So can chickens freeze to death? Thankfully, the local chicken expert ― and close friend ― told me this:
Yes, during the winter months, chickens can freeze to death.
Even though they can live in freezing temperatures, prolonged exposure to the cold can cause them to die.
So, keep scrolling if you’re hooked on discovering everything you need to know about temperatures and chickens!
Table of Contents
- Chickens are incredible and equipped for low-temperature climates.
- Be careful: they can freeze to death, so be careful and ensure they’re warm enough.
- Chicken feathers are funky ― they consist of an outer and inner layer, each protecting the chicken against cold and unwanted temperatures (quite cool!)
- Chickens hail several signs ― excessive huddling, standing on one leg, etc. ― at you to show that they’re unhappy temperature-wise. Be alert and watch out. They may need you to save them!
What Temperature is Too Cold For Chickens?
If you know Christmas carols and jingle bells, you know that, during the icy times of the year, it usually means the holiday is close ― welcome WINTER…
But winter has a DARK side: Winter months usually bring cold weather, and snow and make the environment a harsh place to live.
Through thousands of years of evolution, chickens can live and survive throughout the colder season and colder temperatures.
Thanks to evolution, certain breeds are more suited for colder climates ― ones with large, compact bodies ― and are more flexible in these quirky environments .
Still, the weather sometimes gets too extreme, even for chickens, especially those in poor health.
Poor health and coops unfit for winter contribute to this gremlin.
To keep them from getting too cold, chickens have two layers of feathers. The outer layer is visible and shiny and, best of all, semi-waterproof.
This layer provides an excellent shield for your chickens, keeping moisture at bay and preventing cold air from getting to their bodies.
What about the inner layer?
Surprisingly, this part is the fluffy layer called ‘down feathers.’
This part is not only soft and compact but also has a primary purpose ― keeping the warmth from the body and the cold temperature from penetrating it.
5 Signs Your Chickens Are Too Cold
So can chickens freeze to death? Now that you know the answer, there’s more I need to tell you…
A Vet at the Greencross Vets, Matthew Gosbell, BVSc, MANZCVS, says this about chickens exposed to the cold: “They can fluff up their feathers and trap air which warms it up. ”
…and this isn’t all:
When chickens start to get cold, they will start showing signs. Knowing the symptoms could mean you’re more alerted on coming to their aid or when everything’s all right…
Below are some of the ways you can tell the chicken is suffering from the extreme cold:
1. Excessive huddling
Chickens usually go foraging for food or in their nest box.
When they start to huddle together in small or large groups, it means they are getting too cold.
Huddling together is a way to keep warm by sharing body warmth. When you see this, make sure to insulate their coop so the temperature will rise.
2. Standing on one leg
Chickens are not known to stand on one leg unless there is a problem.
During the winter, when they stand on one leg, they do this so they can tuck the other leg in to keep it warm. They will keep rotating the legs so each can get warm.
3. Lack of movement
Chickens suffering from the cold will not be active and may stay in one place, outside, or in their coop. This is a way to preserve energy and keep warm.
4. Excessively fluffed feathers
Like ducks, geese, and many other animals with feathers, they will puff themselves out to keep warm.
Some chickens will puff themselves out on occasion.
But, if it’s winter and extremely cold, the chickens are walking around or standing still, puffed up all the time, which means they are cold and need assistance.
5. Comb changing color
The color of their comb is a good indicator of how healthy they are. A pale comb will signify that they are sick, and black and white bits on the tips represent frostbite.
If you’re the visual kind, you may want to check this video by Bock Bock Bouquet explaining more signs on when it’s too cold for your chickens:
Get ready for some riveting insights with my captivating articles on “Do Chickens Attract Rats?” and “Can Chickens Fart?”—they’re a cluckin’ fantastic must-read that will leave you clucking with excitement!
How To Keep Chickens Warm During The Winter
1. Preparing the Chicken Coop For Winter
If enough isn’t enough, winter can put the lid on…
In the winter, you will need to prepare the coop to withstand the cold temperature and keep the chickens safe and warm.
While chickens can tolerate extreme temperatures, sometimes, it can be too cold that they will need help.
When it comes to the chicken coop, ensure that there are no cracks or gaps in the walls. If there is, cold air can enter, affecting the coop’s heat retention.
Also, it will escape from the coop instead of warm air staying in the coop to keep the chickens warm.
So, check the entire coop from top to bottom for leaks and cracks.
Eglu coop is the perfect chicken coop offering twin-wall insulation to keep chickens warm in winter.
2. Provide Heating For Chickens
Most likely, backyard chickens won’t need a heat lamp to keep them warm during the winter. They can naturally increase their body temperature with their plumage and by huddling together.
Also, a good quality coop should be able to keep some heat in there, providing your chickens with extra warmth…
However, there are times during the winter when it’s freezing. It may get too cold that the chickens cannot deal with it. When this happens, use a heat lamp!
Before using the heap lamp, ensure the flocks need extra heat. Just simply placing the heat lamp in their coop will waste electricity.
To see if the chickens need a heat lamp, check if the cold weather is stressing them out. Some of the signs to look for are:
- Huddling together
- Puffing up their feathers often
- Standing on one leg at a time
- Making excess noise
Besides the signs of stress, check the coop’s temperature. While chickens can survive in temperatures as low as -20
Using a thermometer, take a reading of the ambient temperature in the coop. The optimal temperature should be 65
3. Let Chickens Wear A Coat
Sometimes, chickens love being outside their coop, even if it’s freezing temperatures. If you have one or a couple of these chickens in your flocks, you should consider getting them a jacket.
The Hi-Viz chicken jacket is what I recommend for the winter because it protects the chickens from cold weather and is comfortable to wear.
1. Can Chickens Sleep Outside in the Cold?
Yes. Some chicken enjoys sleeping outside when it’s cold. Each chicken is different and has their preferences.
If the temperature isn’t too cold, they will be able to withstand it, and it won’t bother them a bit.
2. Can Chickens Stay Outside in the Winter?
Chickens are incredible…
But be careful: breeds differ! They will forage for food outside if the cold weather doesn’t bother them. If it’s too cold, they will stay in the coop where it’s warm.
So, can chickens freeze to death?
As seen so far, chickens are tough and can withstand cold temperatures, keeping their body heat under control and maintaining sanity in cold temperatures.
You know what else? Because they have different kinds of feathers, like belly feathers, layers (inner and outer), and different feather compositions, some are more suited than others for the cold.
Mind you, cold conditions ― whether colder weather or cold winters ― isn’t the problem, but prolonged exposure to the cold could be.
Chickens exposed to extreme cold for too long can indeed freeze to death.
That’s why you need to be constantly on the lookout for some red flags like stress and the signs 5 I mentioned above to ensure your chickens are safe, secure, and happy…
So, when the chickens start showing signs of stress due to the cold, ACT QUICKLY! You don’t want your darlings to die.
Now I admit: I wouldn’t say I like goodbyes. But if you’ve enjoyed my zesty article, don’t forget to chime in and nourish me with some tips on how to deal with the cold to keep mine safe (I look forward to it!).
Until next time…
1. LLC A. Facts about Chickens in Cold Weather Infographic [Internet]. PoultryDVM. 2022 [cited 2023 Jan 15]. Available from: http://www.poultrydvm.com/featured-infographic/facts-about-chickens-in-cold-weather
2. Do Chickens Get Cold? [Internet]. Greencross Vets. [cited 2023 Jan 15]. Available from: https://www.greencrossvets.com.au/pet-library/articles-of-interest/will-my-chicken-get-cold/
My name is Ben Roberts, and I absolutely love animals. So, naturally, I love writing about them too! As far as my animals, I have a Pit-bull, a Beagle-lab mix, a Chihuahua, and one old cat. Each one of them provides me with a new adventure every day. And the best part is they’re all best friends. Well, except the cat when he gets a little annoyed.
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