Raising chickens and warming up their coop isn’t as challenging as you think, even without electricity during the cold winter.
However, before we get to all the ways to keep your chickens warm during winter, we should first review how chickens stay warm on their own.
How Chickens Keep Themselves Warm
Our chickens are important to us, so of course, we worry about them in the colder months. However, when providing help, we don’t want to interfere with mother nature.
Chickens can regulate their body temperature, especially cold-tolerant breeds.
Their feathers act as a protective layer, trapping the heat to keep them warm. For an adult chicken, the ideal temperature is about 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they can still withstand lower temperatures and self-regulate their internal temperatures during the colder months.
The use of a heat lamp may do more harm than good.
As mentioned, chickens use their feathers to regulate their body heat and stay warm. They also huddle together both for security and to share in the warmth of each other.
Using a heat lamp can sometimes make them dependent on it. Chickens are even healthier without it, relying on the tools mother nature gave them to stay warm.
The same is true of the use of the popular chicken sweater. Chickens fluff their wings to trap heat, so wearing them a sweater prevents them from doing the activities to stay warm on their own.
Observe your chicken regularly and look for the signs they give off when they are cold.
When you see your chicken huddling in one corner or fluffing up their wings, then that’s your cue to take action. You may also see them standing on one foot while the other one is tucked up as close as possible on their stomach for heat.
Considering these facts, does this mean that heating the chicken coop is unnecessary? The answer is No. Although chickens can do quite a bit to stay warm on their own, as responsible owners, it is our job to give them a helping hand when needed. This is particularly important when the temperature drops to an unbearable level to ensure their health.
But it is good to remember these facts, so you don’t worry too much about having electricity running in your chicken coop.
9 Ways to Keep Your Chickens Warm in Winter When You Don’t Have Electricity Running To The Coop
Many chicken coops are located away from our main residences, so more often than not, we don’t have easy access to electricity. Not to worry, there are several easy ways to keep your chickens warm and cozy all winter long.
1. Relocate The Chicken Coop
Relocation doesn’t apply to stationary chicken coops, but there are many options if you have a mobile coop. Move or relocate the chicken coop in a place protected from the winter’s harsh and bitter wind. It would also be better to choose a location that receives a fair amount of sun to help warm the coop during the day.
2. Add Insulation
If you plan to build or renovate your chicken coop, especially as a preparation for winter, a well-insulated chicken coop is essential. It is beneficial not only for winter as this helps keep them warm but also in summer to keep them cool.
Below are some cheap materials you can use to insulate your chicken coop.
Styrofoam: Place Styrofoam between the studs on the ceiling of the chicken house. Most people choose this material because it is very suitable for trapping heat and blocking cold wind. Only use this method if your chickens cannot reach the ceiling as the chicken may peck on it and get destroyed eventually. Besides, swallowing it can also affect their health.
Cardboard or Carton Box: This is effective to block crosswinds, especially if there are drafts in your chicken coop at the same time keeping the heat inside. Cardboard is cheap and readily available. Tape it on the walls of your chicken coop or ceiling, but monitor it as much as possible because these can get wet and also flammable.
Straw. Most chicken owners spread straw on the chicken coop floor to use as insulation from the cold ground. You can also stack bales and place them outside near the entrance to block any drafts from getting in through the coop walls.
Fabric. Choose a thick, insulating material and attach it to the walls. Old clothes or towels can work in a pinch if you are on a budget. You can combine fabric with cardboard for better insulation.
Curtains. You can use some of your old curtains and put them in the chicken coop wall to block the bitter wind or use it to minimize the drafts on the chicken coop.
Nesting box liners. Add natural fiber nesting box liners in the winter months for added warmth where it counts – in the nesting box. The liners help to keep your hens warm and comfy while they are laying their eggs. As a bonus, the liners make your boxes super easy to clean!
3. Minimize Drafts
Regularly check and monitor the chicken coop for holes or gaps where chilling breezes can get through. Block any holes with plywood, cardboard, or other sturdy materials to prevent the wind from entering the coop. Insulation will not be as effective in a drafty coop.
As you reinforce the coop walls, make sure the coop still has adequate ventilation to allow moist air to escape. Ventilation holes should be placed near the top of the chicken coop where cold air cannot flow directly to the chicken.
4. Cover Their Pathway
The ground is cold, and when it snows it’s both cold and wet. This may prevent your chickens from wanting to venture outside to get fresh air and exercise. Both are important to your chicken’s overall health. To solve this problem, provide your chickens with a covered walkway, especially in areas with frequent snowfalls.
Create the path by scattering hay, straw, or woodchips. Wooden planks or other materials can also be used, just try to choose something that won’t easily get damp. This will help your chicken to engage outside more and adjust their body to the cold temperature and prevent their feet from getting cold and wet.
5. Deep Litter Method
A deep and loose litter can also add additional insulation inside the chicken coop. Choose a heavier first layer, about 3-4 inches. It can be straw, or wood shavings are a popular choice and provide excellent insulation. Continue to add an additional layer each week throughout the winter, cleaning it out in the spring.
6. Trap Sun Heat With Windows
Well-insulated windows are an excellent way to bring a natural source of heat throughout the day. The key to this is to keep the heat in the coop. Stone and concrete floors will absorb the heat then slowly release it throughout the day.
If you have a wood floor, you can use the Deep Litter Method since compost will also hold onto the warmth of sunlight.
7. Check Your Chicken Roosts
Chickens (just like people) like to keep their feet warm at night. Check your chicken coop at night to see how your chickens sleep – on the floor or in their roosts. Chickens naturally huddle together and fluff up their feathers to keep them warm.
If your chickens sleep on their roosts, make sure they are wide enough so they can cover their feet with their feathers. 2 inches is a good minimum so they can keep their feet flat and protected from the cold air.
In even colder temperatures, the chickens may huddle together on the floor. In this case, make sure there is enough room for all your chickens.
8. Keep Your Chickens Active
Just as your body warms up when you are exercising, the same goes for your chickens. So encourage your chickens to go out during the day by adding treats in the yard.
If the weather is too cold outside, you can also add fun activities inside. A chicken swing or ladder is a great feature to place inside the chicken coop. Not only does this give you more roosting space, but it also keeps your chickens active during the months when they can’t be outside all day.
Add feeding activities or games is another way to keep the chickens active during the way. Watch this video on hanging a cabbage on a string to see how much the chickens enjoy it. This could easily be set up inside the coop.
9. Offer Additional Food and Water
Offer your chickens additional food and water during the winter months. Eating and digestion generate body warmth, so you should feed them at least a few times a day. Your chickens also need the extra calories, since staying warm takes energy. An automatic feeder and waterers can be placed inside the coop to ensure food is available at night.
How to Keep Young Chicks and Eggs Warm
As mentioned above, chickens can withstand the cold temperature in winter, but young chicks cannot because they are more sensitive to cold, and their feathers are still small and soft.
As a rule of thumb, 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for the chicks for their first few days. They will not be able to withstand temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit until the fifth week. So using a heat lamp and a brooder is recommended when raising chicks.
Prevent Eggs From Freezing
Not only can cold temperatures affect your chickens, but they can also freeze their eggs. Place an extra thick layer of straw in the nesting boxes to insulate and keep the eggs warm. If your nesting box faces the outside, you can also add curtains to prevent excess cold air from getting inside.
Although chickens can withstand cold temperatures, you still need to provide a little help to keep them warm and healthy. In fact, there are many ways to keep chickens warm in the cold winter, even when electricity is not an option. Adequate insulation, increased food, activity, and smart coop design, just to name a few.
The most effective method is, of course, to plan and prepare before winter arrives. Then come up with a way to stay healthy during the winter. It is also essential to regularly monitor and observe the chickens’ condition and behavior to make changes as required.