More Cold Weather Chicken Care

11° F this morning. Cold. But,it’s not too cold for chickens if you house and care for them properly.

It’s essential that hens stay active and eat throughout the day. When it’s bitter cold and the wind is blowing, the hens won’t want to go outside. They’ll stand around in their coop. This isn’t good for them. First of all, manure accumulates, and although it’s frozen, it’s still a source of lethal moisture. Coop air is dusty. Combine that with the damp, and you’ll see respiratory disease. So, scoop up the manure daily. Next, bed more deeply. This will keep them warmer (insulation from the cold seeping in from the ground) and will keep the coop drier. I like bedding that also keeps them busy. This bagged chopped hay and straw has lots of tiny tidbits in it for the hens to find. (The brand shown here is Koop Clean. I’ve written about it here.)

Koop Clean


Here are the girls, right after I mucked out manure and added extra bedding. Note that all heads are down because they’re busy pecking and scratching!

head down


I also toss in chopped alfalfa, good nutritionally and to encourage foraging activity. This is what it looks like in the bag:



The hens won’t eat all of it, but it mixes in fine with the bedding.



Because the hens kick up such a lot of dust, and bedding goes flying,

dusty air


I elevate the waterer.

elevated water


(That purple tub has sand and a cup of food-grade diatomaceous earth for winter dust bathing.)

It’s very, very cold, but the girls are fine!



For more about winter care for your backyard flock, read this FAQ and yesterday’s post.


  1. It was 12 here this morning and going down to around 9 for the day, my coop a toasty 25 degrees (no heat added). Very windy today, gust over 30 mph so I didn’t even bother to open the pop door because I know they won’t go out. The low tonight minus 1.

    I tossed some scratch around the coop to keep them busy today.

    Tomorrow a toasty 24 degrees for the high. ;-)

    Great advice as always Terry.

    • how on earth do you get it that warm in the coop without added heat?

      I just came back in from gathering some pine branches, made them a nice added warm spot in their coop, minus 5F outside, the things we do for our pet chickens.. brrr. Made windbreakers in their coop with bigger pine stuff . The temps should be a bit higher after tomorrow and the ladies might even decide to go outside for a bit LOL.

      • It is air tight. I have a thick layer of bedding on the floor.
        I do have two vents, one at either end of the coop to provide ventilation.
        The temp is always about 10 degrees higher in the coop than the actual air temp.
        So that means tomorrow morning it should be about 10 degrees in there.

  2. our coop is airtight, they have insulated walls, 6ft high wood ceiling and a thick layer of bedding, no way I get it that warm in their coop. Coop is build on concrete foundation, finished the outside of the coop with brick to keep critters out. When we finished the coop our neighbors (all 3 of them LOL) asked what the little building was going to be used for, we answered ” Chicken coop”. Their reply: ” No really, what are you going to use it for?” They have a very fancy coop, build with salvaged materials, including their own mailbox and porch light :)

    • The more hens, the warmer it will be. As long as it’s dry, the hens will be fine. But the difficulty is that the tighter the coop is, the more moisture in the air. So, it’s finding that balance.

      • This morning I noticed ice crystals forming on the windows (not bad but still some there) so I opened one of the south facing windows.
        It was 4 degrees this morning.

  3. We are in a January deep freeze here. It’s -19C (-2.2F) at the moment, going down to -25C (-13F) this afternoon, and a forecast low of -27C (-16.6F) overnight. Right now it feels like -32C (-25.6F) with the windchill. Last night’s snow fall blew into the covered area of the run and I did not have time to shovel any out before work.
    For these reasons, the pop door was not opened this morning for my girls, and also because of the forecast windgusts. I tossed scratch in the bedding this morning, plus their bowl of fermented grains.
    I switched out their waterer again this morning because it was frozen. It sits on a cinder block base that is stuffed with an old string of CFL Christmas lights, which normally keeps the water from freezing up to about -12C (10.4F). It’s been frozen in the morning for several days now. They have a dust bath to use, and I have a suet cage full cabbage and assorted kitchen scraps hanging on the door for them to peck at. I need to put down more bedding when I get home – thanks for the reminder, Terry.
    At least it’s mainly sunny out, which means the coop will get passive solar heat through the windows. Generally that makes at least a 6 degree C difference between indoor and outdoor temperature during the day.
    Thanks, Terry, for the refresher on what to do for crazy cold temperature days.

  4. I opened the chicken door this morning and the girls ran right to the big barn to hang with the sheep and llamas. I added more bedding after scooping up the mess and they will go back in on their own when the sun goes down.
    so far I have had no cold weather issues, keep coop dry, and clean so far so good (knock on wood).Thanks for all your posts Terry.

  5. We’re going down to -9F this afternoon…so I relate to Jaye’s temps and concerns. No frostbitten combs Jaye? We too are grateful that at least during the day the sun shines…night time is another story and the cozy legs goes on at this temp.

    • Minus 9F …I can relate!
      No frostbite here so far, and hopefully not at all. No new frostbite anyway. One of my adopted hens has a touch of grey on several of the points her comb, but she had that when I got her. I thought I saw the start of something on my EO pullet this morning, but when I checked this evening, it seemed fine. Probably just shadows cast this morning (it was 6:20 a.m., still dark outside). Cozy Legs sounds like something my girls would really appreciate. The only thing I have on hand at the moment is a brooder heat lamp with a red bulb, which I plan to leave on tonight. I was tempted to buy a flat panel heater to use on really cold nights, but it would require an additional thermostat – a thermo cube – which of course isn’t sold in Canada.

  6. When you get the arctic blast, it always seems like we have a high pressure system in CA. So it will be in the 70s today. Nice but very un-wintery and not so good for the fruit trees because we don’t get the necessary chilling hours.

  7. Moisture is the enemy in our pacific northwest climate for sure. When we do have periods of extreme cold dry weather( a couple of times or so in the winter season), it is not a problem for the chickens to keep warm. It is all the rainy dampness when mixed with high winds that causes them problems keeping warm and dry. The moisture just hangs in the air in the coop even with daily mucking. Luckily our birds can and do free-range all day and have a big dry barn-like structure to hang out in when it is just too wet for them. There amongst old car parts and garden tools, they can scratch in the dirt floor that I add hay and pine chips to, that adds interest and warmth. They do head back to their outside coop area to eat, drink and scratch in the sand during the day and go into their night-ime coop to lay their (rare these days) eggs and to roost at night. So far we have had no illness but it is a concern when the wet winds are howling.

  8. Thanks for the post. I have been using the coop clean and alfalfa just as you mention

  9. My bantams roost in the fenced in aviary up in the rafters…it has a roof, and a wall on the west side, but 9 degrees tonight and they have always been fine. 8 years now.

  10. Jaye…we do really like the cozy legs and our one hen roosts in the same place every night so we know it will be right in fron of her…we too use the red bulb during the coldest days but they don’t really like the light at night. We got the cozy legs via internet likely amazon or something….in Canada. We like it a lot.

    • I’ve looked up Cozy Legs warmers. If you’re going to have a heater in the coop, this one looks safe and provides the right type of heat. I think I need one for my office, too :)

  11. As a child in a small agricultural town, I was very active in 4-H. My father built a pen and a coop for my Rhode Island Reds, which I would buy as chicks from the Purina Feed Store. My Bantams, gleaned from around the neighborhood, insisted on roaming free. I wish I had had something like your blog back then, in the early 50’s! I wonder if you have any involvement with 4-H or kids or teens raising chickens? Your work and insights are invaluable.