Winter with Chickens: To Heat or Not Heat the Coop


Photo by Pixabay/gwscott

Chicken owners that live in cold climates often have to make some decisions when it comes to colder fall and winter weather.  One such dilemma is whether or not to heat your coop.  We live on Cape Cod, where we have windy winters and temperatures that occasionally dip below zero. The Cape is a man-made island surrounded entirely by the ocean. The ocean greatly affects our weather and causes us to experience small temperature fluctuations between day and night.  Snow fall varies from year to year.  Some years we have very light snowfall and others deliver a wallop of 2 feet or more.

One decision that people need to make just as important as personalities and egg color is weather hardiness.  I will never forget hearing that Martha Stewart one year wanted to add "exotic" chickens to her Connecticut flock.  She soon realized that they were not cold hardy.  They perished early their first winter.  All of our eight chickens are cold hardy, including the Silkies.  Choosing the right type of chicken for your environment is a very important factor not to be overlooked.

Chickens are birds and not mammals.  Their bodies, circulatory system, respiratory system, reproductive systems are different.  Therefore, we cannot assume that they interpret, adapt or react the same way as our mammal bodies do in the cold.

We do not heat our chicken coop.  Knowing that we do experience occasional power outages, we did not want our flock to become accustomed to an artificially warmed coop.  Tales of flocks perishing from lack of a heated coop after an extended power outage was just something that we did not want to encounter.

Happy chickens in the snow
Photo by Melissa Caughey

1/13/2021 9:09:48 PM

For the water situation with the freezing, I place a large rock in the container: this is a circular plastic one that is cheap to buy and so far the plastic has not cracked. In the morning, I take the container outside of the coop and gently bang it on the ground, then grab the rock and move it side to side to get it out. The ice falls out, then I fill the container with water. Here is another idea for the water that I have in troughs for the larger animals: I bought a sledge hammer, you can get a long or short handle one, and as you grab the top of the hammer, let the weight do the work and drop it into the tank to break the ice. Of course, make sure you still have a hold on the handle or else you will have to reach into the freezing water to retrieve it.

11/16/2015 9:45:13 AM

I do not heat my coops but do have a heater for water. Here it can get -25°easily in January and this year my one coop has a covered run as the snow fall averages runs around 220" which is around twenty five feet so no they do not want to come out. Also this is a very rural area with power outages. Have a generator but will not run it for chickens as I would need it more for running the heat for my house.

9/8/2015 5:14:41 AM

How the hell are you supposed to get vaseline on combs ?.. every night.. some struggle.. mine are not that tame. :D I noticed that frostbite on combs heals quickly once weather gets warmer.Chickens dont act like they actually suffer. Few races very prone to it having large combs. Like most Italian and Spanish races. Get your rooster off a breed with small comb. Silkies are not really weak with low temperatures but their "hairy" feathers are really bad with snow clogging up in them. Best of all races are home bred mixtures which over the years adapt to climate. I´m in a windy zone 4. Im letting my chicklens run about outside during winters days they have even learned to peck holes into thin ice. I once in the morning and once in the afternoon break ice on pond with icepick. They open the hole for themselves whenever needed..(while geese are to stupid..they come to momma and complain badly about the water going hard ;)

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