With correct planning, it is entirely possible to keep a chicken coop warm without electricity, even in the coldest climates. Many chicken breeds can tolerate cold conditions well, but they appreciate a snug coop and need protection from icy drafts. Although moving your entire chicken coop to a more protected position may not be possible, there are many ways to heat a coop, even if you don’t have a plug point nearby.
To heat a chicken coop without electricity requires a multipronged approach. A deep litter floor will produce heat, the walls must be insulated, and windows should be double-glazed. Checking for drafts and lowering and widening the roosts is also helpful. Chicken coops must have sufficient ventilation.
Whether you live off-grid, prefer using natural methods, or have a coop far from a power source, there are many ways to keep your birds comfortable during cold weather. Winter can be daunting for chicken owners, but with the proper coop setup, keeping them healthy doesn’t require the use of electricity.
How To Heat Chicken Coop Without Electricity
The best strategies for keeping a chicken coop snug during winter start during the warmer months. After all, it’s no fun trying to install double glazing or add padding to the walls when ice and snow are piling up outside.
Note that while discussing natural ways to keep your chickens warm without electricity, we are only referring to healthy adult birds. Young chicks must stay inside the house near a warm stove or require a dedicated heat source to survive without a mother hen.
Keeping a chicken coop warm without any electric appliances depends on three factors:
- Natural heating methods
- Making the most of passive heat
- Proper insulation
Take note that insulation and ventilation are entirely different from one another. Chicken coops require adequate ventilation near the roof, even on the coldest days. Hazardous gases and moisture trapped inside a closed coop can quickly spell disaster for a flock.
Use A Deep Litter Method To Heat The Chicken Coop
Regularly cleaning out your chicken coop is essential, but letting layers of poop mixed with a thick layer of bedding compost is a really effective natural heater. The decomposition process of the bedding and manure releases warmth.
The trick to creating an effective deep bedding system is to use plenty of plant material, including dry leaves, hay bales, or woodchips. The floor mixture must be turned over every week or so to keep the good microorganisms effectively breaking down the material. By spring, the contents of the coop floor will be an ideal boost for your veggie garden.
Check The Coop For Drafts
Before you start insulating your chicken coop, take some time to check for noticeable drafts. Padding up the walls will be of little use if gaps around the window frames let air in.
Once you have identified holes, cracks, gaps, or slits where the wind can get in, focus on those first. Always ensure there is ventilation at the top of the coop, but prevent or reduce cold from getting in or heat from escaping in the lower section of the coop.
Insulate The Floor And The Walls
There are many ways to insulate a chicken coop so that cold air stays outside and warm air produced by the birds stays inside. The idea is to keep warm air inside without letting moisture or ammonia gas build up in the coop.
- Keep the bird’s feet warm and dry by keeping them off cold floor surfaces like concrete. If you don’t want to use the deep litter system, cover the floor with a thick layer of hay or woodchips so the chickens are insulated from the bottom and are protected from wetness.
- Place bales of hay inside the coop for the birds to hop onto to provide additional insulation.
- Insulate the walls using layers of hay, cotton, cardboard, newspapers, old clothing, or fabrics.
- Add outside insulation by using straw bales piled up against the walls. The great thing about using straw is that it is effective, highly breathable, and easy to remove in spring.
Avoid materials that could be harmful if ingested by your chickens. While Styrofoam can act as an insulator, there’s a risk that chickens might peck at and ingest it. As a best practice, use natural and safe materials for insulation.
Make Use Of Passive Solar Heating
Winter sun may not be intense, but its rays can still help warm the coop. Make the most of it during daylight hours, and materials with good thermal mass inside the coop can store some of this warmth to release slowly during cold nights.
In addition to adding glazing that maximizes the winter sun that shines directly into the coop, try incorporating materials with a high thermal mass into the coop’s design. Stone, bricks, and clay are good examples. During the day, they slowly collect heat from the sun, and at night, it is gradually released, which will keep the temperature inside more stable during cold snaps.
Double Glaze All The Windows
Windows are excellent sources of passive heating when the sun is out, but single panes are not as effective as double glazing. Having double layers of glass on all the coop’s windows creates a more effective barrier to slow the transfer of cold or heat loss.
Make The Coop The Right Size For The Number Of Chickens
We are not suggesting that a chicken coop should be too full, as overcrowding can cause considerable stress and result in unwanted behavioral issues. However, if you have a huge chicken coop with only a few chickens, it may be a good idea to close off a smaller section where they roost during the worst snaps of winter weather.
A smaller insulated space with a few warm bodies will gather heat more effectively than a large open space. Think of how you would be able to stay warmer and snuggled against another person in a cozy tent instead of just the two of you in a big, cold room.
Keeping Chickens Warm Without Electricity
Once you have insulated the chicken coop to create a draft-free, dry oasis for your birds, the next step is to give your flock the tools they need to keep themselves warm.
Keep Chickens Active
If you are standing outside waiting for a bus, you will feel icy, but if you are jogging in a marathon in the same temperature, you will feel warm. It is the same for our feathered friends. One of the best ways to keep your chickens warm is to keep them active.
Even if they are stuck inside the coop during snowy weather, provide some activities to keep them interested and entertained. There are plenty of makeshift chicken toys that can quickly drive away their winter blues.
Feed Them Well To Keep Them Warm
Providing continuous access to free choice feed during the winter is best. Giving them warm porridge or crushed maize in the late afternoon will keep your chicken’s internal engines running on even the coldest nights.
Keep The Birds Hydrated
Frozen water bowls can be a real headache during winter, but keeping the flock well hydrated is essential to negotiate the icy temperatures. Birds with beards, muffs, or long wattles should use nipple drinkers during winter to avoid getting their faces wet and developing painful frostbite.
Chickens Must Stay Dry To Be Warm
No matter the season, a chicken coop must have adequate ventilation. Any dampness in the air from respiration or evaporating water can make the soft, insulating feathers on the birds wet. This can make them cold as they are no longer able to trap warm air against their bodies effectively.
Cover Pathways With Straw
Chickens love going outside and will likely venture outdoors for fresh air, even on the coldest days. Rather than keeping them cooped up, try laying a walkway of thick, dry straw leading out of the coop. This is especially important if you have chickens with feathered legs that could get muddy or wet.
Make The Roosts Lower And Wider
Chickens huddle together and fluff out their feathers at night to stay warm, but cool air from below can still make their feet cold. Add some wide winter roosts closer to ground level where it is warmer.
Provide slightly wider wooden roosts that allow the birds to tuck their feet under their feathery bodies rather than wrap their toes around the perch like in summer. A wide plank works well as multiple birds can sit beside each other, and their feet can be completely covered.
Choose The Right Breed For Your Climate
Select chickens for your coop with all seasons in mind. Some breeds, like Wyandottes and Orpingtons, are known to fare well in cold climates. Avoid breeds with large wattles and combs if you plan to heat your coop without electricity.
Coating exposed wattles and combs with a thin layer of petroleum jelly can help to prevent painful frostbite when temperatures plummet. Providing the correct drinkers that allow the birds to stay hydrated without getting their faces wet is also a great preventative measure.
How To Keep Chickens Warm Without A Heat Lamp?
Baby chicks are incredibly fragile and temperature-sensitive. They will quickly die if they get cold, so keeping them toasty and warm must remain a top priority.
Whether you incubated your own fertile chicken eggs or received day-olds from a supplier, chicks should be maintained at around 95F for the first week of their life. Keeping them alive without a heat lamp may seem daunting, but it is not impossible.
Tips to keep chicks warm without a heat lamp:
- Keep them in the warmest room in the house. If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, position the box close enough to stay warm but far enough away not to overheat.
- Keep them in a draft-free area.
- Use hot water bottles. The downside is that you may need to wake up at night to refill during the first few weeks. If you don’t have enough, soda bottles filled with hot water can also work.
- Give them something to cluster under. Chicks would naturally huddle together under their mom hen, so they appreciate having an overhead feather duster suspended in their box. Encouraging the group to huddle and share their body heat keeps them warmer.
- Use a chick brooder plate. This is an excellent, low-energy alternative to a heat lamp, and its overhead design simulates a mom hen’s warmth without the intense heat and safety concerns of heat lamps.
- Provide plenty of soft bedding. Large pine shavings or soft hay work well to cushion and insulate the little bodies.
- Always provide water at room temperature to prevent the chicks from becoming chilled.
Chicks need to remain in a sheltered environment until they have all their adult feathers. After their first week, the temperature can be gradually reduced by around 5F each week until they are four weeks old.
Warm winter coops are made in summer and autumn; with correct planning, it is possible to keep chickens warm without electricity. The most essential factors are capitalizing on any natural heat sources and providing plenty of insulation while still ensuring that there is enough ventilation.