Chicken is different from other birds in nature. They live in the human-made coops/shelters and therefore are protected by the human being. Their wings are not covered with an extensive layer of grease to protect them from cold temperatures, in other terms, sub-zero ones. Their feather is not as good and dense to protect them from cold.
The owner must protect your chickens from cold weather, especially considering the already known cold weather climates.
There are several ways to protect the coop from cold weather as well as provide an additional source of heat and provide the optimum climatic conditions inside the coop. These ways are:
- Elimination of drafts;
- External heating.
As days become shorter, the chickens spend less time on the run and more time on the nest, trying to retain the internal heat and comfort. If the comfort conditions are not provided, then the chicken would start losing their weight and drop the production of eggs. These two factors are crucial in both domestic and commercial chicken coops.
However, elimination of drafts, insulation, and external heating should come with the proper ventilation even under severe cold days.
We will go item by item to explain the methods mentioned above to keep the chicken safe and warm. Their success in surviving winter and deliver eggs will turn out to be your success too.
Elimination of drafts in the Coops
The draft is probably the biggest enemy for your chicken, as it creates most discomfort in the coops.
Chickens breathe and deliver eggs inside the coops that create a lot of latent heat and, ultimately, accumulate moisture.
Cold drafts affect mainly the most vulnerable parts of chicken, e.g., chicken combs, beaks, throats, and feet. Drafts, together with excessive moisture, create an ice crust and displace the warm cocoon around the chicken. All of this created the most significant discomfort for the chicken.
Chicken usually perch at night that makes their throats, legs, and combs to be exposed to both moisture and drafts. It causes the frostbites, which are very detrimental to the birds.
Drafts mostly occur in the gaps, firstly indoor and window fenestrations and tents’ adjustments to the ground.
Over the years, the tarps will be worn out with some deterioration, such as holes, cracks, and the physical impact of hale and sun rays. These should be researched first. The pits and cracks can be easily fixed with special foils and adhesives.
This shall be carefully done sometime in September before cold days and before applying insulation to the structure.
As you can see, we have to fight the drafts and any uncontrolled ventilation in terms of drafts.
Even on a very cold day, the ventilation has to be provided for the coop to remove the excessive moisture and bring some fresh air in the coop. Under any circumstances, the housing shouldn’t be a tight box. The ventilation shall be properly organized and controlled.
Cold air should not go through the birds and disturb them. Usually, intake is provided from the lower zone of the walking isle, however above the snow level, e.g., around 1.5meters or 5 feet above the ground.
The exhaust shall be provided at the top level of the housing structure on the opposite wall.
It should secure the lateral and natural ventilation across the housing.
Natural ventilation is a function of wind effect and temperature differential indoors and outdoors. The ventilation could be minimal during night time and an increased one during the day when chickens are out on the run.
Cold, dry air is always beneficial for the birds.
Furthermore, if the gas radiated heat provides heating, it requires combustion air, and flue gases should be exhausted via the openings.
If the sun is out, you need to ensure that UV lights are getting into the coop and heat is accumulated inside the structure.
The proper ventilation provides required comfort, eliminates the excess of moisture, supplies combustion air, and exhausts the flue gases.
As you probably realized from another chapter, the insulation is quite crucial to retain heat inside the housing. It minimizes the amount of heat that should be added to the structure.
The insulation can be easily installed from the inside of the tarp and supported off the ropes stretched off and tight to the housing’s structural elements.
It can be rigid foam R 10, which is inexpensive – about $6 CAD / $4 USD per sq. ft. and very easy to install. The insulation can be protected by the membrane; once installed, and it can serve you for many years.
If you can’t afford the real insulation, you can apply the cardboard from the flattened boxes and the membrane.
This would ensure you would have a healthy chicken and eggs for the winter.
Winter Bedding for the Coops
During the wintertime, we would recommend increasing the amount of bedding in place of the coop.
The best method is to apply straws and hay on the floor during winter; another way is to use sand as it’s easier to get and clean after winter is over.
Throwing down some extra layer of straw/hay will help to keep the temperature up and keep the birds warm. It would decrease the conductivity level on the floor.
The sick layer of bedding is soaking humidity from the indoor air and eventually get a dump. It has to be replaced at least every two weeks; otherwise, it will collect mold and mildew, which are detrimental for the birds.
It can also absorb chicken poop, emit ammonia, and emits caustic and pungent when it starts decomposing.
Eventually, it will affect your chicken vision; their eyes will get burnt until they get blind. It will affect the air delivery.
It’s effortless to find the level of ammonia in the bedding if you approach it and stay around within 5 min. Should your eyes be watered/crying, when the concentration of ammonia in the air is too high, and it’s right to change the bedding.
Heating in the Coops
Some heating in the coops can be provided in the cold climates. The minimum temperature that should be maintained in your coop is about 5 deg. C or 40 deg. F. It would secure that your chickens are healthy and deliver the eggs.
You don’t need to heat much. Sound insulation, sun radiation, long breathing, and light should contribute some heating to the building.
You can heat the building twice a day when you are present in there – early in the morning and late in the evening; it would allow you to ensure it won’t catch any fire.
There are two ways you can provide the heating:
- Electric heat radiation;
- Propane/Natural Gas radiation.
The heaters should be directed to the chicken to help them to melt any frost and maintain a cocoon.
What kind of heat you are going to choose it’s a sole matter of economic analysis that you can run depending on the price of gas and electricity and source of feed. Using gas heaters from your gas header is the most reliable way of heating as you would never be exposed to the electrical outages, primarily if your household is located off the grid. Nothing should be costly nowadays.
You can allow the automatic heating triggered by the thermostat. It starts when the temperature drops below 5 deg. C or 40 deg. F and shuts off when indoor temp. decreases increases to 10 deg. C to 50 deg.F.
The best heating might be an electric heater filled with oil, so-called the radiator. It doesn’t knock down the humidity level, which is quite low in winter. It has its thermostat, which allows cycling the heater on and off.
The heater might cost you around 70-80 CAD/60 USD and has an integral thermostat and power intensity control from strong to low.