I’d rather not heat my chicken coop unless I have to. How cold is too cold for my hens?
Chickens can handle very cold temperatures. Some experts say chickens don’t really start suffering until the temperature inside their coop falls to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ll start suffering earlier if it’s damp inside the chicken house, or if they haven’t become inured to the cold (which is why some people think using heat lamps for hens is a bad idea unless it gets incredibly cold).
The lowest temperature we’ve had at my place is 8 degrees. My chickens didn’t mind this low temperature at all, and they live in wide-open, tumbledown coops, with all feeding and watering done outdoors.
Even if your chickens are all right in the cold, you need to make sure they have access to water in below-freezing temperatures. As for waterers, if your coop has electricity, I’d suggest getting a couple of galvanized feed pans and using them for waterers on top of a heated stand. If they freeze up, swap in a replacement and take the frozen one inside to thaw. Open pans get messier than real waterers and have to be dumped out all the time, but they’re the best choice in freezing weather.
The other problem with open pans is that the chickens can flip the water all over the place and soak their combs and wattles, which will get frostbite if this happens. One possible fix is to create a wooden float that floats on top of the water pan. Put a bunch of 1-inch holes in the float. This keeps the water-flipping to a minimum and helps insulate the pan. I’ve never tried this personally, but it’s mentioned in several old-time poultry books as a proven trick.
— Robert Plamondon, www.plamondon.com
Photo by Dusty Boots Photography
Send us your sustainable living questions! Do you have a question you’d like to see answered in MOTHER EARTH NEWS? Send it our way and it could be featured in the next issue of the magazine! You can e-mail us at AskOurExperts@MotherEarthNews.com.