well for entertainment… for example, suet cakes. I prefer to use something high protein, like the Treat Square Cake designed for chickens and other domestic poultry. In winter, something with high fat (including scratch or cracked corn) gives them the extra calories they need to help stay warm. You can also simply scatter some scratch inside the run for them to forage for. That’ll keep them entertained, too.

8. Don’t skimp on the grit.

Chickens usually pick up grit naturally from small pebbles they ingest while foraging around, scratching through the dirt in search of morsels to eat. The grit acts like “teeth” to help their gizzard “chew” their food. In winter, however, the ground may be frozen and too hard for a bird to dislodge any pieces to pick up grit naturally. In this case, it’s wise to make sure your birds have plenty of supplemental grit to help them digest their feed. Your flock will thank you for providing this digestive assistance on those cold winter days!

Do you have any other suggestions for preparing your cold-weather chickens for winter? Please share below in the comments!

Susan November 16th, 2012

Hi… I use heated buckets for watering during the winter. I do not put food or water in the coops. They are placed just outside the pop doors. I leave their doors open except on the most blustery nights. My coops are surrounded by welded wire fencing surrounded by railroad ties so nothing can get in. I have found that not keeping water in the coops greatly cut down on moisture issues since heating water makes it evaporate it would add to the moisture from the chickens. I use deep litter too… only way to go… deep litter also supplies some heat for them as well.

vicki November 16th, 2012

Great information. I to supply my birds with warm water. Our birds seem to do well in all types of weather, but we do close them in every night.

Nancy Dixon November 16th, 2012

Thank you so much for this article..Really Really helpful with my first winter with my tweet Tweets (so my granddaughter calls them)

Jamey Hutchens November 16th, 2012

Great article! This is my first winter with my girls also, so I’m a little nervous. This gave me good information that I needed to know! I was planning on doing a couple of the things it said not to, so I’m definitely glad this was posted.

Tierney Clark November 16th, 2012

What good info. I knew about the vaseline, but never thought about the moisture buildup in the coop. I have a very large coop that was a stroage shed before it became their home, and the ventilation is good. There’s a hole where a dryer could have been vented, and althoug my hens go in at night through a window, that I close at night, I leave it cracked. The squirrles are bad around here and my coop is right under a big ole oak tree (Florida). It helps so much in the summer.

But I do heat my coop, although I have thought of the fire hazard. It is electric, but it’s one of those gel filled ones that look like a radiator and it never gets really hot. Just knocks off the chill and there is no open elements or fans etc. And I also use lots of bedding too so they can nest down in it.

I think it was here that I read to put a little apple cider vinegar in the water, and I do that. And we rarely freeze here for more than maybe one night, here and there. But it’s a wet windy cold
I really enjoy reading your blogs and the info is always so helpful! Thanks again!

Peggy Moyer November 16th, 2012

I don’t heat my coop, though I might put a small bulb in there for added lighted hours, for water I bought the smallest horse water dishes, the rubber ones, if the water freezes just pop it out and refill~ I check their water 3 to 4 times a day. For added treats I like to cook them scrambled eggs, oatmeal or cooked pasta< a favorite with my girls~ I think it helps them stay warm~

Jenn Davis November 16th, 2012

I don’t know if it is an old wives tale or not, but I give my chickens a lot of cooked oatmeal in the winter with a kick- I add cayenne pepper (quite a bit) to it. It raises their temperature on really cold days and adds a bit of a treat to their diet during the day. I will also add scrambled eggs, especially if we have cracked ones. Frozen water is always and issue in upstate New York, but the rubber dishes do help…

Sami in NY November 16th, 2012

I use small igloo coolers (6pk or 12 size) for water. I fill them with luke warm water in the morning and they don’t really freeze unless it’s bitterly cold. At night I empty them and bring them in.

Merrill Johnson November 16th, 2012

I have5 ducks and 21 black Australorps. I leave a little water running during the night and during the day if it is below freezing. The chicken drink from the duck pool. I also have a heat lamp above the roosts that I turn on when the night is extremely cold. A light comes on every morning at four and shuts off at eight.

Ti Kelley November 17th, 2012

In the winter i use leftover bacon and beef grease to make my own suet food for the chickens by packing a baking dish with oatmeal and a bit of 5-grain scratch then pouring and stirring in the grease. let cool and watch em go nuts! I also put a tarp on the wire roof of their run so they have a dry place to be outside. Also I make sure they have a dry place to dust so parasites don’t take hold.

Matthew Curtiss November 17th, 2012

Great article ! I build chicken coops and other fine structures and i tell folks as much information i can about chickens ! So now i have even more knowledge to pass on.

Charlene Ribaudo November 17th, 2012

We insulate our large coop but leave the door open during the day and then 4″ of fresh air intake the rest of the time. We do keep a heat lamp over the waterer so it won’t freeze. I also use the deep litter method but I mix it with paper from the shredder. It really cuts down on the dust! My local UPS store keeps me in good supply. We’re in MN and gets very cold but we’ve never had problems with the combs. They seem to know when to come in out of the cold. I liked the idea of the tarp and will keep that in mind. We shovel out an area so they run around and scratch at corn. Thanks for the great tip on the homemade suet. I am going to try it. I’m sure they’ll love it.

Ariana {And Here We Are...} December 7th, 2012

Thank you! This is really helpful– I am another one who has chickens for the first winter this year. I love the idea of hanging a cabbage to keep the chickens entertained…

Steve Weckbacher December 7th, 2012

How often should the petroleum jelly be placed on the combs to winterize them. I live in an area where it gets pretty cold in the winters, and I have experienced some frostbitten combs in the past…would love to avoid it this winter!

Lissa December 10th, 2012

How often to apply the jelly will vary, depending on the severity of the weather. The aim is simply to keep the combs from getting chapped, so keep an eye out. If the skin appears to be getting dry, that means it’s probably past time for an application.

tjmary December 10th, 2012

We were told to hang old DVD’s for them to peck to alleviate bordem but we saw no interest. Going to try non-glass mirrors to see if that will interest them more. Scratch, meal worms, old bread or corn chips are great treats to keep them busy. It is not really that hard to raise mealworms, too, if you don’t find them creepy 🙂 Popcorn keeps birds busy since they can’t just swallow it down. It requires more effort to break it up. Fairly cheap, too. I grow squash and pumpkins. They keep well and and I can offer them later in the winter as treats, seeds and all. If starting to go, they can be cut into chunks and frozen to be fed later. Same can be done with lots of produce like cukes that are getting soft, tomatoes, fruits, etc. We bring out HOT tap water and it lasts longer before freezing. We have goats so my birds have learned to drink from buckets. Nice since they are more weather proof than waterers. If frozen, I just switch buckets or break through the ice on the top. Buckets are so easy to carry, too. Love the oatmeal idea. Have done cream of wheat. Also pancakes and rice.

Autumn December 11th, 2012

I never thought of keeping my hens busy but I have some hens that were born in Aug & they will not be able to “play” like my spring chicks do all summer. I tried putting a tarp over part of the run one winter but we got a bit too much snow one night, causing my netting to stretch & the whole get-up to sag. I do shovel an area for them in front of the door & put goodies in some grass hay so they can scratch & peck.

I once lost my hens to a coop fire, loosing my garage also. It was not from the heat lamp, which I constantly checked, but from the extension cord that must have gotten too old & cracked/frayed and sparked one extremely cold night. Now ALL cords get replaced, even just to lightbulbs, every fall.

Marlin December 11th, 2012

I live in southern california where the weather isn’t that cold, yet my girls are not laying any eggs at this time. Any recommendations as to what they might need?

Lissa December 11th, 2012

Marlin, we can’t know from here why your girls aren’t laying right now. Molting? Not old enough? Parasite infestation? However, it might help you to browse through the “Not Laying” section in the Chicken Help pages section of our website to help you narrow down what might be going on.

Lori December 12th, 2012

I need to move some chickens outdoors (they’ve lived in my basement – temp around 60). How can I acclimate them to outdoor living for winter in Wisconsin (I just bought a new coop) – or – is it too late for this year?

Lissa December 12th, 2012

Lori, that’s a common question, so we address it in the Chicken Help pages of our website here.

Carol Reddick December 16th, 2012

Great info for our first winter…of course, we’re in Louisiana so we’re not likely to get more than one or two snowfalls. It does drop below freezing several nights during the winter though, so it’s good to know.

May I post a link on my website?

April Ann December 29th, 2012

This is my first winter with chickens, having received my flock of 6 from friends in August. I have a chicken tractor for right now, which they all love. I built them a big covered run for play that has a dog house at the opening. I have 1 rooster and 5 hens. The hens all take turns laying their egg in the dog house. I do deep litter in the coop and run. I change out water every morning, with some cider vinegar. On cold mornings they get warm mash. They always have fruit and veggie scraps. I give them meal worms, black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn and popcorn for treats. I don’t heat my coop or waterer, nor do I add light to the coop. I have received 5 eggs almost every day, except when one of the girl’s takes a day off. Thanks for all of this wonderful information and for your website. It is a great help to us newbie backyard chicken parents.

Lori January 4th, 2013

what is a good dusting substance during the winter when the ground is too frozen?

Lissa January 4th, 2013

Dust baths won’t seize up unless there is some moisture in the dirt or dust to freeze. So, if your chickens’ regular dusting hole is not covered and has frozen with moisture, you can always provide them with an alternative like a child’s covered sand box that you can keep dry. (Sand doesn’t hold moisture as well as clay does, either, so sand is a little easier to keep dry in a dust bath situation.) You can also make your own small dust bath by constructing a simple wooden frame and filling it with dusting materials like sand plus a little wood ash and/or diatomaceous earth. Good old (dry) dirt works well, too. Then put the dust bath in a sheltered area. In pinch, you might use a plastic storage tub, but I’ve found they don’t work especially well long term because the chickens want to perch on the sides when planning their angle of entry, and that can overturn a box that doesn’t weigh very much.

Walt S. January 6th, 2013

I never thought to keep them from being bored. I live in WY so it gets pretty bitter cold here some times. I leave there door open day and night so they can go in and out as they want. I keep there food in side there coop in the winter but i leave there water outside and give them warm water as well. When the snow melts and there run is dry they dig holes and wallow in it for hours.
I only get about 1 egg a week and I have 6 hens, a couple roosters and my 5 ducks also share the coop and run with them. Any one got any ideas why they arnt laying?

Joann January 6th, 2013

My girls love to go outside. They are like little kids in the snow. When they get bored, I put homemade suet treats out for them. All summer, as I mow the yard, I mix up grass cuttings, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers and what ever else doesnt get used from the garden with a bit of natural peanutbutter and cracked corn. Freeze into small blocks. Once the grass is gone for the winter, I thaw some out and hang in a suet feeder. They stay busy and still get their greens. For extra protection during the winter, I buy old sheets from goodwill and hang them on the north side of the run fence. The sheets will help block the wind. After rain or snow, the sheets freeze and act like a wall to stop even more wind. Plus, they dont tear in the wind like plastic would.

annie January 6th, 2013

I pop popcorn, then put it on old potato bags and hang it from the side walls in the coop. They have to jump and wrestle it around to get it, and it amuses them for hours. When I ‘can’ in the fall, I keep all the trimmings and skins from things and freeze them, then in the winter, I bring out tomato skins, apple peels, broccoli leaves, etc, and thaw and then put it in the “treat”bin…..that way, they get fresh stuff in the winter months also..

Rikki January 7th, 2013

My poor girls (and our “oops roo”)… it’s been below freezing for the past week and we’re expecting more snow this week. The first few days of snow, my blue Polish (who is dumb as a box of rocks and not a very good layer, but hilarious and we love her) ate snow until she could eat no more. I was afraid that the poor thin thing would get hypothermia, but she seems to have been adjusting just fine.

We have four of the listed cold-weather breeds, but everyone (9 pullets and our cockerel) seems to enjoy roosting on the sides of the garden boxes when the sun’s out, with their feathers fluffed up and trying to get as warm as possible. Silly things won’t stay in the coop where it’s about 10 degrees warmer, though. Nope. They may not like the snow, but they like being inside less.

Inside the coop (a converted storage closet connected to the carport, they have a heat lamp, a heated waterer (which I need to change often, since it’s inside because it’s too cold to be outside), and deep litter. There is a tarp over the doorway to keep snow and rain out. They also like huddling under the dryer vent when it’s going and on the air conditioner sill outside our kitchen window. I have to admit, they have us trained well. We just open the window when someone knocks on the glass and they get whatever kitchen scraps we have handy. 🙂

Mary January 7th, 2013

My hens are experiencing frostbite on their combs. I do apply pet. Jelly. I also leave water in coop as it doesn’t freeze as fast as water in run and I work so that’s an issue. I close pop door at night and leave another top door open a crack at night. I shut barn door. The coop is in a stall in the barn. I’m thinking waterer is source of frostbite. Suggestions? I do deep litter method. Thanks.

Lissa January 7th, 2013

You don’t mention what breeds you’re keeping, or what kind of climate you’re living in and how cold it’s actually getting. In some areas it will get so cold that despite all winter precautions (ventilation, protected combs, etc.) frostbite is still a danger, and combs will turn black and die. If that’s happening to you (after you’ve provided appropriate medical care for your hens who are suffering, of course) you’ll probably want to consider keeping a more cold hardy flock in the future. For instance, the Buckeye is known as a great breed for cold weather. They also have small, pea combs so they aren’t nearly as susceptible to frostbite as breeds with large single combs are. The Chantecler is another great choice; they’ve been specifically bred for the coldest of winters.

Nick January 7th, 2013

dont have worry about that too much in florida

Melanie January 7th, 2013

I live at 9000 ft in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado…and I heat my coop. The girls can come and go if they please, and they do. If they are cold, they go back in. Chickens, no mater what breed, are not indigenous to the mountains, or the altitude, and If my dog shouldn’t be left out out in the cold, then neither should my chickens. If your chickens are getting’s too cold for them!

Laura Jenkins January 7th, 2013

This is my fifth year with my girls. The only year I put heat in the coop was when we had some sub zero temps. This year…no heat…no lights. I read a great article on the importance of ventilation….you need to keep chickens out of a direct wind or draft but they all need the ventilation. As you pointed out the moisture build up needs some where to go…and in this article it pointed out the the build up of amonia from the droppings will harm their lungs. I do twice a day water changes and they get warmed water on the coldest of mornings. I too have heard that you can add a little cayenne pepper to their food, I add it to their scratch sometimes and I have also heated up a sweet potato for them and once it was cool enough for them added some of the pepper. They love the warm food….

Maryelen Charnovesky February 3rd, 2013

Wonderful article. Thank you. This is my first winter with my chickens and so far we are doing okay. I spend a good deal of time researching and asking other local chicken people. I am working through the winter will much trial and error.
I live in Vermont, so,it does get pretty cold. I have been using a heat lamp only when it is frigid. After reading this article, I plan to use it less.
My crew is adverse to the metal drinker and the water heater. I would clean it every day and refill with fresh water but I did notice something odd. When I would empty it, the trough water would always have an bad smell. I work in microbiology so I cultured it…omg ! I felt like a heel knowing I was leaving it for them to drink, and this was with me cleaning it every day! I now use the plastic watered and switch it out often. It makes me feel much better.
I am using the deep bedding method for the bottom of my coop but I have installed a poop board (2 planks of wood) under their perches. I clean that about every other day and the bottom of my coop stays clean and mostly dry. I do turn the bottom bedding when I clean the poop boards. It seems to work well.
Is it a lot of work, yes, but the joy of caring for these wonderful living creatures gives me great joy.
Thanks again. It’s site has been a godsend right from the very beginning.

Regina hall February 16th, 2013

Thanks for the info. Am going to put cider vinegar in my ladies water in the morning.
Am interested in getting some French copper murans . Want to try keeping a small
Flock of them seperate from my backyard flock.

WendyPC7 March 2nd, 2013

Love your article. I’ve been wanting to get chickens for a while. All that stops me is housing them. I have a garden shed that’s maybe 10×12′ that I’m thinking I’d like to keep them in. The thing is it’s been used as a garden shed for years. There’s lawnmower oil on the floor, fertilizer residue, lime dust, etc. I garden organically, but there’s plenty of organic stuff that’s still very nasty. How much do I need to do to make the space safe for them? Will I still be able to keep my shovels and rakes in there? How much of a shared space can it be, or does it have to be hen house only?

Lissa March 4th, 2013

I think you’ll find that you’ll want it to be hen house only… mostly because the chickens will try to roost on anything they can, and because it will be so dusty in there. On the other hand, you might be able to make a closet or something like that which would keep out the chickens and worst of the dust. As to making it clean for your flock, you’ll want to do your best. I wouldn’t worry too awful much about organic fertilizer residue. A dusting of bonemeal beneath your bedding—as much as you weren’t able remove by cleaning—is unlikely to hurt your flock. It depends on what organic fertilizers you’ve used, of course, but generally speaking, those are meant to break down, and chickens make their own organic fertilizers that you will be cleaning from the coop. 🙂 If you have questions about the safety of specific products you used, contact the manufacturer for more information. I WOULD be more concerned about oil or gas residue because it’s pretty toxic. Try to clean that up as much as you would if there had been a spill in your living room. After all, if your chickens are exposed to those things, you may well be exposed to them, too, when you’re eating their eggs! You may even want to replace part of the floor if you can’t get it properly clean; better safe than sorry.

Lisa March 7th, 2013

thank you for this. up to this point, I have had a heater in my chicken coop and I let them out in the daytime . was so very worried that they might freeze. now I know better. I do like to keep a light in there in case of predators it tends to keep them away.

Becky-Minnesota March 9th, 2013

I have spoiled They have a large 50×50 fort knox pen with a coop and day building. The coop is heated during the night time till morning. Their other building is all made of corrugated polycarbonate panels from my greenhouse that blew down. It is A frame so just a bit of winter sun heats it up pretty toasty. They head outside every morning when I open the coop and head to the other building for their food and water. The A frame has about a foot of straw on the floor and they are happy to dust bath. Every day they get fresh greens and either raisens/soaked mealy worms/ or some other treat to go with the greens. They also get straw thrown on the path to the different buildings after every snow which they love to play in and it also keeps their feet a bit warmer. On sunny warm days they pretty much stay outside and roost on straw bales or their tree branch playground. Happy chicks mean eggs all winter long.

Nessa March 14th, 2013

I have 10 Rhode chickens and 3 Pekin Ducks all in one big coop. We didnt get around to insulating it but I chose the deep litter method and SOME occasional heating. I have it off now that we are not in the -40’s C with windchill. I also used the heat lamp above the water to keep from freezing and it did awesome all winter. I would make sure to go out often to check on the water. And as it mentioned, I would give them the option to roam during the day if they chose to. USUALLY… my birds will tell me if they are out of water or food during the day. I would either hear my ducks YELLING or my chicken will come up the deck and peck at my patio door. I recently learned that I can’t rely on the chickens now. As the weather warms they are ALWAYS at my door and they just want some attention 🙂 This is my first time with chickens and ducks and didn’t lose a single one AWESOME 🙂 I also have my male cat that lives in the coop with the chickens and think that deters the mice, one pomeranian helps me gather the eggs. In total, 10 chickens, 3 ducks, 2 cats, 4 dogs, and 8 humans… my crazy farm 🙂 <3

Gen March 15th, 2013

I am going to be doing my first winter with chickens this upcoming winter.i had the idea of using a fishtank heater to keep our water from freezing. We have a bucket with the chicken spout nipples for them. Has anyone tried this? We have a fishtank that always has the heater submerged and has never been a problem for years.

Plus I was thinking of releasing a few love crickets into the coop here and there as A snack.

andrea March 19th, 2013

My chicks are almost a month old and still inside my house. I am in the process of renovating an 8×11 shed into their coop. I also have the problem of oil stains as it was a garden shed. I plan on cleaning it the best I can and the laying linoleum down. The flooring will be covered with bedding. People I have talked to highly recomend this. I am still working out the kinks as to insulation, windows, and ventilation. The advice I have recieved is to definitely put nesting boxes under the widows because the need a dark place to nest and lay. Also not to make the boxes too high off the ground. I live in Wisconsin so the winters are very cold. A fish tank heater sounds like a great idea to heat water! I have two large tanks and have never had any problems with my heaters. Thank you for the great article! I cant wait to have everything together and look forward to making my gitls happy for years to come 🙂

Kaylee May 9th, 2013

Love the infomtion for chickens because I have chickens myself!

Jordyn May 12th, 2013

do you a kind of chicken that can live inside?

Lissa May 14th, 2013

Chickens prefer to live outside where they can scratch and forage, although sometimes one might bring a chicken inside temporarily to recover from an injury or illness.

Judy June 6th, 2013

I have sat here and read for at least a couple of hours it seems! I have marked this page on my computer to make sure I will find it again. I love all the ideas I’ve gotten from food to housing. just finished re-screening my coop..actually double screening it. Its just a small one to hold mabe 4 hens. I’m just almost OCD about protecting my chickens. Got 4 Barred Rocks on hold. I’ve heard about the fish tank warmers before and had planned to use one.. also had seen that hanging a feeder up will help keep it cleaner. I am in NC so our summer/winters never seem to go as the weathermen think they will. we have pretty sandy soil so I’m going with coarse sand in the runs. I love all the ideas about treats and food…I’ll be cooking more for them than I do my poor hubby who is really not into this chicken thing yet. I’ll win him over..LOL Thanks to everyone… If anyone has some suggestions..I would love them

Eileen Jurek June 27th, 2013

Thank you for the wonderful information. I plan on having chickens next year and I live in northern Indiana.

michiel September 3rd, 2013

Thanks for the thoughts about chickens in winter. One question, however: what winter are we talking about? Some respondents happen to live in California, others live in Maine. And then of course every climate/winter is different for the different chicken breeds. So, what I like to know is:how can one see that it is too cold for their chickens? What behaviour tells us that now we really do have to switch on the heater. I am new to chickens; since two months we have a Finnish breed of chickens and we live in the south of Finland. Temperatures can be as low as -30 C outside (= -22 F). I am now making a place for my chickens in an unwarmed stable (concrete floor and walls, wooden ceiling). I will go for deep litter, starting with a pile from my compost heap, but I doubt that the warmth it generates will be enough. Could someone enlighten me here?

Lissa September 5th, 2013

Hi, Michiel. There are certainly some climates in which you may need to use regular heat during the coldest weather. In the US, really this would occur only in some areas of Alaska. People often ask “how cold is too cold,” but there is no hard and fast answer to that. After all, how cold is too cold for humans? For instance, 50F and sunny may feel warm, while 50 F with rain and wind may be uncomfortably cool. Just like there are no absolute temperature requirements for dogs or cats, there aren’t for chickens. How well they do will depend on many factors, including how long they are exposed to the temperature, whether they are adequately protected from wind and rain, etc. etc.
Using heat as seldom as possible would be ideal. In my area, it very occasionally drops below zero (F) in the winter at night. On those occasions, I will carefully dust and hang a heat lamp in my coop. I may also dust and use a heat lamp if there is a sudden drop in temperature, even if it’s not especially cold overall. For instance, if it’s been 50F and a cold front moves through dropping the temperature in a day to 20F, I may have the heat lamp on for a day or two just to help the birds transition more easily, even though 20F is not generally a problem for my birds.
You can tell your chickens are cold when they ruffle their feathers (creating a larger layer of insulation beneath them) and huddle together. Slow and shallow breathing is a sign that they’re in some distress. You can read more here.
Since you live in Finland and have a breed of chicken that has been developed in Finland, you’re starting the right way! My best advice would be to contact other local Finnish poultry keepers who have this same breed and find out what precautions, if any, they take during winter in your local conditions.

michiel September 5th, 2013

Thank you very much for your very, very helpful information. First of all I will start to watch their breathing… I didn’t realize that they were breathing and certainly didn’t see it or look at it. Interesting! (Tomorrow, when they are awake…)

Any idea how big an area of deep litter can be maintained by five chickens? And me of course.

Lissa September 6th, 2013

I recommend allowing at least 12 square feet (about 1.1 square meters) of outdoor space per bird, and 4 square feet of indoor space (0.37 square meters) per bird, for a total of 16 square feet (almost 1.5 square meters)of space per bird. More is always better, though! In northern climates, you’ll sometimes want to have a smaller indoor space, because the birds’ body heat will naturally keep it a little more comfortable in cold weather. If you choose a smaller coop for your flock, then that should be balanced by giving them a larger outdoor area. However, whether you want a smaller coop or not may depend a little on breed, too. If the Finnish breed you keep tends to be aggressive or restless, you may not want to reduce indoor space because long winters in which they want to stay inside can lead to boredom and bad behaviors like feather picking or egg eating. If your breed generally does well in confinement, you’ll be better able to manage boredom with the types of distractions I mentioned in the post above (such as hanging a cabbage, offering high-protein/high-fat treats and so on).

michiel September 6th, 2013

Thanks again, Lissa, for your most helpful information and your informative help! Fortunately I have space enough, so no problem there, but too much room might also be a problem, me think. Deep litter needs the chickens’ activity to stay alive, isn’t it? And I assume that five chickens (one rooster 6 months old, two chickens of 5 and two youngsters of 2,5 months) can only maintain a certain quantity of deep litter. I could offer them as much as 8 square meters, inside, but that’s a lot, I suppose to keep the deep litter working….

Teresa October 7th, 2013

Lissa,My first year for chickens and I live in North Dakota.How many chickens would you keep in a 8×12 shed? THANKS for all the GREAT information !!!

Lissa October 10th, 2013

Glad we can be of help, Teresa! It would depend on whether the girls have substantial outdoor space. Generally speaking, you want at least two to four square feet of indoor space and 10 to 12 square feet of outdoor (run) space per bird. If you have less space outdoors, then you need more indoors, and vice versa. Especially in the north, a smaller coop can sometimes stay a little warmer because the chickens’ body heat will heat that smaller space up more quickly and efficiently. A mobile tractor style coop also usually requires less space per bird because you’ll be moving the girls to fresh pasture daily. If you have enough run space, though, you could keep up to 24 birds in an 8 x 12 indoor space (presuming enough nests, roosts, feeders, waterers, etc., of course).

Kirsten October 11th, 2013

Thank you for the insights you shared in this article. It is really a great help for me, because this is my first time to spend winter with my “gurlz”. Your tips will surely make my gurlz so busy, comfy and warm during winter.

Christyn November 7th, 2013

The ‘do not heat your coop’ rule will work almost anywhere in the US except up here in AK where it gets down to -50……

Tammy November 13th, 2013

this is such a great site, good information that is so encouraging……the deep litter method has worked for my ladies for the last 3 years, would never have done it without your guidance

Becky November 13th, 2013

Don’t forget to scatter crushed oyster shell to prevent crop impaction and add calcium.Also, fun ways to prevent boredom ; hang bits of string and other things they will look up and peck at.

Lissa November 13th, 2013

Becky, there is a difference between crushed oyster shell and grit. Grit is used to help grind up food. Oyster shell is for calcium, and does NOT act as a substitute for grit.

Amy November 13th, 2013

We do heat our coops and cool them in the summer. When I open them in the mornings they all come running out because they love being outside. I decided to heat them because we have some silkies and they seem to get cold easily.

cuttingras November 14th, 2013

Get a titanium fish tank heater. Don’t use the glass ones. I kept saltwater fish(135 & 55 gal tanks) for a long time. Take it from me. There’s nothing like waking up in the morning to see your fish dead (we dont heat most of our house during the winter). The glass ones fail more often and shatter where as the titanium ones do not. Drs. Foster and Smith always had a decent selection. We’re having temps in the low 20’s tonight. I have 5 bitties and a Momma. One lamp for them and one for they’re water but I am going to order a heater tomorrow. I can’t find my old one.

chicken mama January 6th, 2014

This is my second year with my girls. It is now 14 below and wind chill factor of -38. I have 8 hens one cock and 5 ducks and they are not content without each other. I was a bit concerned with the bitter cold this year but they seem to be doing just fine. I have a coup that is connected to a canvas covered run of 10×15 with an area under the coup for the ducks that has straw bales surrounding the metal wire and the ducks have no problem claiming it for their own. The girls go into the coup or on their perch which is the length of the run. They never use the perch inside the coup. My only problem so far has been one of the girls that had been attacked by a dog. She pulled through with some doctoring and a jar of super honey. I’m afraid she has developed a sweet tooth. She never did regain her feather mass. Also lost 1/2 of her tail feathers that never grew back. I did bring her in and she is my house chicken for the winter. I agree it would be fatal if I put her back out now. Probably in the spring or as soon as the temps reach near 40. I use a heat lamp in the run for temps lower than 0. Today I have two heat lamps and they go under them when they want. lower part of coup run is covered in plastic to block out the nasty wind and the ventilation is in the top. I keep my extra hay and feed in the run. Normally the water is in a heated 32 gal tub with nipples screwed into the bottom but I still bring out two gal of warm water every day, the ducks drink mega amounts. One jingle bell wreath for entertainment otherwise the hay provides scratch time. The rooster spends his time looking out for the old Tom cat and the three red tail hawks that insist on visiting once a day to threaten. Great article glad I stumbled onto it. Fun to read about others passion for their chickens, thanks

Lissa January 8th, 2014

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! I don’t normally heat my coop. As I said above, I only do it when there’s been a sudden drop in temperature. The “arctic vortex” definitely qualified this year! We dropped about 50 degrees in one day in my area of WV… and wind chill was down to 40 below on some ridges (which is where we are). The chickens stayed inside, so were not subject to the wind chill, thank goodness. They seem to be doing well, but I’ll be glad when the cold snap has passed. It’s supposed to warm up to freezing today, and by the weekend should be in the 50s. They probably have cabin fever as much as I do! 🙂

Donna Tindall June 23rd, 2014

For water…we use five gallon buckets, hung from the rafters, with 3 drinking nipples, installed on the bottom. We have two of these buckets hanging, with birdbath heaters dropped inside for deicing. You can punch a hole in the lid to allow the water to flow(allowing air to get in) and keep the dust out. Sometimes the birds fly around and knock the lids off, so I have a bungee over the lid. Also I put 2 3/4″ “U bolts on handle of bucket to keep the hanging clip, centered, from shifting from side to side on the handle.These prevent the birds from getting the water all dirty, easy to refill (carry clean,water filled, buckets out to coop and dump in the top). I would recommend dumping the old water out and wiping the bucket down with red wine vinegar every now and then. If you need a photo or better explanation, I can provide you with a photo to a personal email.

sammy saunders June 28th, 2014

I live in south western virginia I have 13 hens and 1 rooster our winters can get below 0 temps as low as 15 below I use an automatic watering system which I constructed from pvc piping with the red screw in water nipple the main water reservoir is a cooler and I use a bird bath deicer which has a thermal built in which automatically comes on when needed to deicer and shuts off when not needed and my system keeps my civil fresh water all day and night all winter long and has worked with temps as low as 15 below so far

Bev July 5th, 2014

Can someone help me with a way to keep everyone from scattering and wasting crumbles?

Lissa July 7th, 2014

Sure! Make sure to have the feeder at your chickens’ “shoulder” height. If it is lower, they often want to pick through/scratch out feed. You can also try transitioning from crumbles to pellets (or pellets to crumbles). Sometimes a flock prefers one over the other. My own flock seems to waste less when I use pelleted feed.

Rebekah July 24th, 2014

I am going to be a first time chicken owner. I live by the airport in Colorado Springs and am wanting to get 4 Silkie Chickens. I am building the coop as we speak! Any tips for me so that way I can include them in my building plans? We get pretty cold here December through February and I figured that if it gets too cold I could bring them into my garage (we never park cars in it). I have been doing research for over a month about Silkies and have made plans for even the ground getting too wet and a way to prevent that.

Lissa July 25th, 2014

I talked about the best tips regarding cold in this post: proper ventilation, for example, is a big one! You might consider looking at some other coop plans to see how other people have designed successful coops. We also talk about how to decide what sorts of coop features would be right for you in the My Pet Chicken Handbook. There is no one perfect coop for everyone! A lot depends on what you want and need, and how you plan to manage your flock.

Jan August 30th, 2014

I live in Ohio and we had an exceptionally cold and snowy winter (temp dipped to negative 34 degrees). Many of my friends lost alot of their flock, I didn’t loose a single bird. I insulated my coop, I used thin-sulate. It looks like foil with packing bubbles. I also added a heater, it’s mounted to the walk-in door, it’s one of those paintable heaters. Freezing water was a problem, but I change it often. In addition I would always supply an Iceberg lettuce head because it has a large water content and entertainment. I used a bungy cord to hook the head and gave the gals hours of entertainment and also the hydration they need. My egg production did not even slow over the winter months. I have good ventilation but I used foam padding to cover some of the major air holes but still let’s a air flow through. I cleaned my coop one a week, took off the top layer of droppings, then when the weather broke, I gave it a good cleaning. All my gals made it through healthy.

pat September 12th, 2014

I do not heat my coop. I change water frequently. When it’s really cold, I scramble eggs for the hens.
When a hen moults, I feed her a lot of protein.
My hens are allowed to roam in the main house yard. They keep the ticks and other pests down in the summer.

They are happy girls and lay a lot.

Deanna October 12th, 2014

I’m new to chickens. I put a tarp over the run to keep it dry. I’m also building re-usable plastic panels for the run to keep them warmer. The coop is well insulated also. Everyones experiences on here have been very helpful to me.

Val beard October 16th, 2014

What is deep litter?

Lissa October 17th, 2014

Did you check out the link to information about the deep litter method in the blog post? If not, here it is again. If you did check it out, can you be a little more specific about what you’re not understanding?

Susan October 23rd, 2014

I live in Silverton Colorado in the rocky mountains at 9318 feet. I have a 70×70 coop not insulated. In fact it is a open air coop in the front. I put clear plastic roofing over the front to close it in and allow for solar gain during the day time. I am using sort of a deep litter but will be changing it out every couple months during winter. We get so cold that the air become void of moisture. we average -17 for several weeks on end but can dip to -20 plus during storms. I have 5 hens and 3 rabbits who share the coop space. I am using a large dog crate as a roosting inner coop for the girls with a flat heat panel inside it attached to the roof of the crate. I am using a heated dog water in the larger coop area. Any thought?

Lissa October 28th, 2014

I’m not sure what you mean by “inner coop.” It’s possible you may be confusing the terms “coop” and “run.” The coop is a secure building chickens retire to at night; the run is an outdoor area where they can forage, scratch, sun bathe and so on. Food and water can be kept in either area, just depending on how you’re set up. Presuming there is plenty of space for them outside in the run, in very cold areas, people often choose to keep their chickens in a relatively small coop for more warmth in the cold months. Chickens generate a lot of body heat, and in a small area their bodies can help keep the coop warmer and more comfortable than the outside air. A very large coop is great in many ways, but it’s likely to be extra cold in the winter. If it seems as if your chickens aren’t doing well in the large open air space you’re describing, then during the winter you may want to reduce the size of their coop space so they’ll stay more comfortable. Choosing the right breed for your cold winter area is also key.

Andria October 28th, 2014

Hi! I came across your article as I was researching about my ducks. I have to pekin ducks that I would like to keep for the winter. We have harsh winter here in MN so I was wondering if you had any ideas on how to best keep them warm and safe??

Lissa October 29th, 2014

I’m sorry, but we’re chicken experts rather than duck experts! We think some of the same coop principles would apply, but ducks are quite a bit messier than chickens, and tend to splash water around a lot more. This probably means it would be better for you to double check with someone experienced with that particular type of poultry. We wish you luck, though!

nick November 13th, 2014

I love this so nice and handey

[…] Remember, of course, that your chickens will need proper care and shelter whether they are cold hardy or not. You can learn more about how to prepare your flock for the winter. […]

Jennifer Fisk November 14th, 2014

Just today I stirred the litter in my hen house and added PDZ to dry it up a bit. Then I added half a bale of shavings. Smelled oh so good. I have used the heated bases for the water but I think it cause evaporation and then the moisture condenses on the walls and litter. I think this year, I’ll just keep taking fresh water to them twice a day.

Jeanne Massey November 14th, 2014

I live in upstate NY where the temperatures get down to -25. My coop is built into my unused hay barn and opens into an area that was a run-in for cows about 50 years ago. It provides a marvelous dust bath area! The coop is well ventilated. I have only cold hardy breeds and have never heated my coop in the 4 years I’ve had my girls. No one has gotten frostbite or seemed uncomfortable. I used a heated waterer last winter, but hated it. I think I’d rather change their water a few times a day. The ladies get lots of greens, meal worms, yogurt, cottage cheese, cracked corn, pumpkins, sunflower heads, etc…as well as their regular feed. I’ve seen too many barn fires caused by heat lamps and refuse to take that risk. No one has ever had a respiratory illness…or any illness. These sturdy girls were purchased from My Pet Chicken! My biggest problem is frozen eggs…oh well. By the way, I love my beautiful Chanticleer, but don’t expect an egg jackpot from this breed!

Darlene Brockey November 14th, 2014

We just bought a farm and the chickens conveyed. The coop is a greenhouse. This will be my first winter with chickens and I don’t really know how to get them ready for winter. They aren’t new to winter, most are about two years old. I do close the coop at night. Any suggestions? Thanks

J. M. Rodriguez November 14th, 2014

I live in Central Mississippi, last night and tonight temps in low to mid 20s with wind chill of ?, but very cold and windy. I have two large chicken tractors, 6 by 16 and 10 by 12 with about 350 hens and two roosters. The bottom two and 1/2 feet are half inch hardware cloth and from there up is sheet metal, front wall is four feet of metal and back is nest boxes open from outside and the one foot vent mentioned below. with a three inch gap at the top for venting. Floor is 1 by 2 inch wire so droppings fall to ground. Additional venting is one foot hardware cloth panel full length of back wall facing north, which is covered at night to protect the roosting area from draft. So lots of ventilation. I have a twelve volt system for lights on timer, now it comes on at 4:45 am and off after sun up at 9 am. Twelve volt water heaters turn on at 34 and off at 39 degrees. Bulk feeders hold 150 lbs in each tractor and water is from little giant bowls when not on heated tank waterers. Chickens free roam in woods and pasture when not raining no matter how cold. They get under tractors when raining heavy, if light rain many stay out in it with no problem. They have experienced snow a few times in previous years with no trouble, but not deep. I give scratch grain to forage for one hour before roosting, but only when wind chill is below freezing, to keep them warm till morning.

Lisa November 15th, 2014

I am having a problem with my chickens sleeping on the top of their chicken house. We built a lean to on the side of our shop and closed it In with chicken wire. The coop is one of the prebuilt coops, which is plenty big enough, but they roost on top instead of getting in the coop. I am worried about this winter and them getting to cold roosting on top. Any suggestions on how to get them to go into the coop to stay warmer. I have 5 hens and 2 roosters. They used to go into the coop to sleep until we moved them into the bigger pin.

Lissa November 16th, 2014

Keep them inside the coop for a few days. They need to imprint on it as home again, after the change. Also be sure to check and see if there’s another reason they’re avoiding the coop at night. For instance, some types of mites come out at night to feed, and your chickens may simply be trying to avoid them (if that’s the problem, you would want to get rid of the mites before shutting the chickens inside). Possibly your flock may be trying to tell you to clean the coop more often–they’re closer to the ground and litter, so any odors affect them before we would notice anything. Or possibly it was just the change to the pen. So, see if you can pinpoint and take care of the problem first. If it’s just the pen, it will simply be a matter of retraining them to sleep inside, and you do that by keeping them enclosed for a few days, so they feel safe sleeping on the indoor roosts. Read more about getting your chickens to retire at night on our website.

Ann November 17th, 2014

We have adopted a chicken that came to our yard and stayed so we started feeding her. But now that winter is coming we don’t know what to do with her. We bought straw and we have a big dog house that has not been used in many years, we thought she would get in it at night but we don see any sign that she is getting in on the straw we put in. We know she is going to need some sort of shelter but what. Today its cold and windy and she is hanging around under the carport. Please give me some Idea of how we can keep this poor chicken warm this winter without a chicken coop.

Lissa November 18th, 2014

We offer advice on our website regarding how to teach a chicken where home is. Since you’re new to chicken keeping, we’d also recommend picking up our book, the My Pet Chicken Handbook. It’s a good way to get started, and make sure you can keep your little flock safe from not only the weather, but predators, too!

tara November 18th, 2014

thank you so much.. I learned some new thing here.. this is our 1st year ever having chicken’s and our ladie’s 1st winter too. I found this very helpful.. infact in the morning i’m going down to do a few thing’s idk i had to do.

[…] base. Heated waterers or waterer bases are not always required—some here at My Pet Chicken choose to change out the waterers once or twice a day—but here in Connecticut, our water heater gets a pretty good amount of use. Use your […]

liz Graham December 10th, 2014

Hello fellow chicken lovers Greetings from Bonnie Scotland UK Thank you for all the info as being a new chicken keeper of 3 rescued ones. The arrived bald and I’ve had them five months and they are simply wonderful creatures.They are flourishing day by day are so friendly and they lay one egg each ezvety day. This is by far it seems to me the best site I have come across. Thank you so very much for all your. Comments and info which is much needed. I’m off to try them on vegetarian Haggis! They love porridge every morning in this cold weather!

Maree December 27th, 2014

Thank you for this great forum…I am a new chicken mom and a lot of my worries have been answered through this forum. My question is in regards to the coop I am using. It’s a hand me down in the shape of an outhouse..there are three boxes for my three girls, my problem is we had a three weeks straight rain and the coop doesn’t have a floor…we are the deep litter technique but the ground is still so damp I have considered raising the coop up off the ground to keep the moisture level down. What do you think??

Lissa December 27th, 2014

Yes, wet litter is no good; it can harbor harmful bacteria and produce ammonia as it rots. (You don’t want it to rot until you have it in the compost pile.) Additionally, if you don’t have a floor in the coop, digging predators can be more of a danger. If you can manage a plan to install a floor–one that doesn’t give predators anywhere tyo hide beneath the coop, that would be ideal.

Masif Naqash December 28th, 2014

very use full information

Tina December 31st, 2014

I also use the DLM “deep litter method”. No other way to go. I have had my girls for a couple of years now and added some more this year. I have two coops so they sleep where they want with a covered area and a huge yard they have fenced to themselves. On the really cold days we start the day off with some warm water in their waterer and what I call “Hot Mash”. I feed 100% organic feed so I just take a fair amount and mix it with hot water. Makes a kinda mush and the girls love it! They start off the day hydrated and full of good food. They almost expect it on really cold days now.

mary colgate January 4th, 2015

I have a bantam rooster who loves to sleep on my laundry room window sill. I dont mind but I feel so bad. He does this rain, shine and even in a snow storm.
On occasion he goes into the coop, but would prefer to be where he can see inside the house. Isnt he gonna freeze to death?

Lissa January 4th, 2015

Mary, we have no way to know where you’re located or how cold it gets. Regardless, you should encourage him to sleep in the coop so he’ll be safe from predators.

Barbara January 11th, 2015

This morning I went out to feed my girls (3 silkies) 2 had apparently spent the night in the covered run instead of the coop. They were covered in frost, but under their feathers they were quite warm. Gave them their food and warm water. They seem to be fine. We purchased a coop & run kit. I covered the one run entirely in plastic and leave the pool door open. The other run section is 90% covered in plastic and the door to this side is closed every night. They have deep bedding in the coop and one run with dust bath and feed and water. Hoping to Build a better coop and run in the spring. We live in Maine so it gets quite cold at night. Below zero temps I close the coop at night.

Catherine January 17th, 2015

To keep my chickens water from freezing in the winter I hang a heat lamp( with the shade) about 2 feet above the water bucket and this works very. My coop is well ventilated and I use lots of straw for bedding with a 4-6 inch sand floor under the straw…this keeps my coop nice and dry 🙂
Great idea,Tina, with the hot mash 🙂 I will give it a try with my girls 🙂

[…] cold weather, chickens may need extra calories from high fat foods so their bodies have enough energy to maintain body […]

Richard Mangham February 17th, 2015

I live in North Central Texas and I have 5 gallon water jugs with chicken nipples for my flock. I put a fish tank air pump in the jug with the air stone at the bottom. When it is going to be below freezing I turn the device on. This keeps the water from freezing unless the temp is extreme

Margaret Reid February 18th, 2015

One of our mean hens has pulled the feathers off the bottoms of three other hens. It has gotten extremely cold here and this skin is an angry red color now. Should we put Vaseline on the skin? Is there something else we should do? Thank you!

Lissa February 27th, 2015

We’d suggest first trying to figure out why the picking is occurring. Make sure you’re providing your flock with plenty of entertainment in the cold weather when they may be spending more time inside the coop. As for the hens whose feathers are missing, it’s difficult to say. Is the red color because the skin is chapped, or is it red due to the irritation caused by the picking? Either way, a little lotion wouldn’t hurt. You may want to try something like “Pick no more,” which not only contains skin-soothing and moisturizing ingredients like aloe, but also contains ingredients to dissuade pickers.

tj3hop March 1st, 2015

Great information, I’ve been a bit concerned about my flock because they have been bearing the winter elements and I wondered if they should have a heat lamp. We had our coop burn down last summer due to an incubator light, which is why I was hesitant to put a heat lamp in their new space. It was very unfortunate because we build them a beautiful insulated space that was perfect for them and loosing this, after only two summers, saddened us. However we were grateful it was summer and no hens were in the house, just some poor chicks. ☹ Thanks for all the great information. Looking forward to hanging some goodies to keep them busy!

Lissa March 2nd, 2015

So sorry to hear about your fire! That is one of the reasons we generally advise against heating the coop. If you’ve chosen cold hardy breeds and you have appropriate shelter, really the only time to use a heat lamp would be temporarily, if the temperature has dropped really precipitously, for example from 50 to 10 overnight. That can happen a few times a year, depending on where you live. When/if it does, observe all fire safety precautions–your local fire department may even be willing to do a check for you. But in that situation, using a heat lamp for just a day or two to help ease the transition can help them out.

Daryl March 21st, 2015

Very interesting! I live in Canada and I’m going to build my chicken coop this spring, great to know that I need to have it well ventilated. I’m worried about how my boxer and two outdoor cats are going to interact with the chickens. The cats kill birds and have even killed a couple of ruffed grouse. The boxer thinks anything that moves is a toy. Links to coop building plans for cold weather would be appreciated. I’m thinking about building a coop 8′ X 12′ divided in half by a chicken wire partition. The one side would be storage and a place for the cats to call home. Maybe they’d adopt the chickens instead of trying to kill them. Also, would a rooster protect the hens?

Lissa March 22nd, 2015

The rooster does protect the hens… but he won’t be very effective against a dog. Generally the roosters of a flock are good for providing warning to the girls, so they can hide. And a good rooster will throw himself against a predator to give them time to hide, if need be, but he won’t last long against a determined dog. You should read more about chickens and dogs before you start with chickens. Here are many different chicken coop building plans that may work for you, depending on flock size.

Rob April 5th, 2015

Keep the coup clean-make this a priority

Emma Cummings August 7th, 2015

This is great information Lissa, thank you. I am a bit confused about the Deep Littler System, I read the info on it but I am new to chickens, my babies just turned 8 days old today. I am reading that you have to keep the moisture down in the coop, by keeping it clean, but then the DLS says don’t clean it. It also says to add food to it to promote scratching, won’t this mean that they will be eating their own waste as well? Sorry to sound like a ninny, maybe I am reading to much, I have been like a sponge absorbing all information that I can. My other question is, has anyone tried a ventilation fan in the wall blowing out of the coop, would this be something that may work, I was thinking not only to ventilate but to help with dust as well?

Lissa August 11th, 2015

Hi, Emma! The Deep Litter system controls moisture, too… just in a different way. Typically, you have an inch or so (maybe less) of litter when you’re NOT doing deep litter. Your chickens produce droppings, and the coop is cleaned pretty frequently, as soon as they start to build up… really, preferably before there is any real build up. You don’t want things to break down in the coop, because there isn’t much litter inside. This does mean it’s an easier job to clean out, because there’s not a lot to remove. On the other hand, you have to clean it more frequently. If you’re not using deep litter, frequent cleaning helps to prevent too much ammonia in the air. (Ammonia is what you get when nitrogen-rich droppings decompose.)
With Deep Litter, you’re more or less raising chickens on a compost bed. You have far more litter, which keeps the balance of green v brown (or nitrogen versus carbon) matter at a better level for air quality, because a well maintained compost pile doesn’t actually have any smell. But the trade off is that you do have some work to maintain your deep-litter-compost pile. If there’s not enough litter or your litter gets too wet, you get that ammonia smell. And when you do clean the coop, you have a thick layer to remove. So there is a little work there.
As far as scattering treats and pecking through the litter… yeah that sounds really gross, doesn’t it? However, raising birds on deep litter–and having them peck through it occasionally–increases “egg production, egg weight, hen weight, and hatchability” because they actually get access to more Vitamin B12 from the bacteria in the deep litter.
As for a fan… it depends. Commercial poultry houses do use fans to help cool the birds they’ve stuffed into a space-not-really-big-enough-for-them, and to attempt to remove bad air. But you have to be careful and remember that coops should be well ventilated–but not drafty! Read about the difference between a well-ventilated coop and a drafty one on our website.

Emma Cummings August 15th, 2015

Thank you for all the great information Lissa, I am going to try the the DLS and the link you provided about the difference between ventilated and drafty was very helpful.I love all of you at MyPetChicken, I don’t know what I would do without you!!!!

Lana August 21st, 2015

I live in New Zealand…we are still in winter and had a rather nasty -22 with knee deep snow…my little Bantam chooks hate the snow. They normally roam free and with two dogs whom poo and pee all around the large property…well this keeps the stoats and cats away. Another liquid to use around your coup to keep pests away and may work for you is your own pee…….yes I kid you not. Just pee into a container and pour round your coup.We have never had a chook taken by a pest. African women place their babies on the ground and pee all around them to keep animals away…so why not your chooks. Happy days.Lana

Sharon Sheehan August 22nd, 2015


I’m looking into keeping chickens, but worry it will be too cold (last 10 years it has gotten down to -30F, but can get down to -50). My husband raised chickens where it was warmer, and helped neighbors clean out in spring up here and he is adamantly against the deep litter method, saying his friends used that method and it was a black, slimy, anaerobic, horrifically smelly, disgusting mess from which he wouldn’t ever consider eating eggs or chickens (adamant might be an understatement). Any idea what went wrong? All comments I’ve seen about the method says it is odor free. Also, it’s described as living on a compost pile, which I thought needed turning/mixing. Do the chickens actually manage to mix it when scratching for their food? How does it not freeze? Even piles of horse manure freeze here.

Lissa August 24th, 2015

Well, chickens do scratch it around to mix it. And it is not a slimy stinky mess in normal conditions! It composts slowly at the bottom, while the top stays fresh. Compost actually produces its own heat. However, my guess is that if you live in an area where it gets to 50 below, the 4 or 5 or ten degrees that decomposing litter would normally produce is not going to be enough to keep it from freezing sometimes. So what might have happened is that your hubby’s friend’s chickens pooed on top of the litter (of course), and in those temperatures froze almost immediately. They would not then be able to compost or become incorporated into the litter. Then when a thaw came, all that poo laying on top of the litter, and under the roosts thawed at once. That’s just a guess. Deep litter will not work for all areas, and super cold winters like you’re talking about are probably one of the times it’s not the best method. In my area, it dips down below zero a few times a year, but mostly stays in the 20s and 30s in winter. Poo drops, freezes occasionally, but not really en masse. Deep litter works here in my area of WV very well, but it sounds like you get 50 degrees colder–WOWZA! You could always test out how well it might work for you by trying to maintain a compost pile in an enclosed area in the winter, so you could see what sort of work it would be in your location.

Sharon Sheehan August 25th, 2015

I like the idea of testing a compost pile. My hubby did say chicken poo was hot fertilizer, so maybe that would help. I’ll have to test with my rabbit litter I guess. I’m also going to see if I can visit people who keep chickens here and possibly volunteer some. Then I can see different approaches and successes. Not to mention talk to the experimental farm (hope they raise chickens). I am also thinking that people may really insulate the coops, preventing air circulation, blehk! Thank you so much for your help.

Lissa August 25th, 2015

Don’t forget to choose cold hardy breeds for your area (as if you would–it sounds like you’re thinking things through before you get started, so that’s fantastic!). 🙂 But as cold as you’ve said it gets in your area, you might go for something like the Chantecler. Be sure to ask what breeds local chicken keepers have. They’ll know for sure which will do well in your conditions. Best of luck!

Carol McMillion October 1st, 2015

Most enlightening and informative. Gosh, my mom usta’ raise chickens back in the 1940’s and’50’s and am sure she was cautious as she had alot of good ole’ common sense. She loved her chickens and when we had to move from Greenbrier County, WV, to Roanoke, Va., in the city due to dad’s job she brought her girls and the henhouse with her right smack dab to Main Street. Am sure she would have loved all your info you give so freely to us chicken lovers and caretakers. Thank you for being you!

Lissa October 2nd, 2015

You’re welcome, of course! And gosh–Greenbrier County is so pretty! I hope you’re able to get back sometimes. I’m a few counties over. Glad you’re still keeping chickens like your mom. 🙂

Tim October 1st, 2015

I used the deep litter method last winter and it worked okay. However, I helped the girls out by taking a potato fork and turning it some for them. It helped. as far as water, my coop is not heated or insulated and with winter temps below freezing some over the winter I needed something better than a bucket. My solution was a heated dog bowl. My girls were already use to drinking from a pan out in the run so it is no problem to switch them back and forth. I just take a gallon milk jug full of water with me when I go to feed and collect the eggs and refill their water. This will be my 3rd winter with it and the other 2 worked great.

Mark Pieklik October 2nd, 2015

Going to be an interesting winter season for me . I live in the snow belt and it gets cold here for long periods of time. I have 12 cold hardy birds and a weather tight coop. Good ventilation over the roost bars with extra windows I can open from the top. Not sure if I should use straw or wood shavings on the floor. Going to be an interesting winter here in upstate New York.

Lissa October 2nd, 2015

It sounds like you have a great coop for them! We usually recommend shavings, simply because straw is less absorbent, and is more likely to rot when wet. It is also more likely to harbor pests like mites. However, many people use straw and simply change it out more often. You can read more about which bedding to choose for your situation on our website.

Doreen Spieler October 2nd, 2015

I use the deep litter, bedding in the winter. I start with a few inch. in the fall ending with a foot or so in the spring. I switch out the water containers as they freeze and put warm water in the next ones in the cold weather. I keep light bulbs over their perches for a little warmth for their cones so they don’t freeze. The bulbs have a meddle shade over it and hangs about 5-6 inch over the chickens head. The coop is 6×8′ shed roof. Theres a wire enclosed cage 8×12′ with a shed wooden roof coming off the coop. In the winter I wrap it with plastic to keep out the snow so they have more room to roam when its to cold and snowy to go out. But I do shovel a area and paths in the snow for me to move from place to place and the chicken use them too. I feed warm oatmeal, black oil sunflower seed and suit cakes. None of the enclosers are insulated or air tight.

Sheryl October 4th, 2015

When I lived in the mountains with harsh winters Mine were never in any insulated coop. It actually was welded wire with wood hooked all around the sides then an insulated blanket on top with wood laid on top. They always had free choice to come & go. They were at the top of a hill so no electricity. I as well gave them warm oatmeal made with left over whey from cheese making (it’s high protein) with cayenne in it. I carried 4 gallons of hot water up there to pour over their frozen water. Hated breaking ice in the horses water trough though. Now I live in the valley & it gets 110 in the summer here. I find the Summer is harder on my chickens than the bitter cold winters were. The barred rock chicken by far were the hardiest of all for both climates. Up there I had 60 chickens. Here I only have 10. ???? I miss having all my chickens & rabbits.

Deanna October 6th, 2015

This will be my first winter but I live in northern California so our winters don’t get all that bad. My chicks were babies and smaller in number several months ago when i bought my little coop (houses 3-4). They are able to roam free in the yard I have the coop in but they’ve never slept inside (they like to roost on top or sleep in the tree). When/If it gets too cold will they go inside on their own or will I have to herd them in myself? Do I just provide them with a warm dry area to go to if they choose?

Lissa October 7th, 2015

Hi, Deanna! Your flock may not know to go inside the coop to get out of the weather. Do you keep your food inside the coop? If they do have a reason to go inside, they may make the discovery that it’s a warmer place to be. While chickens are actually surprisingly smart in many ways–did you know they can do math?–they won’t necessarily reason to themselves, independent of their experience, that it would be warmer and safer inside a shelter. What I’d recommend is teaching them where home is so they’ll sleep inside even when it’s mild. It’s just safer for them to sleep inside a coop, since many predators prowl at night. We have instructions on how to teach your flock where to roost on our website (click the link there). Remember the saying “the chickens come home to roost”? Well, it’s true. But you just have to make sure they understand where home is, first!

Teri October 10th, 2015

Thank you so much for this information! This is our frist winter with chickens. And we want to do everything we can to make our babies comfortable!

mimi October 26th, 2015

Hello, I just started with one and ordered three more. I am reading all the comments and I am confused what is the best for floor covering. It seems very hard to clean poops from straws! Also I do not know how to keep them amuse so they do not get board? Do you think radio is a good idea?

Lissa November 2nd, 2015

Hi, Mimi! Have you checked our website for advice? We talk about what bedding to use in the chicken coop in our Chicken Help pages. We also have information on the Deep Litter method there. You’ll also enjoy our information on how to prevent your flock from getting too bored in Four Strategies to Prevent Flock Boredom.

Jeanne Massey November 4th, 2015

i have had chickens for 5 years in Upstate NY…which means very, very cold winters. All my girls are cold-hardy breeds. Their coop is in a barn which was built in 1799, so definitely not airtight! I have never heated their coop, even when the temp is 25 below. They can leave their coop to run in a covered area of the barn where I give them corn scratch, veggies, cheese, mealworms, oatmeal, etc….although not all at the same time. No one loves the snow…nor do I. I have finally found a waterer I like for winter after buying several and hating them. I use a heated dog waterer with a wire encased cord and change the water daily. Not one hen has had frostbite or gotten sick during our winters. The eggs freezing are a pain in the neck, so I collect often during winter. My chickens seem healthy and very happy, and I don’t have to worry about burning my barn down (where my sheep also stay when they aren’t lying in the fields like little snow-covered lumps.) Cold hardy breeds are just that…cold hardy!

Cindy Reed November 11th, 2015

I have had chickens for 5 years now. We live in Colorado, which everyday the weather changes so drastically. We can have all 4 season’s in 1 day. I do put a heater in my coop, along with warm water and have to change many time during the day when it is very cold out. We don’t let our girls out it is really windy on very cold days, until about noon. I offer them many varieties of different food. I just changed their food to a higher protein for the winter. Our girls are free range on 3 acres. We have never caged them and I don’t believe they would like it very much. I have had problems in the past with frostbit as well on the 3 Roosters we had. But the girls seem to do ok. We just introduced 5 new baby girls which are 3 1/2 months old to the flock. They are all doing great together so far. We are on day 4 with them together, tonight was the first time my son got the little girls to go in the coop with help. We were having to get them in the awning and carry them out to the coop until morning when they would all come out. I have put a timer on my light so they have a little more time during the day with daylight savings time just started. The big girls have been on strike for about a month now. I hope they start back up soon.

Dorothy November 30th, 2015

I have a question on breeder pens for cold weather. I’ve had chickens for YEARS, but want to start breeding my Dorkings. I’ve looked at a variety of outside pens, but seems my birds might get darn cold in Ohio with just 3 birds in each. The outside space I’m fine on. Easy to make a pen they can scratch in. But what size do I need for the protected space where they can BREED, roost & eat AND be comfortable? Some measurements I saw were 2’x2’x4′. Some were smaller. I’m thinking that size so they can move around without trashing it. Will 3 birds used to going out in all weather and in an unheated coop generally be ok in that? Money definately is a concern but I can manage plywood construction. Close the door at night? What about night ventilation? Will a few 1″ holes in a wall work? Any help will be appreciated as I need to get the pens done before bad weather hits here. Thanks everyone!

Lissa December 2nd, 2015

A few thoughts, just in case you aren’t aware. Dorkings are difficult to breed in a home flock for a few reasons. The first is that if you have the short-legged Dorkings, they sometimes have difficulty breeding naturally (the short legs can make it difficult for them to mount, so fertility may be lower). Second, the short-legged gene is fatal, so when you breed short leg rooster to short leg hen, about 25% of the chicks will die in the shell, the 25% that receive two copies of the dwarfing gene. Of those that live to hatch, about a third will have long legs. So very few, comparatively, will be the proper Dorking. I can’t really recommend cooping trios (meaning one rooster and two hens), either. I know breeders sometimes do that, but it’s just really not recommended to keep just two hens per rooster, as they tend to get feathers worn and broken, if not actually injured. They will also tend to be more stressed. We recommend about 10 hens per rooster to reduce stress on the hens. If you do choose to coop trios, be aware of the danger of injury, and be prepared to separate them, if needed, to give the hens a break. (Remember, a hen’s eggs will remain fertile after a mating for up to a couple weeks even after she is no longer penned with a rooster.) As for space inside, we recommend about 4 square feet per bird (so long as they have 10 or 12 square feet per bird outside). You can read all about basic chicken coop requirements for free here on our website. You don’t mention your exact budget, but you say that budget is a concern. Plywood construction… you’d think it would be inexpensive, but you can spend several hundred dollars per coop and pen, because you still need framing, roofing, fasteners, hardware cloth, roosts, nests, etc. Closing the door at night is basic best practice. If you have one larger coop housing one rooster and ten hens–rather than five small coops–it will be WAY less expensive. You might consider purchasing a basic small coop plan and costing out the materials list to get an idea. For instance, these chicken coop plans suggest the materials will range from $300 for a small 4 hen coop, or $700 for a larger one housing 10, depending on your location. So building five smaller coops would be more than double the cost of building a single large one! Hope that advice helps with your decision making. Please feel free to phone us at 888-460-1529 or email info at for more advice. We wish you the best of luck!

Sean Hale December 9th, 2015

Great helpful info. I’m in coastal Massachusetts, and we always get a a week or two of minus zero nights. My coop has no heat or light, and have always had plenty of eggs all winter. I made a tarp cover for my A frame coop which has a drop ramp exit. It’s never airtight in there, but it minimizes drafts. If I know the night is going to be extremely cold, I bring them in. I have a big cardboard box (I only have four birds) with a pole slid through 2 side holes. I line them up on the roost and close them in the box for the night in the basement. They go back out in the morning. This is only for maybe 5 or 6 nights a year. I’ve never tried warm food, but definitely will this year!

[…] many areas of the country, it’s gotten COLD out there in the mornings. But cold or not, your chickens will want to go out first thing. If you free range, that means you’ll have to get up and trudge to the coop in the frosty wee […]

Ann December 15th, 2015

My neighbor’s think I’m a little wacky anyway, so I’ve been stocking up on their bags of leaves they raked. My chickens don’t mind the cold, but do object to standing in mud or snow (here on Long Island). If they haven’t come out in snow for a day or two, I’ll shake out a bag or two of leaves onto the snow in their pen, and they like to sort through them for treats while they stand up off the snow. It also cuts down on the mud during the spring thaw, and are great added to the garden compost pile later.
As for heat, I do admit to using a ceramic bulb heater (no light, just heat) that’s on a thermocube sensor (comes on below 36 degrees only). This is enough to keep their water from freezing in the coop overnight unless temps outside get into the teens (rare here). Outdoors we use heated dog bowls if needed.

Duane December 15th, 2015

Good information i change my water daily I have 5 gallon bucket with nipples so it is easy for them to drink out of them and on the heating I use a heated blanket I have it on the wall behind the roost and I set it for a couple of hours and then it shuts off works really well and thanks for the article again

RanJo December 15th, 2015

Happy Chickens Lay Happy Eggs; A Vivrant Rooster Is Essential.
Corn, Lay Pellets, Wheat & Ground Soybean = Lots Lots Eggs
Fresh Water Essential & Good Wind Break in COLD WEATHER.
25 Lacy White Wynadote Hens, 1 Wynadote Rooster, 15 Muskovie Hens & 5 Drakes.
We get lots of eggs seaonally from the muskovies, eggs are superior in my opinion to chicken eggs. We let one hen duck hatch a brood of chicks for herd replacement and single sales. I love gathering fresh eggs with my Grandkids, They love it too…….

Barbara December 15th, 2015

Thank you !
It is nice to know that what I have been doing all these years has been correct. The only thing I do is leave a very low watt bulb on which provides very little heat. When the light has gone out they just cuddle up on perch or floor which they do anyway. We have Barred Rock’s
They love it outside even in heavy snow.
We have areas of shelter for variety this helps keep their curiosity active. We have been in the minus degrees and they love to find the sun they have several areas under trees lessen the snow doesn’t stay and they can still enjoy a cleansing dirt bath.

Elizabeth M January 2nd, 2016

Thanks for all this great information! Ti said “In the winter i use leftover bacon and beef grease to make my own suet food for the chickens by packing a baking dish with oatmeal and a bit of 5-grain scratch then pouring and stirring in the grease”. Sounds marvelous! Do you think the oatmeal should be cooked first?

Lissa January 2nd, 2016

No need to cook oatmeal or grains before mixing into suet. Remember, the way chickens naturally eat their grains is in a raw state, straight from the plant, while foraging. 🙂

Jenni January 5th, 2016

I use heated dog water dishes. They work great. I don’t put then it the coop afraid of fire. They have covered runs with plastic sides for the winter months, so I put them in the fun. Fresh water all the time. I also feel keeping them in the coops give moisture.
I’ve heard vasiline doesn’t work.

Lissa January 7th, 2016

Jenni, some people misunderstand the purpose of the vaseline. It does not prevent frostbite; it DOES help to keep the skin from being chapped. Chapped skin increases the chances of frostbite. Another mistake people make with the vaseline is to slather it on, as I mentioned, thinking it’s meant to keep the comb warm. It doesn’t do that. Again, it’s just something that helps keep skin from getting chapped, which will make it more vulnerable to damage from the cold.

Paula Thomas January 5th, 2016

You forgot “Don’t knit them sweaters”.

Lissa January 7th, 2016

Paula–haha! I’ve thought about doing a follow up to this post so I could talk about the sweaters. 🙂 The chicken sweaters are cute, but you’re right: they’re no help to keep your chickens warm, and in fact may do more harm that good in that regard. Chickens fluff their feathers up to stay warm in cold weather; it creates a larger layer of air between the cold air outside their feathers and their skin. That downy fluff toward the bottom of their feathers is quite insulating! But the sweaters may prevent them from being able to fluff their feathers correctly. There ARE good uses for the sweaters, though. For hens going through a hard molt during cold weather–or for rescued factory farm hens dealing with cold weather–they can help. Such hens often don’t have enough feathers to keep themselves warm, so the sweaters can get them through until their feathers grow back in. So sweaters are not ALWAYS a bad idea. Just mostly a bad idea. 🙂

Reed Coles January 6th, 2016

I just have to say that the number of comments is nothing less than amazing. I am so convinced that I’m in great company with my little flock of gorgeous girls and a boy. I simply love them. You do a great job!

Sara January 14th, 2016

We live in Appalachian Ohio, where it can get mighty windy and cold (zero degrees or colder) in the winter. I’ve been raising chickens for eggs since 2011. In my experience, chickens who have heat during the winter are happier and better off than those who don’t because they aren’t wasting precious energy to stay warm. When we renovated our chicken barn in 2013, we had the new barn wired for electricity, and our electrician installed radiant heat panels in the barn ceiling for the chickens. Our avian vet told me that zoos use the same panels to heat exotic birds during the winter. The panels are equipped with thermostats, so we can set them to switch on only when it gets below a certain temperature. The four heat panels in the barn use a total of 1600 watts of electricity — about as much as one space-heater. Also, they don’t get hot and so are not fire hazards. The chickens enjoy standing or roosting under the panels on cold days and nights. I have 3-year-old hens who are still laying well, and I am sure that having heat during the winter is one reason why. Our new girls, who began laying this past August, have laid every day through the winter so far. No feather-picking problems or frost-bitten legs or combs. The heat panels are also a big help for our 6-year-old hens and nearly 7-year-old rooster, who have some arthritis in their legs that our avian vet said was caused by frostbite when a former owner didn’t give the birds heat during the winter. (BTW, I realize that we’re taking the risk of depending on electric heat, which would shut down if we have a power outage — but we’re fortunate to have a propane-fueled generator that kicks in when that happens.) I would recommend heat panels to anyone who keeps chickens in a northern climate. (Not to mention that they also make the barn a much more comfortable place for us humans who take care of the birds!)

Lissa January 19th, 2016

If you have a generator to kick in if the power goes out–and you’re using a fire-safe heating system–some heat to keep the worst of the chill out will certainly help them conserve energy, you’re right! And of course it will also be nice when you walk in your coop to do chores. However, most people keeping a small flock don’t have the luxury of a generator, or even of a walk-in coop. 🙂 It sounds like you’re doing it right for your situation, though. More power to you!

Elke January 23rd, 2016

I just read through nearly 4 years of comments in one sitting! Lissa, thank you for a wonderful site! Question: I just adopted a group of 4 last week – 1 big barred rock (Big Dot), 2 americaunas (or something like it, one nearly as big as Big Dot, one medium size – Cookie & Brownie), and a little white leghorn (Henny Penny…there’s always 1 henny penny!). They came from a big (120+) flock where the owner had a total loss house fire and most of the chickens got rescued/re-homed. Anyway, the little leghorn came to me with a jacket on – the lady I got her from said she’d either been bullied by others or was molting. I took the jacket off today and saw that she’s got a few totally bald spots on the breast, but she’s also pretty skittish so was hard to catch her & really prod. How bald is too bald? Ie, do you think she needs a jacket? The skin is definitely red (I live in Vermont though, and it’s been very cold lately – single digits – but I have a heat lamp suspended from the ceiling of a smallish tarp covered – straw baled coop/run), but it looks like new fathers are coming in? there are little white dots/sprouts (unless it looks like that when they fall off?) I’m thinking a little vaseline might not be a bad idea, and i was going to repurpose an old knit hat for a sweater until i read through everything here…thoughts? THANKS!

Lissa January 25th, 2016

Congrats on your new birds! From your description, it does sound like her feathers are coming back in. That said, it’s difficult for me to venture a good opinion of whether the sweater will help her or not when I can’t quite see how much feather loss she’s got right now. If her skin is red, there’s probably some irritation there. But whether it’s from being picked at, whether it’s from mites (which can also cause feather loss), or whether it’s from chapped skin from the cold, I’m just not sure.

Generally speaking, mites tend to cause loss on the back and near her bottom, not on her breast. It’s a good idea to check her, anyway, though, because if she has mites, you’ll want to treat her for them. (FYI, for a skittish chicken, you can usually handle them pretty easily if you wait to pick them up after they’ve settled down to sleep in the coop. They’re usually docile in the dark.) So… what to do? It’s really a personal call. Keep in mind that leghorns aren’t usually cold hardy. Her comb will be vulnerable to frostbite. And if she has been picked on, she may not have been eating right (bullied birds are sometimes driven away from feeders, when there’s not enough space for everyone at once.)

For me personally, I think I’d go without a sweater. You may decide to use the sweater a little longer, since you can see how bald she is. My reasoning is that the sweaters can really make it difficult for their own feathers to warm them efficiently, and since it *sounds like* she’s just missing a few spots, I’d rather have the rest of her plumage to help protect her. And unless it’s wool–which insulates wet or dry–it has the potential to get wet and actually make her far colder. I’d also be sure the new flock has extra feeder space–perhaps more than one feeder–and that I’m providing some high-calorie foods so they can develop some body fat and have plenty of energy to keep themselves warm. So, some suet or scratch might be a good idea as a supplement to their regular diet.

Finally, do be careful and double triple quadruple check the safety of your heat lamp setup. We heard about another coop fire from a heat lamp again last week. 🙁

Amanda January 26th, 2016

We made gravity waterers and feeders out of 5 gallon plastic buckets. Works pretty good so far. This is our first winter with chickens. We made our coop and run underneath or porch which has wooden lattice. We covered from the inside with tarps. Their coop is a large dog box but most prefer to roost on top or on perches. Some chickens roost on the dog box some roost in the make shift nesting boxes (an old bathroom vanity turned on its side w/o the sink). Since it’s winter the run is completely covered minus some ventilation at the tops. Chickens seen happy. Still getting eggs just not as many. -Greenbrier County, WV

Lissa January 28th, 2016

Greenbrier County is so beautiful! I’m west of that county (but still in beautiful WV). Good luck with your birds!

Susan January 27th, 2016

can you give chickens bird suet blocks in their coop as a treat?

Lissa January 28th, 2016

Yes, you can! We’d recommend using a suet feeder to keep the block out of the bedding–and if you can find a suet block designed for chickens like the chicken suet blocks we carry, they are especially good. (Those designed for chickens often have mealworms as a component, and a higher protein content than those used for wild birds.) Still, any suet block will work as a winter supplement. We even have a basic make-your-own suet recipe in our book, the My Pet Chicken Handbook. 🙂

[…] cold. Chickens acclimate to the weather gradually, and a heater can just throw them off. There are a lot of things NOT to do when preparing your chickens for cold weather. DO make sure your coop is draft free since drafts and moisture can be the most likely issues to […]

Liz February 12th, 2016

I’ve had chickens many years. The first year I had only a handful and when we had two weeks hitting negative 20s at night, I took them to the garage. The next year it was only in the negative teens and I put a tarp over the coop which raises the temperature a couple of degrees, and then I put in a heated dog bowl which kept the coop around 20F. The girls will sit and sleep in the heated bowl, so it’s hard to use it to give them fresh water. It was 58 out as a high last week, and tomorrow is going to be -10 with a weather warning for freezing wind chills and frost bite warning. I am going to set up their heated dog bowl. Being a low of 33 at night for three weeks and then the expected low of -10 with -40 wind chills the coldest of the season so far, is not temperature trends that would warrant one to assume their birds were acclimated to the weather. Those sudden drops in temperature will do a bird in. It’s the same as a heat source suddenly failing. I don’t know what makes people think that the type of temperatures that kill humans and pets won’t kill chickens, but I expect it’s the type of person who doesn’t mind eating the birds found frozen solid the next morning.

Lissa February 17th, 2016

Absolutely, Liz! That why I pointed out that “The only time I heat my coop is during a sudden, precipitous drop in temperature, just to help ease the transition…” 🙂

Janet February 18th, 2016

Ihabe15 7 day old chicks in my house in a brooder. I plan todrop temp 5 degrees each week until temp is 75 degrees
It will still b cold here in ny’s hudson valley. How should i transition the girls to their outdoor coop?

Lissa February 29th, 2016

Hi, Janet! We have some great advice on how to safely transition your brood to an outdoor coop on our website. I hope that link helps!

Jim Sims March 19th, 2016

Greetings Lissa from Colorado. ISSUE: I am trying to decide what breed(s) to buy for my backyard flock. LOCATION: High elevation in Colorado. Our climate gets very cold for 4 months I need a hardy winter breed with smaller combs & wattles less susceptible to frostbite (shorter combs). PREDATORS – We have our predators (hawks, coyotes) so I need a quick, alert bird that can take care of itself. I want darker colored birds that don’t show up so easily. OBJECTIVES: egg production first (friends & family only), eventually meat when they get old. BROODING – some decent ability to reproduce their own. Suggestions? I recently learned about Partridge Chanteclers but cannot find them.

Lissa March 20th, 2016

Chanteclers ARE a good choice. If you can’t find them available, Buckeyes are a good choice, too. I’d also recommend Wyandottes. They are beautiful, and have small, rose combs which make them quite cold hardy. They lay lots of eggs (brown), too! Easter Eggers, Favaucanas and Ameraucanas are also good choices, laying blue or green eggs. However, these last three tend to lay well, but not outstandingly. 🙂 If egg production is a priority, Wyandottes might be the way to go, simply because on top of being hardy and laying well, they’re reasonably easy to get a hold of, and they come in many different plumages. We do have another blog post where you can read more about our recommended Top Five Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds–you might enjoy that! Last, if you’re set on a breed you don’t seem to be able to find available, we have a couple tips that might help you reserve some. You can read about the best two ways to secure “sold out” rare breeds on our blog.

Karen April 3rd, 2016

I was wondering about ventilation. I currently have tarp material stapled over open rafters in my coop, I have left the front and back edges unsecured about 6 inches for ventilation but am able to close it up if needed. I was wondering if that was the best way to ventilate (through the roof) or if there was some better way? I had the coop all prepared for winter last year but lost my girlies to a stray dog in the fall, so have never actually wintered any birds.

Cheryl July 16th, 2016

This will be my first winter for the girls.
I live in the northeast corner of washington state.
It can get 15 to 20 below zero here. I am appreciating all the hhelpful hints and suggestions anyone gives me, as well the tips I have read other comments thanks.

Patricia Needels August 20th, 2016

Says I posted my last remark before and did not include it.

e. swann August 30th, 2016

hot water freezes faster than cold, folks.

Franceska October 21st, 2016

What’s your opinion on lighting the coop? Our girls are only 25 wks old so just starting to lay now; I don’t have to worry about molting but I kind of wanted to keep them laying and some light for heat.
Our waterer has a heater with it, is this a bad idea for the coop?

Lissa October 24th, 2016

Personally, I go without winter light in my coop in most circumstances. However, plenty of people do add some to keep them laying. You can read our advice about adding light to the coop at the link in this answer. As for a heater for your waterer, those don’t usually provide enough heat to be considered a coop heater. If the power goes out, it will be a little colder, perhaps, but not so drastically that it’s likely your flock will suffer. As with all electrical items in the coop, be careful as to fire hazards.

Ronda November 19th, 2016

Our first winter with chickens. Front Range in Northern Colorado 5000+ ft elevation. It was 84 degrees the other day and now 15 degrees after a storm came through the next day. Our 9 hens and 1 rooster (oops) are about 25 weeks. We are getting 5 eggs nearly every day…I hung a curtain separating their laying boxes from the rest of the coop and blocking out the light from the window. Home built coop…insulated and with 3X12 vents on the east and west sides of coop…and using the deep litter method…they turn it nicely but at least once a week I give it all a deep turn. I have a string of battery operated led lights inside on a 6 hour on timer…comes on 3:30 am…We also have a nice sized run with a fenced top. Having some condensation over night. Frost on the inside of the south facing window this morning…even though we kept it cracked open all night. Worried that we should not deprive our flock of water for 12+ hours…or expose them to the below freezing temps all night…the window is roost height. We lock them in around 5:30 pm at dark and open up again around 6am. We have read many forums with conflicting opinions…some say never put water in coop over night…others say they need fresh clean water readily available. We are fearful of leaving the door and ramp open all night (perhaps a solution to the condensation)…raccoons and fox are abundant…not sure our run would hold up to an all night attack. What are we doing or not doing that we should or shouldn’t be doing? LOL!:P Also, thanks for the ideas of petroleum jelly on combs…already did smear some salve on one of the hens combs…looked like the rooster got a bit rough on her..anyway…seemed to help and will keep in mind with the dropping temps. I give the girls and rooster cogburn warm oatmeal with bananas or apples on cold mornings..We feed them scratch and meal worms and produce trimmings…and they get to free range our 1/3 acre back yard….gonna get them a xylophone for christmas! They are really spoiled! But I thank them every morning for the eggs and cuddle with them when they’ll tolerate it. Rooster Cogburn has attacked the 3 yr old granddaughter a few times now…His days may be numbered…
Any ideas?

Lissa November 21st, 2016

So sorry to hear one of your roosters is acting aggressive! We go into detail about how to deal with aggressive roosters here on our website. Chances are your granddaughter is unknowingly doing something that the rooster finds threatening. Teaching her how to interact with chickens may help, but definitely keep him away from your little one until the aggression has been addressed. Roosters are not very big, but they can do serious damage, and your grandchild is definitely the first priority to keep safe! Some roosters are just aggressive no matter what you do, so you may ultimately need to rehome him.

Jacquie November 23rd, 2016

Hello, I have a Transylvanian Naked neck and she barely has any feathers on her neck since she looks like a small valture with no feathers so my question is can I put petroleum jelly on her neck so she doesn’t get chapped skin. Thank you

Lissa November 28th, 2016

The comb and wattles are erectile tissue and more prone to chapping. However if you observe that your naked necks are struggling with the cold, you might use a lotion, sparingly applied.

WB November 28th, 2016

Per keeping the water from freezing during the winter:

I use for the water one of those large storage containers (the kind with the snap on lid) that is about 4 ft by 2 ft wide and 10 inches high. Cut 1/3 rd of the lid off at an end (the 2/3 rds cover prevents a lot of heat loss) and here is the “no-freeze” trick:

I had an old waterbed heater pad that fits perfectly under the bottom of the container. I keep the container on one side of the outside run, up against the bottom beam and the cord I ran out under the bottom of the run so the hens have no access to it.

For the very cold winters here I keep the temperature setting on low (65 degrees)and the water never freezes even when it hits 10 to 20 “below” 0.

When I want to clean, I just pick the container up and wash it out with the garden hose, put it back, and fill it up.

When the weather warms up, I just turn the pad off, remove it, and put it in storage for use in the next cold winter months only.

I live off the grid and operate by solar and generator so my electrical use I try to keep down. In that respect, the heater pad I have on a timer to come on at 4 AM and go off at sunset. When the hens go out of their coop after sunrise, no frozen water. (I have plenty of solar power to run the pad, everything else, and charge the batteries during the day)


WB November 28th, 2016

e.swann says above: “hot water freezes faster than cold, folks.”

Had that trick played on me in 7th grade. Was told that to me by another kid who was playing me for a fool. I did try it by putting hot water in the ice-cube tray and timing it. It took over twice as long to freeze. (I am sure that kid had a good laugh)

I asked my science teacher the reality of that one. I was told freezing takes place “strictly” by the loss of BTU’s from the water. Cold water has less BTU’s to loose to reach the freezing point. Hot water takes much longer to loose it’s many more BTU’s to reach the freezing point. So what e.swann said is 100% false.


paula mchugh December 2nd, 2016

Hi everyone.
I live in the north of England and probably the lowest temperature is -6 so not too bad.

I only began keeping hens in May – beginning with 3 ex-battery hens who are now in beautiful condition. I also recently acquired 3 miniature silkies who needed a home.

My issue with winter is the lack of daylight hours as I work full time-although off sick at the moment. How does everyone who works arrange their day as far as cleaning out and feeding etc, please? Is it ok to move the girls out and clean when it is still dark in the morning? They all generally cuddle up in the nest boxes and so the poop needs moving every morning. They free range in my secure garden during the day and have lots of sheltered areas and food stations.

I know that I am soppy with my animals- I have 4 cats as well- but when I go back to work, they will have gone to bed before I get home-missing their afternoon treats. How do others manage this please? As I said, I know I’m very sentimental and soppy but I’m sure I’m not the only one. Am I? 🙂

Gail December 21st, 2016

This is the first year we’ve kept chickens over the winter. We are in Wisconsin and regularly experience nights below 0 degrees. So we moved them into a shed, sheltered from the elements, lined their bedding with lots of straw, and have a water heater.If it goes below 0 degrees F for more than a day, we turn on the heat lamp. Every day we give them scraps and fresh feed. So far so good! they aren’t laying, but they seem healthy and fine:)))we aren’t even giving them the chance to go out into the snow: spring will happen soon enough.

Aggie endres December 29th, 2016

I have a roosters thAt sleeps in the big goat pen Laying with the ducks at night he won’t come in. My concern it gets cold in the twentys and below however not consistent. Should I be concerned. I have several barns he can go but doesn’t

Lissa December 30th, 2016

If you think your goat pen isn’t sheltered enough for your rooster, you’d be right to have concern. I don’t know what the pen is like, so I can’t give you good information about that, but I can say that generally you want your coop to be dry, secure against predators, and ventilated but not drafty. If you think he’d be better off in your barn, you’ll have to teach him where home is, and shut him in the coop or barn for a few days as described above. Do keep in mind that if you have multiple roosters and not enough hens, those on the lower end of the pecking order may prefer to roost away from the flock, because the head rooster may be driving them away. If that’s the case, it may be more peaceful to allow him to stay in the pen with your goats. Just make sure that wherever he stays, he has appropriate shelter.

Marina Kuchar January 2nd, 2017

I use the candle heater underneath the waterer. It is a flat device that heats candle wax to melt and smell without burning actual candle. I cover it with a metal garbage can lid and put a waterer on the top. It never freezes.

Clean water is a key for chickens’ health. When I add or change water, I always wash the waterer from the slime and dirt with a brush.

lisa January 6th, 2017

I use a heated dog water bowl for my coop I put chicken wire over the cord leading to outlet it works great they don’t bother it

[…] was too cold for my Chick Pack juveniles to play in the snow, but my older girls loved it! I don’t force them outside when it’s cold, but I leave the door open and let them venture out if they feel up to […]

Donna March 12th, 2017

My husband has brought are pet rooster in the house during the day because it’s -23 outside now he wants to let him go back out into a freezing barn for the night will he be alright if he’s been in a warm house for 12 hours to go back out?

Lissa March 14th, 2017

I wouldn’t do that—if your house is 70, that’s a 93 degree difference in temperature! You’ll have to gradually acclimate your chicken to the outside temperatures over a few days. Keep him in an area where you can adjust the temperature, and lower it by 5 or 10 degrees each day until such time as it matches the outside temps.

Joanne MacLellan April 22nd, 2017

Stall pellets! Are a perfect material for coops. I put down a layer several inches thick. Slowly it then turns to sawdust as the chickens soil it. The sawdust can last for quite a while. Then when odor is detected, time to change. It can last a month or more depending on quantity of birds. The sawdust composts quicker than shavings as the wood is already in tiny pieces. Make sure to only use animal grade, not the type to burn in stoves.

Lissa May 4th, 2017

I would be a little concerned that the sawdust would be too, well… dusty. That’s one reason we don’t recommend peat. Chickens are a lot closer to the ground than most other livestock you might normally bed on it. I’m something of a worrywort, though. Just be sure to keep an eye out to make sure they’re not developing any respiratory issues.

Madison May 20th, 2017

About chickens and snow….. Chickens are not designed for snow and if it’s too deep for their feet to touch ground comfortably and they’re at all heavy, flounder and get stuck. Just something to watch for if your chickens are out in deep snow — mine don’t care how deep the snow is if they have paths, but if anything causes them to fly off the path, they need rescue. Younger chickens new to snow often panic in just a few inches and if they happen to end up on, say, a brush pile, may refuse to travel through the snow to return to the coop.

A previous poster was concerned about a rooster who stays in the goat pen — I had a rooster who slept in a tree for 3 years, he survived sub-zero temps, ice storms, blizzards, etc. On rare occasions he sought more sheltered roosts when pending weather was exceptionally bad. If her rooster has other options available but stays in the goat pen, he’s probably comfortable there so no reason to worry.

Bri Allen September 19th, 2017

I will be moving my young chickens close to my house for the winter as they are at the farthest point away from my house currently. I appreciate the advice in this post and the comments following. I will particularly focus on not over-insulating my hens, protecting their combs, and ensuring their eggs don’t freeze–this was not something I had even considered so thank you for the tips!

Kathy Olding October 5th, 2017

Your rules only apply to certain area’s geographically. I live in Alaska in the Interior and I have to do some of the things you say NOT to do. If I don’t, my chickens will surely freeze or get frost bitten toes and combs. Been there, done that and I won’t do it again. If I cannot keep my chickens comfortable in our deep freeze during the Winter time till Spring I will not have them. Its not fair to the chickens to keep them cold just because your rules say to do those things. It all depends on where a person lives.

Lissa October 9th, 2017

Sure. It does vary depending on where you are and in areas of extremes in weather you have to use good judgment. I do point out exceptions to the general rules. Feel free to tell me if you think I could be clearer somewhere, and I will update!

Janet Hunter October 8th, 2017

Live in Indiana so the winters are cold. We were given two small roosters. Wondering how to keep them in the winter. They live in my husbands shop on top of a high beam that is used to pull engines. We have a barn but there are ferile cate in it and the chicken won’t go in there.
We give them grain and water every day. The beam is inside the shop near the roof, is this good enough or do they need a better shelter.

Lissa October 9th, 2017

Hi, Janet! I’m not sure what your husband’s shop is like, so I can’t really answer with any certainty. Is it heated? Well-ventilated? Do they have access to the outside? You can look here in our free chicken care ebook to see what sorts of features chicken coops in general should have, and that may help. Also consider that you want to provide them with nutritionally balanced feed. I’m not quite sure what you mean by grain, but if it’s designed for cattle rather than poultry, your birds are likely to eventually develop some nutritional imbalances.

Lyle October 25th, 2017

i have a well insulated coop i put twirly vents on roof piped to ceiling of coop and leave opening on top wall for ventilation and no heat
have water tank in coop with piping to nipple feeders i think there will be enoff heat from birds to keep from freezing if not will put floating tank heater in
i have 180 birds in a coop 12 x 40 live in Alberta Canada winter temp -10 to -35 F
loved your articals

Roger johnson October 25th, 2017

I have cold weather birds. Orpingtons but the rooster is the only one with a large cone. No one ever mansions that about the Roos. All in all a wonderful article. Thank you

Amanda Walker November 7th, 2017

Hi Was wondering if any one had info about the heated chicken preaches. They only come on if the temp gets below 0. This is my first winter with chickens and bought a heated preach. Wondering if any one had any comments about them. I am a we bit nervous about the winter. I live in Ont Canada and nights can get cold.

mickey visco November 8th, 2017

Hi very nice site here–some good thoughts and idea’s from many–nice job. Lissa thanks for answering all the questions as I have read through years of questions and answers right now.My story?… I bought 4 hens for my son in June as a present he wanted. This is my first year having hens ever. I live in Long Island and as Winter and cold weather is approaching was looking for some do’s and don’ts. We have only 4 chickens (2 Australops and 2 Americanus for breeds–we got them about 16 weeks of age in June)..I have a big back yard and bought a starter coop through a store that was about 6 x 2 small run underneath and 2 laying boxes and small roosting area. Originally I had a nice size run associated with this…about 50 x 3 feet.(Gave them the back of the yard basically)..then decided to just let them free range and only put them in the run while lawn was being mowed. I used mulch on the small bottom of the coop area and Wood chips in roosting area and boxes. About a month ago I decided to move this coop to under a tree house I made years ago (This was a big tree house 10 feet in the air) I Figured more protection for them in snow–rain) I then made a cinder block base which has a 3/4 inch plywood (Pressure treated) on top of the cinder blocks… then had a heavy duty 4×8 (Home Depot garage rubber matt) attached to the top of this. I now use about 2 inches of wood chips on bottom of the coop on top of this matt. The past 3 months— I have gotten used to cleaning this by hand (Boxes and bottom for poop) every day and just add in more chips daily…(a handfull or two)..almost like a litter box… this bad–or are these hens just spoiled?? The hens seem happy and are laying a 2 eggs a day amongst them. I was also thinking about putting up some 8 x 10 heavy duty tarps on the North and East side underneath the tree house to protect them from heavy wind or snow–thoughts? as in Long Island our big storms come from those directions.

Also I enjoyed many of the idea’s for keeping the hens happy with Cabbage an a string…etc….just wondering if there is anything I might be missing as the colder air is showing up….thought taking them off the ground (about a foot or so) and under the tree house would provide protection from the snow and mud.


Lissa November 14th, 2017

As long as the coop stays clean, really, how often you choose to clean it should be based on what’s convenient for you. So if you want to clean a little every day rather than week by week, that’s fine! Protecting them from the worst of the wind is also a good idea. Their feathers are very insulating; they keep the hens’ body heat against their bodies. But strong, cold winds can ruffle their feathers and blow that heat away, so a little wind protection can really help!

Donald dukette November 11th, 2017

Hello I live in Vermont ,cold nights ,my coop is about 18 inches off the ground it gives them a place to relax in the summmer but is it a problem to have that open area below them in the winter

Kristin Berry November 12th, 2017

Hi all! So glad i found this blog. I have 4 silkies and 3 black sex links. How do these breeds do as winter birds? As of right now in central NY its lows of teens and low 20s and ive had a heat lamp in thier coop. They do not have any insulation on thier coop yet. Im just wondering what is to much, should i kill the heat lamp and just put some hay bales around the coop to insulate? Brand new chicken mama so im a little lost in it all.

Lissa November 14th, 2017

If they’re used to a heat lamp and you want to remove it, try to transition them slowly. You don’t want to shock their systems with a sudden drop! If you want an evaluation of your set-up, best would be to call 888-460-1529 or email That way we can ask questions about your coop and the climate in your area of the country, and give an informed answer about what may work best.

rockhead November 22nd, 2017

I have a 5 gal. plastic bucket with 4 nipple drinkers in the bottom. I use a fish tank heater to keep water from freezing, and it cuts off at 75 degrees.

anna Holden November 30th, 2017

I have never heated my coop, and it does get pretty cold here at least the wind chill does. Have had only one time that one of our hens got frost bite. If I give them some extra light, I use a battery operated light, so there’s no fear of a fire starting. To keep them warm, I cover their coops at night with 3M plastic and blankets and use straw, but leave enough space for them to get plenty of room for ventilation. Have never had a problem with any of them getting sick .

Jami Vance December 27th, 2017

We are finishing our coop with no time to spare. It sits about 4 feet off the ground with the run going under the coop. We put vinyl floor on top of the plywood and I plan to use da, shavings and hay on top,of that. I’m concerned about them staying warm Also I keep reading water in or water out.

BirdLover January 2nd, 2018

Hi we live in colder upstate NY and we hang a fairly thick mil plastic sheet over the door with approx. 1 foot cut out at the bottom. This keeps the cold air from really getting into the coop, while still allowing the chickens access in and out through the door. We also put salad greens in a holder (similar to a suet holder, only a bit larger in the openings, which is made for chickens). It helps to keep them busy when bad weather sets in.

Nancy January 4th, 2018

I’m worried that my french moran hens (4) will get frost bite when the temperature plunges to below zero. I’d like to bring them inside,but my son says that it would be bad for them to have to re-adjust to fluctuating temperatures. Their coop is not that well insulated.

Maren January 8th, 2018

Hi! I live in North Dakota and I plan on raising a pair of chickens this spring. This will be my first time raising chickens and I don’t when it is safe to let them outside because it can get cold up here and when I say cold I mean REALLY cold. I’ve seen the temp exceed -70 with windshields and the winds can be pretty violent too. I know that raising chickens is possible here because I live in a farming/ranching community; I just don’t know how to keep my chickens warm and safe… please help!

Maren January 8th, 2018

Also, could anyone refer me to a website that sells sterdy coops for really cold winters? I really have almost no idea what to do here…

Lissa January 10th, 2018

Hi, Maren! We sell chicken coops and chicken coop plans.

BARBARA SEARLE January 10th, 2018

Keeping Combs from frost bite, I use a product for my dogs pads(it protects them from Salt in the winter and hot asphalt in the summer.I also use it on my horse, it not only helps with cracks on their hoof, I use it inside the ears to keep biting flys off. It’s called “Musher’s Secret” it’s made with 100% natural Waxes, it’s non toxic, non staining, safe and easy to use. It is not slippery like Vasline. I bought it at Eastern Mountain Sporting Goods store. It’s made in Canada by Preservo Products Inc.1485 St. Elzear Quest, Suite 301, Laval, Quebec, Canada H7L 3N6

Tee Smith January 12th, 2018

I live in the interior of Alaska (close to Fairbanks and North Pole) where it gets as cold as -50° F. We use a battery pad to keep the water from freezing and safer than some other options out there for an Alaskan coop. We use to use heat lamps in our coop, but not long ago we lost our coop and all but 8 of our chickens to a fire caused by heat lamps. if anyone has any suggestions for extreme cold weather, please let me know.

Lissa February 1st, 2018

So sorry to hear about your flock! This coop heater is a safer type, and might help you.

Naomi March 8th, 2018

When you say 4 square feet per chicken does that include the area used by feeders, nest boxes, etc? Or must one increase the floor size for these items?

Lissa March 29th, 2018

It depends on the type of feeder/waterer. Some are mounted on walls, for instance, or take up negligible space. Some fountain waterer systems are also mounted. But if you have a traditional feeder or waterer, you’ll want to provide a little extra space, or else place the feeders/waterers outside in s sheltered area. Some small coops, for instance, are sort of set on stilts, and there’s room underneath the coop to place them. (Don’t place feeders where the feed will get wet in a rain!)

Frederick T Pyatt April 25th, 2018

My chicken an old horse box with no back on it so my flock are open to all kinds of weather al the year and yes they are all getting on in age.

FarmerJohn's_Wife May 19th, 2020

My 16 chicks are still in a box in my garage. The old pump house is being turned into a coop. Next project is making my outside run. Wisconsin winters are so unpredictable. My last batch of birds loved going outside; There was a heavy tarp on one side, coop on another and I wrapped the other 2 sides with poly. Plenty of ventilation…the roof had a few incheds of open space to allow for air/moisture exchange. The run never had snow – dry all winter long and they were out of the wind.

Roxy stutch February 11th, 2021

Great article – thank you.

When the ground is frozen or snowy I also like to throw down some straw, the girls love to have something to scratch at outside, Especially if you put some seed through it. I have also been know to give them the odd treat of a fat ball (like you would give wild birds) helps them maintain some calories in the cold winter months and provides a lot of excitement and entertainment!

Bradley August 18th, 2021

I live in Northern Alberta (Canada) and it gets very cold. I know you said not to heat the coop but should I? It can get to -40 Celsius and Fahrenheit at night.
Thanks for the great article.

Krista Richardson January 6th, 2022

My chickens want to stay in their run at night, few hours inside the coop. The run is only covered with tarps and the ground has bedding layered in it. So far, so good. It’s 12 degrees f out right now, a high of only 21 today, and everything in me wants to add heat to their coop. But they’ve acclimated perfectly to the cold weather on their own. I am putting the heated mat inside their coop today that I got for when they were babies in the spring. They all used to huddle around it like they were freezing back then. I’m so thankful for this blog since I don’t have a lot of other chicken owners to talk to. It helps to know what everyone else is doing and how the chickens are responding.

annie January 11th, 2022

our temps are 3 degrees with wind chill as low as 22 below so I lock them in on those nights it gets to 20 in their coop with a light on. I usually leave the door open so they can go out if they want but a couple of nights and days I kept them in.

Sharon Orlet February 4th, 2022

Thanks for the article and all your comments.
I use oatmeal in winter, St Louis 18o today. I add barley or diced apple, peanut butter and banana, and even lentils at times. Last nights’ scaps, all warm. I tried the popcorn in mesh-tethered-to-a rope; it will take them at least an hour to try it out. I have to 2 waters that have heat. The plastic one that has to be turned over to fill which is a lot of trouble. The metal one with a separate heated base is easy to refill, and I add some apple vinegar for mites. diatimaticous earth and lime are scattered under straw in the run and coop.
I put curtains in the doorway to keep the coop warmer during the day while they come in and out of the coop– in the summer i tied them back, so they would get used to them, and in winter the hens just push through them.
My coop has plastic for winter, with a foot on the top free to let the moisture out and the fresh air in. There are 9, so far they seem pretty kind to one another. I keep them in the run-and-coop now except on weekends.
They had torn up all the grass. In March, with new grass, I’ll try only letting them out a few hours a day.

Jaynie Gilgenbach February 23rd, 2022

We use a thermostat controlled heat lamp on our 55 gallon water barrel.

Cher March 17th, 2022

To keep my water from freezing here in Wisconsin I lay one 16 inch paving block on the floor then put 2 cement blocks on top with the holes up. I put a light bulb in one of the holes and put another paver on top. I set the waterer on top and it keeps it from freezing unless it gets extremely cold.

[…] Good cold weather chickens can be allowed to decide when they want to stay in or come out. You might think that your chickens won't want to go outside in the snow, and sometimes that's true. Some of your chickens will hate it, and will stay inside most of the day, but others won't mind it at all. via […]

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