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Digital Subscriptions > Chickens > NovDec 2018 > COLD Chicken

COLD Chicken

Although many breeds are cold-hardy, there are still ways you can help your birds stay warm in winter.
Juha hoPPonEn/shuttErstock

Chickens can withstand surprisingly cold winter temperatures if they have appropriate shelter and their environment is managed properly. But chicken keepers sometimes mistakenly believe that it’s a good idea to close up the coop and add heat in winter. Both of these practices are generally bad because they can create health problems as well as the risk of a coop fire.

By understanding how chickens combat cold and following the practices outlined in this article, you can, however, keep your flock naturally warm and happy throughout the winter months.

How Chickens Stay Warm

Chickens stay warm by fluffing up their feathers. This creates tiny air pockets beneath their feathers that are warmed by the chicken’s body heat. The more air a chicken can trap and warm with its feathers, the warmer it will stay. Chicken feet are featherless, so birds often stand on one foot while tucking the other up into their feathers to warm it up. They also tuck their heads under a wing when sleeping to keep heads warm and protect combs and wattles from frostbite.

Chickens handle cold weather much better than they do hot weather. There are many successful chicken-keepers with unheated coops in colder regions such as Alaska and Canada. A heated coop is unnecessary unless the chickens are very young (featherless), aren’t a cold-hardy breed, are molting or sick, or temperatures suddenly drop drastically.

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