One of the most important factors when it comes to caring for chickens is temperature control.
While this may not be a concern during the warmer months, as temperatures start to dip, you’ll need to make sure that your chickens are getting enough warmth, especially during the night.
If you want to know how to keep chickens warm at night, this article has got you covered. Keep on reading for more information and tips to keep the coop warm in chilly weather.
How Warm Should Your Chicken Coop Be?
Although chickens might look weak, they’ve been selectively bred for hundreds of years so that they’re hardy with a remarkably high tolerance to the extremes of weather, especially when it comes to the cold.
In ideal situations, the temperature inside a chicken coop should be anywhere around 70 to 75 degrees F (21.1 to 23.8 degrees C).
However, even if the temperature dips below the freezing point, chickens will still be able to tolerate the cold and even produce eggs.
While these temperatures are far from favorable to chickens, they can actually withstand temperatures that are as low as 10 degrees F (-12.2 degrees C) in some hardy variants.
Instead, you should try to increase the temperature of the coop in winter so it’s as close as possible to the optimal temperatures for chickens.
The Dangers of Extreme Cold on Chickens
Although chickens are hardy and tolerate the cold much better than us, extreme cold can still cause some trouble even if it’s tolerable by the chickens.
For example, even if the temperature is still within range, bacteria and microbes thrive in colder climates, which increases the risks of diseases inside the coop.
Moreover, frostbite is also a major risk even if the chickens remain inside the coop due to high moisture buildup in there. But more about the methods to avoid frostbites later in the article.
Can Chicken Go Outside in Cold Winter?
Since chickens have a very high tolerance to the cold, they can go outside the coop without worrying about it, especially during the day.
However, you need to make sure that they have free access to their coop and it remains warm and dry for them.
Chickens are built to overcome the extreme cold and they’ll head inside as soon as the temperature is below their comfort level.
Ideally, you should let them have continuous access to the outdoor portion of the coop every day, so they’re able to adapt to changes in weather between seasons.
Should You Use an Electric Heater to Warm Up the Coop?
Using a heater is the first thing that pops up in everyone’s mind when you need to warm up a chicken coop.
However, for most chicken keepers, heating isn’t always a necessity, especially that it comes with added expenses of electricity as well as the fire hazard with all the dry hay that is lying around on the floor.
Additionally, if the chickens get used to electric heaters and adapt to their presence, you’ll be at a major risk of losing many of the chickens due to hypothermia and shock if any power outage happens.
For that reason, unless you live in seriously dangerous cold climates that are constantly 10 degrees F, such as Alaska, most experienced chicken keepers will advise against using them.
How to Keep Your Chicken Warm at Night
Now that you know that direct heating isn’t always ideal for your chicken coop, here are 11 of the most effective methods to overcome the chilly nights and maintain the welfare of your chickens during the cold season:
1 – Seal Any Holes or Cracks That Let Cold Drafts in
Even if the chicken coop is well protected against the cold, holes and cracks in the wall can easily speed up the rate at which the heat inside the coop is lost. In other words, if there are tiny gaps in the wall, all efforts to keep the room warm will be in vain.
Of course, such an issue is usually more common in old coops where walls break down due to elements and expose weak areas.
Luckily, you can easily seal all these holes and cracks by using anything from plywood sheets to animal-safe sealants. Make sure that you check all the walls using light from the other side to find the tiny cracks.
2 – Have a Deep Layer of Litter in the Coop
Adding a layer of litter in the coop in winter is one of the most effective methods to insulate the coop’s floor and bedding. Moreover, the litter itself decomposes with time, producing some heat on its own.
To pull this one off, you only need to layer some pine shavings on the floor and let the movement of the flock stir up the litter with the organic matter.
In addition to keeping the flock warm, this method also helps in preventing lice and mite infestation, so it’s like hitting two birds with one stone!
3 – Minimize the Space in the Coop
One of the best ways to keep the temperature balanced inside a properly sealed coop is by using the internal warmth that is released by the chickens themselves.
While a larger coop is always great for summer heat, comfort, and scaling up your farm, too much space wastes a lot of warmth potential.
For that reason, some chicken keepers with large coops close off a decent portion of the coop during the winter. You can do that in a variety of methods, such as:
- Hanging sheets from the ceiling to the floor
- Stacking straw bales all the way to the ceiling
- Set up a temporary wall
4 – Create a Greenhouse Effect to Trap Heat Through the Day
If your coop gets enough sunlight during the day, you can capture this heating by installing some plastic wrap around the windows of the coop and keeping it sealed at night.
This method works like magic when combined with other methods and materials that retain heat as well.
5 – Provide the Chicken with Warmth-Boosting Meals
Supplying your chicken with continuous access to calorie-rich meals like corn is an excellent way to keep them warm at night, as they can enjoy one last meal before bedtime to stay warm.
6 – Install Light Bulbs inside the Coop
Light bulbs, especially incandescent bulbs, emit a lot of heat as a side effect of their low efficiency. While this might be inconvenient in many situations, it can be quite beneficial in this one.
By professionally Installing these bulbs in the coop, your chickens will enjoy some extra warmth and extend their egg-laying season without the risks of installing heaters in the coop.
7 – Maintain a Decent Ventilation in the Coop
Ventilation and wind draft are two different things. While having large holes can cause some serious heat loss during winter, a controlled mesh vent can actually benefit your coop.
Proper ventilation will ensure that humidity levels inside the chicken coop don’t soar up that it becomes uncomfortable or put the chickens in risk of frostbites. Moreover, it prevents the build-up of ammonia in the coop due to the accumulation of poop.
The ideal spot for a vent is in the roof because it circulates the internal air without letting too much cold air enter the coop at once.
8 – Apply Petroleum Jelly on Combs and Waddles
If your chicken species are known for their large combs and waddles, you might want to smear them with some petroleum jelly to insulate them from moisture and prevent frostbites.
9 – Provide Roosting Bars
One of the mechanisms that flocks of chickens use to stay warm is by roosting on the same bar together and fluffing out.
This way, they can stay warm and avoid direct contact with the cold ground. Some roosting bars might also come with an integrated heater for additional warmth.
10 – Add a Pecking Toy in the Coop
Although chickens don’t prefer to go outside if the temperature is too cold, they might resort to leaving the coop if they get too bored.
To encourage them to stay inside, you can hang a head of cabbage in the middle of the coop to keep them active.
This should also release more internal heat in the coop. Yet, you’ll always need to combine this technique with a continuous supply of food at night.
11 – Install a Water Heater
Last but not least, you should never underestimate the importance of keeping the water warm enough to drink. This is because cold water decreases the internal temperature of chickens.
Moreover, in extreme cold, the water might freeze, which cuts the chicken’s supply to hydration. To avoid that, you’ll need to install a water heater system.
The Bottom Line
There you have it! A brief guide that walks you through everything you need to know in order to keep your chicken warm at night.
As you can see, there are several techniques and tips to help you protect your chicken from cold nights.
However, the best way to pull this off is by combining some of these tips together. This way, you’ll provide a more pleasant and cozier environment for your chickens.
I have a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house. Growing up, I had pet dogs, cats, deer, sugar gliders, chinchillas, a bird, chickens, fish, and a goat.