How to Keep Chickens Warm in Winter Without Electricity

After a surprisingly mild October, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are now plummeting, and it’s time to make sure all your animals and poultry have suitable accommodation for the winter. 

Chickens are pretty adept at keeping themselves warm. By fluffing out their wings and huddling together, they can cope reasonably well in temperatures as low as 10℉. 

Some breeds are more suited to cold weather than others and those with two layers of feathers, like the Australorp and Plymouth Rock, won’t even notice the cold on a frosty morning. 

Other breeds, like the Leghorn, thrive in hot, humid conditions. They have fewer feathers which means they’ll struggle with temperatures below 40℉. 

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Bantams and sex-link chickens, in particular, can freeze to death if the weather’s cold enough. 

Heat lamps may seem like the most obvious way of keeping your chickens warm but come with a range of potential dangers. Every winter, heat lamps cause fires that destroy entire flocks, threatening farm infrastructures and even homes. 

With a coop full of flammable material like feathers, sawdust, and hay, adding heat to the situation is asking for trouble. Throw in some unpredictable chickens and you’re one step away from disaster. 

If you do want to use a heat lamp, look at Premier 1’s carbon fiber heater. It has a range of safety features and puts out a lot more warmth per watt than “standard” heat lamps.

Just running electricity into your coop causes a potential fire hazard. If the extension cable gets a kink in it, it could quickly cause a fire, especially if it’s running directly over the straw bedding.

While your chickens may need a little extra warmth in the winter, a heat lamp isn’t your best or safest option. Why not try one of these simple methods for how to keep your chickens warm in winter without electricity instead!

chickens rooster exercising in winter snow
Exercising is one of the best ways your chickens can stay warm in winter!

12 Ways to Keep Your Chickens Warm In Winter Without Electricity

  1. Move your chicken coop to a warmer, southern-facing position, sheltered from cold wind.
  2. Improve your coop’s insulation to keep the warmth in and the cold out.
  3. Add nesting box liners to absorb moisture and increase warmth.
  4. Block drafts with plywood or sealant.
  5. Cover the ground with straw, hay, or wood chips to keep your chickens’ feet off the cold ground.
  6. Use the Deep Litter Method to generate heat naturally.
  7. Build a sunroom or add windows to allow the sun to warm the coop.
  8. Provide extra food. Chickens burn lots of calories to stay warm and digesting the food generates body heat.
  9. Get your chickens moving with stimulating coop activities like a hanging cabbage or homemade treats.
  10. Provide enough roosting space off the ground so your chickens can huddle together and keep their feet warm.
  11. Allow permanent access to the run.
  12. Steer away from things like chicken sweaters

More details on all methods to keep chickens warm in winter without electricity below!

#1 Move Your Chicken Coop to Warmer Climes 

If you’ve got a mobile chicken coop or tractor, move it to a southern-facing location, where it’s sheltered from the harsh winter winds.

The ideal location is not only sheltered but also enjoys plenty of sunlight. 

#2 Improve Your Coop Insulation

beautiful chicken coop with outdoor run and insulated coop
This beautiful chicken coop has three walled-in sides to keep the cold winds out, and permanent access to the coop.

Adding an extra layer of insulation to your coop can make all the difference during a particularly cold winter. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune either as there are many affordable ways to winterize your chicken coop.

Styrofoam and other types of foam insulation are excellent at keeping the cold out, but many chickens find them irresistible and will peck them to pieces.

Not only will this reduce their ability to keep the heat in, but eating a ton of foam can’t be good for anyone. Some types of foam insulation are potentially toxic and could cause blockages in your chickens’ digestive systems. 

Cardboard is a safer alternative, but chickens are likely to feast on that as well. It could also get wet, increasing the coop’s humidity.

Fabric in the form of old curtains or blankets are more effective and can be draped over the coop, providing much-needed insulation while keeping the coop suitably ventilated.

#3 Use Nesting Box Liners

Poultry pads and nest box liners are inexpensive and provide a cleaner, warmer environment for your hens.

Made of wood shavings, they also absorb moisture, so stop the humidity in the coop from getting too high. 

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07/07/2022 04:55 am GMT

#4 Block the Drafts

If a howling gale is blowing through the coop, it will interfere with your chickens’ natural insulation.

Fluffing up the feathers creates a pocket of warm air between the feathers and the skin. This can be easily disrupted by a stiff breeze, leaving your chickens shivering.

Block off any gaps in your coop using plywood or sealant, depending on their size.

Keep in mind that your chicken enclosure still needs some ventilation to prevent it from becoming damp and unhygienic. You can do this by installing a vent near the top of the coop so you get the airflow without the draft.

#5 Provide Ground Cover

keep chicken feet warm with hay or straw on the ground
Keep your chickens’ feet warm with a nice cover of hay, straw, or wood shavings.

Chickens may be unwilling to venture out when there’s snow or frost on the ground. Not only is it cold on their bare feet, but it’s wet as well.

By covering any walkways between the coop and the run with straw, hay, or wood, you can protect your chickens against the cold ground and encourage them to warm up with a little outdoor exercise.

#6 Use the Deep Litter Method

deep litter method in chicken coop with heat lamps
The Deep Litter Method is excellent for natural warmth in winter.

Throughout the winter, we use deep-litter bedding to insulate our flock against the cold ground and give them somewhere cozy to huddle up. 

With the deep litter approach, the soiled bedding is turned instead of removed, and a fresh layer of bedding is placed on top.

The droppings decompose, generating heat as they do so, while the new layer of bedding keeps the coop dry and ventilated.

For the best results, put a 6″ layer of shavings on the floor of your clean chicken coop. Then, add a layer of straw on top.

Continue adding layers every day until the bedding’s total depth is somewhere around 12″. Turn the bedding over every day to allow air in and the ammonia out. 

#7 Capture the Sun

poly plastic tunnel shelter for chickens in winter
This is a very simple, homemade example of a sunroom for your chickens!

Windows allow the sun in without letting the heat out, naturally warming your coop.

You could even build a sunroom by creating a greenhouse-style addition to your enclosure using clear plastic. Even a simple tunnel like the one below does the job!

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Tunnel Greenhouse Hoops - Non-Woven Fabric Covers

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#8 Increase Food Intake

Chickens burn calories to stay warm, which means they need more food during the colder winter months.

Eating and digesting also generates body heat so, an extra portion of grain or corn in the evenings will help keep them warm overnight.

#9 Provide Entertainment

Exercise is a great way to get your chickens to warm up naturally. Even if they can’t go outside, you can provide stimulating activities for them in the coop. 

A hanging cabbage head can keep them entertained for hours and give them a few extra nutrients along the way. 

If it’s warm enough for them to go outside, scatter a few homemade treats around the run to keep them active. 

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07/07/2022 02:03 am GMT

#10 Boost Your Roosts

Just like humans, chickens like to keep their feet warm at night and prefer roosting off the ground, especially when it’s cold.

Ideally, you should provide enough roosting space for your whole flock to get off the ground and huddle together for warmth. 

Roosts should be raised two to three feet off the ground and be large enough that your chickens can cover their feet with their feathers.

If your chickens prefer to huddle together on the ground, make sure the floor of your coop is well-insulated by using the deep litter bedding approach described above.

#11 Allow Them Permanent Access to the Run

Chickens can be surprisingly stubborn, and trying to force them to stay in the coop because you think it’s too cold outside will only frustrate them, and you! 

We open up our coop every day regardless of the weather, allowing our chickens to decide for themselves when it’s time to retreat from inclement weather conditions.

Admittedly, we do lock them away at night for safety reasons, but that this also helps them to retain more body heat.

#12 Don’t Sweat It With Sweaters

Dressing your chickens up in chicken sweaters may be cute, but it doesn’t help them keep warm.

A chicken sweater will stop your hen from performing her normal cold-weather feather-fluffing routine, leaving her even colder than she was without it.

How to Keep Chickens Warm In Winter – Your Questions Answered

Final Thoughts

While chickens are hardier than they look, they need a little extra TLC to get them through the first frosts of winter.

Using the methods listed here, you can easily keep your chickens warm in winter without electricity, so won’t have to rely on a potentially hazardous heat lamp to see them through. 

Don’t forget, chickens have their own methods of keeping warm, and using a heat lamp or chicken blanket can disrupt those processes, leaving your chickens even colder than they would have been if left to their own devices. 

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