Unlike their delicate appearance that strikes you when you see them, these chickens are extremely hardy creatures and can withstand quite many environmental conditions. It interesting to note that chickens adapt better to cold than to heat and that it has to be extremely frigid to upset chickens.
The ideal temperature for chickens is 70-75 F and can cope well in temperatures below freezing point. They may not like the cold but easily survive cold temperature when provided a coop that is properly ventilated and dry.
Contrary to what many people think, chickens are hardy little creatures who will surprise you on how well they thrive in the cold but respond adversely to excess heat thus pushing us to think more on the idea of heating the coops at night or on cold days.
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Adult chickens have an internal temperature of 105-109F and can naturally generate a lot of body heat and have a high metabolism that helps them keep warm. It’s only at night when their movement is minimal when they can get a bit cold.
It is important to remember that chickens have adaptive features just like other birds in the wild that help them keep off the cold from their bodies. The fluffy plumage has a couple of layers that keep chickens warm.
Beneath the feathers are tiny pockets of air next to the body. This allows the chickens to warm these pockets and prevent cold air from touching the skin. The more air that stays trapped in the pockets the warmer the chicken remains.
When it is cold outside and on cold nights chickens fluff up their outer feathers to trap as much air as they can. Ptiloerection is the term for the fluffing up of birds’ feathers as a physiological response to environmental temperature changes.
Here are several other things you can do to ensure your flock is warm and stress-free at night for optimal production scales
1. Additional Insulation
Adding additional insulation helps prevent cold air from getting in the coop and help the flock trap their body heat inside the coop.
An additional thick layer of pine wood shavings or straw to their bedding. You can arrange bales of hay around the coop if space allows for additional insulation against the cold.
The deep litter method can also provide more insulation to the coop. The method works by adding fresh bedding on top of the soiled bedding to allow for an increase in microbial activity that in turn produces heat in the coop. This method only works best if proper and careful management of the coop is practiced as it can shoot up the levels of ammonia concentration and humidity to dangerous levels.
2. Comfortable Roosts
It is important to remember that chickens don’t have feathers on their feet and legs and protect them from the frigid floors at night which can be incredibly harmful to their health. The chicken house should be fitted with enough roosts one to two feet above to keep the flock up off the cold floor. The roosts offer a comfortable place for the chickens to fluff up and snuggle together.
Roosts should be made using 2 by 4 board and not the traditional thin round roosts which are very uncomfortable for your birds. The wider roosts provide more comfort as chickens prefer having their feet flat on the surface. This allows the chickens to completely sit down and use their warm downy feathers to cover their exposed legs and feet.
Proper ventilation is very important in the chicken house to help protect your flock from respiratory infections among other problems. So much has to be considered as you try to have proper ventilation that won’t hurt the chickens. It’s advisable to regularly inspect the coop and check out for holes in the floors and walls that might let in frigid air or worse still predators.
The windows should be placed well above the roosts to avoid direct wind on the chickens. Water should not be left in the coop overnight because it makes the air moist and damp which can be harmful to the flocks.
4. Magic in Numbers!
It interesting to notice the buddy system of chicken and utilize it to your advantage. The more the number of chickens the more heat they produce as they snuggle together at night. A chicken produces around 10 watts of energy, thus twenty chickens would produce 200 watts of energy, enough to light two bulbs!
5. Heat Lamps
Although not much approved due to the many problems that may arise from using them, these lamps could come in handy during extremely cold nights or weather where birds cant cope. Lamps can also be used to keep chicks during the first five weeks when their feathers are still developing feathers.