It would appear that chickens are a tough species of bird. Yet, despite their similarities, chickens are not penguins.
It begs the questions of how chickens stay warm, what is the best temperature for chickens, how cold is too cold for chickens, and what to do if your chickens get cold.
Do you have a colder-than-average backyard and are trying to raise some chickens for eggs?
Undoubtedly, you often ponder the following question: How cold is too cold for chickens? How hot does it need to be for them to be safe?
If you live in an area where winters get particularly cold, you might worry that your chickens will lose their feathers due to the cold.
These recommendations will help you in constructing and keeping a comfortable dwelling for your hens.
What Temperature Is Too Cold For Chickens? How Cold Is Too Cold?
As a matter of fact, chickens fare better in the cold than in the heat.
Here’s a fun fact about chickens:
They are much better able to handle cold temperatures than hot ones.
Given that many bird species undertake annual migrations in search of warmer climates in which to spend the winter, this may seem strange. Chickens, like humans, can’t handle the extreme cold for very long, but these birds are robust in general.
Inadequate safety measures can lead to serious illness or even death.
The question is whether or not chickens can survive the winter months outside.
Absolutely. But there are some constraints. Keeping healthy poultry all year requires knowledge and some practical tips.
Some chickens, much like certain types of dogs, are bred specifically for survival in colder climates. A husky does well in Alaska but struggles in Florida.
The same is true for chickens, with some breeds thriving in colder climates while others perishing in the cold.
Best Cold Tolerant Chicken Breeds
Rhode Island Reds
Plymouth Rock Chickens
All of the aforementioned chicken breeds are able to withstand subzero temperatures thanks to their exceptionally thick, very heavy plumage, which is double-layered.
However, you shouldn’t leave your chickens outside in temperatures that are significantly below zero, regardless of the breed.
The opposite is true for chickens that cannot tolerate temperatures below forty degrees. Unlike the chickens I just described, these ones don’t have particularly fluffy feathers. Indeed, these hens do best in extremely hot and humid climates.
Among commercial egg growers, the White Leghorn is a top choice because it is both a prolific egg layer and a hardy bird that can withstand adverse conditions.
This heat tolerant chicken can be raised for meat, though it won’t lay as many eggs as other dual-purpose breeds. However, White Leghorns start laying eggs at a young age and typically continue to do so even when the weather gets hot.
Free-range conditions favor these intelligent, energetic poultry. These heat-tolerant chickens may not be the most visually appealing, but they begin laying eggs early. Chickens with this reputation are known for their vivacity and intelligence.
Barred Plymouth Rock-
In this case, any Plymouth Rock will do, but it seems that Barred Plymouth Rocks are more readily available. These heat tolerant chickens can withstand extreme temperatures, and they produce an abundance of large brown eggs.
They’re perfect for keeping as backyard chicken pets because they’re big, tame, and love attention.
The Orpington Chickens-
The Orpington is one of the most popular chicken breeds for backyards because of its hardiness in hot climates. Orpingtons can withstand extreme cold and adapt well to new environments despite their small size.
As an added bonus, they can be raised for their meat.
These chickens may be on the larger side, but they are hardy, colorful, and adaptable. Although Buff Orpingtons are the most common, they are not the only kind.
The average Buff hen will produce 200 beautiful brown eggs per year, making them a great bird for families.
New Hampshire Red-
The beautiful New Hampshire Red chicken breed has its roots in the Rhode Island Red and a few other types.
Because of this, it is one of the most heat-tolerant chicken breeds around thanks to inheriting Rhode Island’s resistance to a wide range of temperatures.
This heat-tolerant chicken can survive both indoor and outdoor conditions.
This chicken can be used for both eggs (up to three per week) and meat.
Since they evolved in the tropics, the chickens of Sumatra are well-suited to the heat and cold.
These magnificent birds are striking because their green-black feathers shimmer iridescently in the sun.
Due to the fact that they are both rare and difficult to domesticate, you should probably not plan on keeping one for food purposes. Most people only keep Sumatras as pets for the purpose of showing them off.
The Brahma chicken, which is one of the largest chicken breeds, is a great species because it can withstand cold and hot temperatures.
While they lay an average of three eggs per week, these hens can also be used for their meat.
Its gentle, placid demeanor makes it a good choice for both free-roaming and confined upbringing.
These birds have their origins in India, where they are known to be large and heavy, averaging over eight pounds.
Although, generally speaking, Brahmas do well in the heat, you may want to consider raising a bantam Brahma instead if you are concerned that the size of this chicken will limit its heat tolerance.
These chickens are consistent in having fewer feathers and lesser feather layers. South of the Mason-Dixon Line, you’ll find more yards and farms with these specific varieties of chickens.
It’s important to buy chickens that can withstand the cold or heat of your region.
5 Ways to Keep Your Pet Chickens From Freezing
Hopefully, you’ve found what you were looking for. Here are five suggestions for keeping your hens cozy, content, and producing eggs.
1. First and foremost, let your chickens do the work.
This one’s easy enough.
Even if you have mild winters but it still gets chilly at night, your chickens should be able to survive.
Just follow these steps:
2. Give them a Secure Coop
Planning a winter chicken coop? Good ventilation is a must, no matter where you live or the weather.
Extreme weather conditions, such as extreme cold and high humidity (created by the chickens themselves), can cause respiratory illness and even death.
Therefore, closing the coop’s windows and doors during the winter may not be the best idea. Read this article to find out why good ventilation is so crucial during the colder months.
Your coop isn’t up to snuff, is it?
Depending on the condition of your flock’s current home, you may need to build (or buy) a new coop.
3. Make sure their coop has all the amenities they need.
You can now furnish your healthy coop with all the necessities to make sure your feathered friends are warm and comfortable.
A good trick is to double the proportion of bedding they have.
Straw, hay, wood shavings, and even grass clippings are all fair game. Whatever it is you’ve been using, increase the thickness to give them a nice, cozy place to sink into the cold.
This is a cheap and easy way to prevent chickens from freezing during the winter.
As an additional piece of advice, make sure the water for your chickens is never frozen!
If you want to keep their water from freezing, you should give it to them in the morning and replace it several times during the day.
4. Make Sure They Have Fun in Their Coop!
You might be surprised to learn that even chickens can suffer from cabin fever during the long winter months.
If you don’t want your chickens to get moody and fight from being cooped up for too long, provide them with some fun indoor activities.
So that the chickens have something to peck at, you can pinata-style hang some vegetables from the coop ceiling. Spread some corn kernels out on the coop floor so they can go on a pursuit.
Remember, fun (and mental well-being) is important for animals too!
Plus, there is the added bonus that moving around to play will keep their bodies warm.
The winter is a tough time to keep chickens, so make sure they have plenty to do.
5. Turn On The Heater
There will be times when this is not enough.
Some of you may reside in areas where winter temperatures regularly drop well below freezing. Even your feathered friends can get sick from being exposed to a blizzard, hail, or freezing rain.
Do not be reluctant to deploy the heavy artillery and install a high-quality electric heater if that turns out to be the case.
A thermostatically controlled heater is essential; one that turns off after 15 minutes and doesn’t raise the temperature more than a few degrees.
Keep in mind that even if the weather outside is cold, the coop’s interior will always be warmer.
It is difficult to say with certainty how cold can chickens survive because chickens of different breeds will have varying tolerances to the cold.
In order to determine whether or not to use a heater, it is important to monitor your flock closely for signs of coldness rather than relying solely on the temperature reading from the thermometer.
However, the colder it is expected to get, the greater the need to take safety measures. Being cautious is always the best course of action.
How Would You Know The Temperature for Chickens is Too Cold
When your chickens are too cold, you’ll notice these manifestations:
It’s important to keep in mind that the weather outside won’t always determine this.
It is not necessary to use a heater, even at night, for many chicken owners in cold countries, and their chickens thrive.
Remember what sort of behavior is normal for your chickens and what is not, and react appropriately.
Temperature for Chickens: How Chickens Regulate Body Temperature
Dogs pant when they feel hot. Holes dug in the mud by pigs. But chickens can radiate their body heat through their wattles and combs.
It is possible for a chicken to perish if it loses its wattle and comb due to a fight with another rooster in the coop, an animal attack, or human mistreatment.
These chicken head attributes need functioning blood vessels in order to either dissipate or trap heat, respectively. Even in the summer, chickens bred for colder climates will try to cool off by shedding a lot of feathers.
In order to dissipate the excess heat that builds up around and under their wings, chickens bred for warmer climates will flap their wings more frequently.
Keep the chicken indoors during the colder months and give it plenty of shade during the warmer months if its wattle and/or comb have fallen off.
Temperature for Chickens: Can Chickens Freeze to Death?
Chickens can freeze to death. On colder days, a coop without a heat lamp can be a death trap for your chickens, especially if they are not hardy enough to live in your area.
Similarly, eggs can freeze solid, so if the upcoming weather is predicted to be extremely cold, it is crucial that you set up an incubation lamp or two in the coop.
In extremely cold weather, it is a good idea to move your chickens indoors unless you have a secure outdoor area that is heated to at least fifty degrees Fahrenheit all the time.
Chickens bred for cold climates can survive temperatures that dip just below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit to about ten degrees Fahrenheit).
Chickens bred for warmer climates shouldn’t be kept in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, letting them out for a few minutes to stretch their legs is fine, provided you can get them back inside the coop before they freeze.
While it’s true that most chickens will head back inside when they encounter snow or cold weather, you shouldn’t assume that all of your birds have this level of intelligence.
Keeping Your Coop at the Right Temperature for Chickens
Keep the chickens’ water basin full and the coop’s built-in fan running to disperse the heat, and you’ve got everything you need to care for chickens in a hot climate.
In the absence of a roosting area, the chickens will seek out any available cover. Chickens bred for cold climates are a different matter.
On extremely hot days, cold-weather chickens will require more water and shade than usual.
A small cooling system that maintains a constant temperature of about 70 degrees inside the coop is an option, but it can get pricey if you only have a few chickens. You can help by giving the coop and its surrounding area plenty of shady spots.
To prevent the temperature for chickens inside the coop from dropping to an unsafe level during the winter, heat lamps and other crop-specific heating elements should be installed.
If you want to “spoil” your pet chickens, many chicken farming suppliers will have a few options for you in terms of regulating temperatures inside your coop.
There are additional measures that can be taken to ensure that a coop remains warm throughout the winter. One way involves building walls within the coop in which insulation that is safe for chickens can be installed.
Typically, people will use insulating plastic to cover the entire coop, followed by a tarp.
Wrapping and sheltering only the sides of the coop that will feel the worst of the winter winds may be sufficient, depending on the size and placement of your coop.
Wrapping the entire coop will protect your chickens from being buried by snow and frozen to death.
Temperature for Chickens: How to Deal With Frozen Chickens
Conditions during the winter can quickly deteriorate. There will be times when bad weather strikes and you are not at your house.
When you get home from work or errands, or if the weather changes for the worse, you should check on your chickens right away.
One of your chickens may have started to freeze if it is limp, cold to the touch, and in urgent need of warming. Tucking your chickens into your coat against your body is a great way to get the chill off of them.
Wrapping your chickens in towels that have been heated in the dryer at high temperatures is another option.
While some chicken keepers may use heating pads or electric blankets in the coop, this practice should be avoided at all costs lest the coop catch fire. Instead, these items should be stored in the garage.
Space heaters can be used to warm both the garage and the chickens if you decide to set up a makeshift coop there. In the event that the chickens revive and knock over the space heaters, the heaters will automatically shut off (a nice safety feature).
Chickens have the intelligence to gather in a tight group for warmth. That’s great news, but it could mean you have to spend your winters digging your chickens out of snowdrifts if you haven’t winterized the coop.
It will take a long time to dig your chickens out by hand, as you do not want to hurt them in the process. Wrapping and enclosing the coop as best you can before the first snowfall is preferable.
On days when it’s not extremely cold and there are no blizzards or heavy snowstorms, you can let your chickens out.
If you want to avoid your chickens becoming overly agitated from being cooped up all winter, you should release them only on specific days.
Make it a routine to return the chickens to their coop every time you leave the house, just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Summary of the Right Temperature for Chickens
In conclusion, you are now fully equipped with all the knowledge necessary to care for chickens in any climate, including the cold.
If you want to raise chickens for eggs, meat, or even just pets, you should know what kind of coop to construct, what chicken breeds to get, and how to keep them safe from predators and bad weather.
If you know what you’re doing with chickens, you should be assured that they are categorized as a low-maintenance kind of pet.
Chickens, like people, have a wide range of responses to the chill.
Some people love the snow and can’t wait to go outside and play, while others would rather spend the winter months inside.
As the temperature begins to drop in the fall, you should start preparing their coop by adding extra bedding and warm water.
Do whatever helps you and your flock the most. How cold is too cold for chickens?