We’re having a winter day on the homestead today…Yey! It’s been snowing since late this morning but it’s one of those wet snows that just makes more mess than mass! You know you’ve become a farm girl when you’re outside taking care of the critters and enjoying it so much ya look for more little projects to get into out there and are enjoying it.
As soon as temps start to dip, so many ask how do I keep my chickens warm, should I add heat in chicken coops. I’ll start by saying that I’m not an advocate of heating chicken coops. My response….. DON’T heat your coops!!!
When I decided to start raising chickens, I wanted to do it the old way, the way they were kept way back when and as if I lived off the grid. Chickens have been around forever and there was never heat in their coops, heck they’d be lucky to have a coop that didn’t even have drafts and be predator proof…
The problems with using heat in a coop ranges from dangerous to unhealthy (for the chickens). There’s countless stories of a heat source causing fires, and some of these are “lucky” enough to just take out the coop, the less fortunate lose coop, livestock and other structures located nearby. The tragedies are real folks. There’s just too many flammables in coops….Most are built out of wood, bedding consists of pine shavings and/or straw, some have other flammable materials in them, heating elements or lights are usually in close proximity and while on the subject of heat lamps, I’ve heard of some just shorting out or the bulbs exploding so all in all to me it’s just not worth taking the risk. The other is the health of the chickens. Chickens have an internal body temperature of 108 degrees (Fahrenheit) and you simply cannot equate your own comfort level of warmth or cold to theirs. When a chicken is housed in a heated coop and then has to go outside to the cold/frigid temperatures it’s a shock to them. Think of taking a hot house plant and sticking it outside, it won’t last long, or go from the warmth of your home outside without any cold weather apparel on. So when chickens are going from hot to cold with no way to acclimate, it sets the scene for sick chickens.
When in their coop, they huddle together creating even more heat AND humidity, which brings up another question about sealing up the coop……..the answer to this also is No! As mentioned, chickens create their own warmth and humidity and the waste that does its own composting (especially with deep litter methods ) when combined with high humidity breeds high ammonia which can create respiratory issues for the little critters. Deep litter can consist of pine shavings or straw. Actually when I started I used pine shavings but have switched over to straw. I personally prefer it especially in winter since the hollow straw shafts hold heat so the combination of that and the natural composting of waste also generates some heat.
The best thing you can do when constructing your coop is to provide a dry, draft free and well ventilated enclosure. Vents should be placed up high, above the highest roost so that when the chickens roost air coming in isn’t hitting them. Vents can be as simple as a hole/opening cut up towards the roof with hardware cloth over it to keep out small predators, or under eaves vents.
I have heard from some who live in extremely cold regions that they’ve added insulation in their coop. Just a word of caution on this, don’t have it located within reach of your chickens so they can can peck at it. Another alternative is to stack straw bales against the coop.
Another thing you can do is add draft curtains. If you have a window(s) in your coop, chances are it’s single pane. If you notice a lot of condensation on the inside of the window(s), this is a sign of heat loss from your coop. Curtains or some other temporary covering on them works great and keeps the “toastiness” (yep that’s a word…well in my world anyway…) in. If there’s a pop door allowing the chickens to go in and out on their own, a draft curtain can be a huge help with keeping gusts of wind out. Any of these coverings/curtains can be quick and easy to make and most times from materials you already have on hand 🙂 I’ve provided some instruction and photo regarding these. And these curtains look really cute and the chickens love ’em
So in an eggshell, the best thing to do when the temps dip in winter:
To make draft curtains for the pop door, I like to use what I have around when at all possible. I had a small curtain rod with brackets and material that was left over from the nest box curtains I made, cut two pieces, turned over two inches or so along the top to make a rod pocket this way I could tie back each panel with a short piece of ribbon I threaded through a U-shaped nail hammered into the coop wall. You could also do no sew curtains by just stapling the top to the coop and just cutting up the center to tie back. I like to tie them back when the weather gets nicer cause well…..they’re just super cute!
Have an Outstanding Day
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