Chicken is different from other birds in nature. They live in human-made coops/shelters and therefore protected by a human being. The responsible owner in the UK may ask a question: “Should I insulate my chicken coop”? Chicken wings are not covered with an extensive layer of grease to protect them from cold temperatures; in other terms, sub-zero ones. Their feather is not as good and dense to protect them from cold in the United Kingdom.
The owner in the UK must protect your chickens from cold weather, especially considering the already known cold weather climates.
There are several ways to protect the coop from cold weather and provide an additional source of heat and provide the optimum climatic conditions inside the coop. These ways are:
- Elimination of drafts;
- External heating.
As days become shorter, the chickens spend less time on the run and more time on the nest, trying to retain the internal heat and comfort. If the comfort conditions are not provided, the chicken will start losing their weight and drop the production of eggs. These two factors are crucial in both domestic and commercial chicken coops.
However, eliminating drafts, insulation, and external heating should come with the proper ventilation even under severe cold days.
We will go item by item to explain the above-mentioned methods to keep the chicken safe and warm. Their success in surviving winter and deliver eggs will turn out to be your success too.
Elimination of drafts in the Coops
The draft is probably the biggest enemy for your chicken, as it creates the most discomfort in the coops.
Chickens breathe and deliver eggs inside the coops that create a lot of latent heat and, ultimately accumulate moisture.
Cold drafts affect mainly the most vulnerable parts of chicken, e.g., chicken combs, beaks, throats, and feet. Together with excessive moisture, drafts create an ice crust and displace the warm cocoon around the chicken. All of this made the most significant discomfort for the chicken.
Chicken usually perch at night, making their throats, legs, and combs experience moisture and drafts. It causes frostbites, which are very detrimental to the birds.
Drafts mainly occur in the gaps, firstly indoor and window fenestrations and tents’ adjustments to the ground.
Over the years, the tarps will be worn out with some deterioration, such as holes, cracks, and the physical impact of hale and sun rays. These should be researched first. The pits and damages can be easily fixed with special foils and adhesives.
This shall be carefully done sometime in September before cold days and before applying insulation to the structure.
As you can see, we have to fight the drafts and any uncontrolled ventilation in terms of drafts.
Even on a freezing day, ventilation must be provided for the coop to remove the excessive moisture and bring some fresh air into the coop. Under any circumstances, the housing shouldn’t be a tight box. The ventilation shall be appropriately organised and controlled.
Cold air should not go through the birds and disturb them. Usually, intake is provided from the lower zone of the walking isle, however above the snow level, e.g., around 1.5meters or 5 feet above the ground.
The exhaust shall be provided at the top level of the housing structure on the opposite wall.
It should secure the lateral and natural ventilation across the housing.
Natural ventilation is a function of wind effect and temperature differential indoors and outdoors. The ventilation could be minimal during nighttime and an increased one during the day when chickens are out on the run.
Cold, dry air is always beneficial for the birds.
Furthermore, if the gas radiated heat provides heating, it requires combustion air, and flue gases should be exhausted via the openings.
If the sun is out, you need to ensure that UV lights are getting into the coop and heat is accumulated inside the structure.
Proper ventilation provides required comfort, eliminates excess moisture, supplies combustion air, and exhausts the flue gases.
As you probably realised from another chapter, insulation is quite crucial to retain heat inside the housing. It minimises the amount of heat that should be added to the structure.
The insulation can be easily installed from the inside of the tarp and supported off the ropes stretched off and tight to the housing’s structural elements.
It can be rigid foam R 10, which is inexpensive – about £4 per sq. ft. and very easy to install. The membrane can protect the insulation; once installed, it can serve you for many years.
If you can’t afford the actual insulation, you can apply the cardboard from the flattened boxes and the membrane.
This would ensure you would have healthy chicken and eggs for the winter.
Winter Bedding for the Coops
During the wintertime, we would recommend increasing the amount of bedding in place of the coop.
The best method is to apply straws and hay on the floor during winter; another way is to use sand as it’s easier to get and clean after winter is over.
Throwing down some extra layer of straw/hay will help keep the temperature up and keep the birds warm. It would decrease the conductivity level on the floor.
The sick layer of bedding is soaking humidity from the indoor air and eventually get a dump. One has to replace at least every two weeks; otherwise, it will collect mould and mildew, which are detrimental for the birds.
It can also absorb chicken poop, emit ammonia, and emits caustic and intense when it starts decomposing.
Eventually, it will affect your chicken vision; their eyes will get burnt until they get blind. It will affect the air delivery.
It’s effortless to find the level of ammonia in the bedding if you approach it and stay around within 5 min. Should your eyes be watered/crying when the ammonia concentration in the air is too high, and it’s right to change the bedding.
Heating in the Coops
Some heating in the coops can be provided in cold climates. The minimum temperature that one should maintain in your coop is about 5 deg. C or 40 deg F. It would secure that your chickens are healthy and deliver the eggs.
You don’t need to heat much. Sound insulation, sun radiation, long breathing, and light should contribute some heating to the building.
You can heat the building twice a day when you are present there – early in the morning and late in the evening; it would allow you to ensure it won’t catch any fire.
There are two ways you can provide the heating:
- Electric heat radiation;
- Propane/Natural Gas radiation.
The heaters should be directed to the chicken to help them to melt any frost and maintain a cocoon.
What kind of heat you will choose it’s a sole matter of economic analysis that you can run depending on the price of gas and electricity in the UK and source of feed. Using gas heaters from your gas header is the most reliable way of heating as you would never be exposed to electrical outages, primarily if your household located off the grid. Nothing should be costly nowadays.
You can allow the automatic heating triggered by the thermostat. It starts when the temperature drops below 5 deg. C or 40 deg. F and shuts off when indoor temp. Decreases increases to 10 deg. C to 50 deg F.
The best heating might be an electric heater filled with oil, a so-called radiator. It doesn’t knock down the humidity level, which is relatively low in winter. It has a thermostat, which allows cycling the heater on and off.
The heater might cost you around £60 and has an integral thermostat and power intensity control from substantial to low.