With the proper bedding for chickens, your flock is able to withstand the cold weather quite well. Heat generally isn’t necessary in chicken coops, but we’ve all seen the sad stories of coops, barns or even homes burning down in the winter due to the improper use of heat lamps. Dry bedding for chickens, a hot bulb, electricity, and active chickens are a recipe for disaster.
Although healthy, full-grown hens don’t need heated coops, they do need a dry, draft-free place to sleep, lay their eggs and spend windy or snowy days. They are usually just fine in temperatures well below freezing, but most comfortable in temperatures above 45°F. If you live in a cold climate, warming your coop as much as possible might not be necessary, but will be greatly appreciated. Fortunately, having the right bedding for chickens can help keep your backyard chickens and your coop warm this winter.
Chickens put off a fair amount of body heat and will snuggle up close on the roosting bar, feathers fluffed to trap the warm air next to their bodies, so retaining the heat they are generating is the key to keeping your flock warm. Here are two easy, inexpensive and safe ways to generate (and retain) some heat in your chicken coop this winter.
How to Use Bedding For Chickens As Insulation in Your Chicken Coop
Probably the easiest way to keep your coop warm this winter is to stack bales of straw along the inside walls. The bales not only provide a thick barrier against the cold outside air, but also take up dead air inside the coop. A nice thick layer of straw on the floor (think 12″ or more) will provide insulation against the chill from the ground.
Straw is one of the best insulators as far as bedding for chickens goes, since warm air is trapped in the hollow shafts. Sand is the bedding type with the worst insulation factor — just think about being at the beach in the summer. The top layer of sand can be scorchingly hot on your feet in the sun, but dig down just a few inches and the sand is cool. Sand doesn’t retain heat and is not a good bedding choice for winter. Read more about the dangers of using sand.
2) The Deep Litter Method
A wonderfully easy way to create natural heat inside your coop is to employ the Deep Litter Method. An old-timers trick, it basically consists of gradually building up a layer of bedding on the floor and allowing it to compost inside the coop all winter.
If you don’t know anything about how to compost chicken manure, don’t worry. The chicken feces along with straw, shavings, dried leaves or grass clippings, turned to allow oxygen to permeate it, remains in the coop with new litter added as needed, and then the entire coop is cleaned out come spring. The act of composting generates heat and the resulting compost makes great soil for your garden come spring.
So before you rig up a potentially dangerous electric heat source, consider trying one, or both, of these two far-safer methods to help your chickens stay warmer this winter.