What Temperature Is Too Cold for Chickens?
Chickens are quite hardy and can tolerate temperatures below freezing, but they prefer a warmer climate. The ideal temperature for chickens is about 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. During winter weather, you'll need to take some precautions to ensure your chickens are comfortable despite the cold.
The Best Temperatures for Adult Hens
Chickens prefer temperatures in the 70s, but they can withstand temperatures much lower than this if necessary. In fact, laying hens can still produce eggs even when the environmental temperatures dip below freezing. Although chickens can tolerate colder temperatures, it is still important to keep coops warm and dry throughout the winter to improve laying and prevent disease.
Remember, chickens like it warm, but not hot! Temperatures that are too high can result in reduced appetite, decreased egg production, and poor quality eggs. While it may be tempting to crank up the heat in the entire coop during the winter, it is best to provide a single heat source - such as a heat lamp or ceramic heater - so that the hens can freely move towards or away from the heat source to regulate their own body temperature.
The Best Temperatures for Chicks
Chicks are much more sensitive to the cold than adult chickens due to their small size and immature feathers. Chicks are particularly susceptible to the cold in their first few days of life, and being exposed to cooler temperatures during this time can lead to illness. A good rule of thumb is to start with an environmental temperature of 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit when the chicks hatch, and then reduce the temperature by 5 degrees each week as the chicks grow. Once the chicks reach 5 weeks of age, they can be maintained at an environmental temperature of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Keep Chickens Warm
When the temperatures drop outside, there are several steps you can take to keep your chicken coop warm and cozy for your birds. Consider implementing some of these strategies to ensure your chickens stay warm all winter long:
- Provide a heat source, such as a heat lamp or ceramic heater.
- Fill the coop with extra bedding for insulation.
- Use heated perches to help the birds stay warm.
- Supply extra feed, which will give the birds more energy to produce body heat.
- Give the birds a heated pad to let them warm themselves as needed.
- Keep the chickens active by providing scratch grains and other environmental enrichment.
- Seal any drafty areas of the coop, while still maintaining adequate ventilation for the health of the birds.
- Use water heaters to prevent water sources from freezing.
Be sure to check on your chickens throughout the day, particularly in the evening when temperatures start to drop. You'll know your chickens are comfortable if they are spread out around the coop and are active and eating normally. If the chickens are huddled together or staying close to the heat source, your coop is likely too cold for them!
There are no definitive rules about what temperature is too cold for chickens. Chickens can tolerate subfreezing temperatures, but keeping your chickens warm through the winter will help them stay healthy and productive all season long. With a few simple modifications to your coop, you won't have to worry about your chickens in the cold!
- Bahar Kocaman, et al. “Effect of Environmental Conditions in Poultry Houses on the Performance of Laying Hens." International Journal of Poultry Science, vol. 5, no. 1, Jan. 2006, pp. 26–30., doi:10.3923/ijps.2006.26.30.
- “Brooding Temperatures for Small Poultry Flocks." Agriculture: Province of Manitoba, https://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/livestock/production/poultry/brooding-temperatures-for-small-poultry-flocks.html
- Munn, Dorothy, and Michigan State University. “Tips for Managing Backyard Chickens in the Winter." MSU Extension, 2 Oct. 2018, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/tips_for_managing_backyard_chickens_in_the_winter
- Wright, Ashley. “Managing Extreme Summer Temps with Backyard Chickens." Cooperative Extension | The University of Arizona, 11 Apr. 2018, https://extension.arizona.edu/managing-extreme-summer-temps-backyard-chickens