Compared to other birds, chickens are known to be quite a resilient species. However, even for chickens, there is such a thing as too cold and too hot. They do not take winter as well as penguins nor do they take heat as well as ostriches by any means. Then, how hot is too hot, how cold is too cold and what can you do to help you birds handle these two extremes? The information provided here will assist you in building and maintaining a comfortable coop for your hens as we will address both how to keep chickens warm during the winter as well as how to keep them cool during summer.
How To Keep the Chickens in the Backyard Warm During the Winter
Chickens in general are well adapted to cold weather. This of course is not applicable to extreme winters in climates penguins strive in but continental winters. Speaking purely from a survival standpoint, cold-weather chickens such as Australorps are capable of surviving in temperatures around or slightly below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit). Warm-weather chickens such as Plymouth Rocks should not be kept at or below forty degrees. Brief runs outside to stretch their legs should be ok if you have time to herd them back into the coop before they freeze.
Here are a few things you can do to provide your birds with comfortable conditions during harsh winters:
1) Install heat lamps and other heating equipment throughout the winter to prevent the temperature inside the coop from falling dangerously low.
2) Allowing your hens to roost is critical if you want them to stay warm, as chickens instinctively roost in groups and puff their feathers to stay warm. As a general rule, roosts should be constructed at a minimum of two feet above the ground. Having access to a roost that is elevated above the floor gives them a sense of security and keeps them away from the chilly ground.
3) There are also additional ways to assist in keeping a coop warm during the winter. Insulating the coop by constructing walls filled with insulation material is a good additional measure to be coupled with some kind of heating equipment. If insulated walls sound like too much, a simpler option would be to wrap the entire coop with insulating plastic, followed by another layer of tarpaulin.
How To Keep Backyard Chickens Cool During Summer
Severe heat poses a greater hazard to chickens than cold temperatures. Fortunately, there are several simple ways to keep your flock cool and safe throughout the hot summer months. Chickens thrive at temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (~20-25 Celsius) so you'll need to do a few things throughout the summer to ensure your chickens are kept cool.
1) You should provide a shaded area for your flock to rest on hot days. This is one of the simplest yet most critical steps. Our flock loves hanging out beneath the shade of our yard's trees. If the majority of your chicken run space is sunny, and you have no natural shade spots, offer additional shade by putting black shade cloth over it. Additionally, you may rope one of the cool shade canopies between posts, fences, or trees.
2) Hens need a constant supply of cold fresh water. One of the additions to the water could be extra ice in the waterer. If you don't want to use ice, you may alternatively use frozen fruit or veggies and give it to your birds as a refreshing and cooling treat. Just make sure the waterers are kept out of direct sunlight.
Keeping your chicken cool during hot summers and warm during cold winters is very important for the overall wellness of the flock. You will notice your flock is happier since less energy will need to be used up in the process of thermoregulation, or in simple terms maintaining their internal core temperature. You are also very likely to be rewarded in terms of better egg production, which is another reason why taking these extra measures for the comfort of your backyard chickens is worth it. Although this may seem like a lot for beginners, you will discover that chickens are rather straightforward to care for and you will have plenty of chances to optimize the wellness of your birds.