How cold can chickens tolerate? Well, chickens are indeed tough birds and can tolerate temperatures below freezing. Some breeds will tolerate the cold weather better than others. However, even cold tolerant chickens do need to have a reasonably prepared shelter to buffer them from the outside elements.
Chickens are quite hardy animals but do prefer the warmer weather. Chickens thrive in temperatures of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit (20-24 degrees Celsius). That’s not to say that they can do well in cold weather too but during the winter weather you may need to make some adjustments to ensure your chickens are comfortable in cold or freezing temperatures.
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How Cold Can Chickens Tolerate?
As we mentioned above, chickens thrive in temperatures between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit or 20-24 degrees Celsius. However, hens will still continue to lay eggs even when temperatures go below freezing. The coop will be your chickens shelter from the elements, so the coop should be kept warm and dry throughout the winter to ensure your chickens stay in good health.
Coops should be kept as draught free as possible and keep dry from rain or snow. Providing some extra bedding from them to nuzzle into will help them to keep their body temperature warm.
Lots of chicken owners that live in very cold climates install a heat source into their coop to help keep it warm. Heat sources that rely on power should only be used in the most extreme cold temperatures due to the small but potential risk of fire.
If using a heat source, ensure it is not turned up too high. The ambient temperature should be in that ideal range mentioned earlier in the article. Temperatures that are too high can result in reduced appetite, lethargy and decreased egg production.
It is best to provide a single heat source so that the chickens can choose to move towards or away from the heat source and better regulate their own body temperature. We love this chicken heater which has a number of safety features built into it. Check out its reviews here.
How Cold Can Chicks Tolerate?
Due to their much smaller size, lack of feathers and developing immune system, chicks are a lot less tolerant of cold temperatures than adult chickens. Chicks should have an environmental temperature of 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit (32-35 degrees Celsius) upon hatching. This will require a heat source if living in a cooler climate where this temperature cannot be naturally maintained.
The chicks ambient temperature can then be gradually reduced by 5 degrees per week as the chicks grow. When the chicks are at 5 weeks of age they can be kept at the same temperature as an adult chicken.
Top Tips to Keep Your Chickens Warm in Winter
There are several things you can do for your chickens to ensure they stay warm and comfortable in the cold weather. We have put together the most effective tips to provide the best results for a warm and cosy winter.
- Seal up any areas of the coop that the wind can get through to minimize chill factor.
- Provide extra bedding material for warmth and insulation.
- Install a heat source, such as this chicken heater which is also packed with safety features. Check out its specs and reviews here.
- Consider heated perches to provide additional warmth.
- Provide additional feed as well as high energy feed such as corn.
- Keep the coop clean and as dry as possible. Change our bedding and ground cover material regularly.
- Provide a heated pad for chickens to sit or stand on.
- Provide the chickens with stimulation activities to keep them moving and occupied if they are being kept in their coop.
- Use a water heater to prevent drinking water from freezing.
- Place waterers off the floor.
- Check high traffic areas to ensure they are not getting muddy. Use a water absorbing ground cover such as sand or wood chips as a fix.
Signs That You Coop Needs Cold Weather Maintenance
- Your chickens are getting wet or muddy feet.
- Pecking or bullying has become a regular activity – chickens are more likely to engage in this behavior when they feel uncomfortable.
- The coop is smelling – wet bedding material and poop will start to stink if not regularly changed.
- Persistent muddy areas, especially near entry/exit points
- Wet feathers on your chickens.
Checking on chickens in the evening when temperatures start to drop is important to ensure they are set up for a comfortable night in the cold weather. Check their behavior for normal activity such as walking around, eating and drinking. A obvious sign of your chickens being cold is if they are huddled together or staying close to the heat source. If this is evident, implement some extra heat or insulation to make the coop more comfortable.
Environmental temperature tolerance in chickens is not exact and will somewhat depend on the breed of your chicken. Most chickens can tolerate very cold temperatures if they also have a warm, dry and comfortable shelter to take refuge in.
Keeping your chickens warm and dry through the extreme cold weather will give them the best chance of staying healthy and productive all winter long.
By implementing the tips mentioned above, you will be giving your chickens a lovely safe haven to retreat to when they have had enough of braving the cold weather.
Managing the coop in winter – https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/tips_for_managing_backyard_chickens_in_the_winter