Chickens are resilient little birds and can handle many adverse conditions thanks to their natural intelligence and downy feathers. Still, a responsible owner will want to know just how cold is too cold for chickens. When the mercury gets too low, you may need to take additional steps to stave off chicken frostbite and ensure your flock stays toasty.
Chickens generally handle the cold better than they do excessive heat. Their resting temperature ranges from 105 to 109 degrees, and their feathers grow in several layers to capture warmth. When they’ve molted at the right time of year and have their winter fluff ready, these remarkably efficient birds do a great job of keeping themselves nice and warm all on their own.
That said, even the fluffiest chicken will have its limits. It may take them a little longer, but just like humans, chickens can and do get cold.
Exactly what is “too cold for chickens” will likely depend on your specific flock. With their layers of downy feathers, chickens can generally thrive in temperatures well into the lower teens. And given a well-built coop and plenty of high-protein, high-quality food, chickens are tough enough to handle even harsher climates. Within the last few years, the number of backyard flocks has increased exponentially in Alaska, where temperatures can reach -60 degrees.
Breed, diet and acclimatization can all impact how chickens handle cold weather. If you’re concerned about your flock, the best thing for you to do is to feed them well and keep an eye on them.
You can watch for a few different behaviors to ensure that your chickens don’t need extra help. A chilly bird will be moving very little, instead choosing to fluff up its feathers and hunker down for warmth, possibly in a clump of other chickens. You might also see a chicken standing on one leg and tucking the other into its feathers to preserve body heat.
If you see these things happening, it’s time to take action.
In chilly winters, chickens can suffer from frostbite if they don’t receive adequate warmth and shelter. Just like with humans, the extremities are in the greatest danger, so be sure to check on combs, wattles and toes. If your area routinely dips below zero, make sure any perches you provide for your birds are flat rather than round, as the decreased blood flow from sitting on a round perch makes toes especially vulnerable.
If you see pale combs and wattles or reddened toes, your bird needs some gentle warmth or veterinary attention.
The best thing you can do for your chickens in the winter is to give them a warm, safe coop. Adding natural straw to nesting boxes will keep hens warm and lessen the chance of eggs freezing. Insulating the walls with straw bales or a tarp will help retain warmth and prevent drafts — just don’t cut off the ventilation. If your chickens have a yard, try to give them a windbreak and keep the coop open so that they can decide where they would rather be.
Lastly, keep in mind that chickens eat more during the winter to maintain their strength and body weight, so a high-quality feed is essential. Nature’s Best Organic Feeds are formulated with high protein levels and a scientifically proven complement of healthy vitamins and minerals to keep chickens thriving all year long.
Our grower and layer pellets and layer crumbles are all Non-GMO Project Verified, made without pesticides, animal by-products, or growth hormones. Keeping your flock safe, dry and well-fed during the winter is key to preventing chicken frostbite and ensuring that “cold” doesn’t become “too cold.” Pick up a bag of Nature’s Best today and give your chickens their healthiest winter yet.