How cold is too cold for your chickens?

Perhaps the best question to ask is how cold can chickens tolerate? Chickens are warm blooded and can chill to death under freezing temperatures. So, how cold is too cold for your chickens?

If it gets cold for you and me, we will rush and add an extra jacket, leg wormers and those fluffy mittens to keep warm. Do you ask yourself what will a chicken put on to keep worm?

These critters are gowned in feathers that keep their bodies warm during the cold season. However, when the temperatures drop below they can bear, it becomes dangerous and this can be a recipe of a slow freezing death to your chicken breeds.

Can chickens survive in freezing temperatures?

Although some chickens are cold hardy, there are certain temperatures that are very low for them to bear and they risk freezing.

Different chicken breeds will suit and adapt in different environmental conditions. Cold tolerant chickens have thick fluffy feathers most of which are double layered to battle cold.

Most cold resistant chickens have rose or pea combs that are resistant to frostbites when ranging and roaming out in the biting cold.

Some common known cold resistant chicken breeds include:

On the other hand, heat tolerant chickens are a bit different in terms of their adaptation features. They have large single combs, large wattles and for others there is a dewlap to help lose excess heat when its hot.

Most heat tolerant chickens have few body feathers which are only one layer. Some of the chicken breeds that do well in hot climates include:

Cold tolerant chickens will do well in freezing temperatures as long as they do not drop below 10 degrees mark.

Additionally, warm weather chickens will be in a serious threat if the temperatures drop below 40 degrees mark.

Remember that these birds are warm blooded and cannot adjust their body temperatures to fit with the outside temperatures like reptiles.

Chickens will not make it outside on the freezing temperatures. If they have to go out, herd them on the short hours of sun and bring them back.

Can chickens freeze to death?

Yes! Very low temperatures will certainly freeze chickens to death. It will be good if you confine your chickens in a heated coop to keep them warm.

Their waterers will not be spared either and the water will turn into solid. During the cold weather, a heated chicken waterer will be the only way to keep your girls hydrated.

Make sure that their run is warm enough by heating it a few degrees warmer than the outside temperatures.

Chicken coop heaters will be of great help if you live in an area connected with electricity. Heated chicken coops will also be a very good way of keeping chicken water from freezing.

To keep chickens from freezing in winter, utilize the few hours of sunlight and allow your roosters get out and warm their fluffy bodies a little bit.

Hens and roosters with single combs will suffer most when free ranging out during winter. These combs will be frost bitten killing your birds. To keep them safe, smear Vaseline jelly to keep the combs insulated.

There is no need to let chickens out when the ground is permafrost. We mostly let our flock out just to forage and during winter there is nothing for them to forage on.

Can chickens survive in freezing temperatures?

Winter is a very critical period for your chickens. At this season, most predators like chicken eating bears, possums and wolves will not mind to come to your backyard looking for a meal.

This is evident when you see paw prints on the snow. Do not risk moving your chickens out but instead get infra-red bulbs to ensure there is enough heat for chicken coop.

So, how can chickens survive and make it in winter time?

1 Toss treats

Chicken treats are a good way to keep their bodies warm during winter time. In addition to keeping warm, treats will help add some extra nutrients in their bodies.

Healthy treats for chickens in winter include: Whole corn, cabbage, mealworms, chicken scratch, cracked corn and sunflower seeds.

2 Allow them enjoy the sun

The sun will always come out for a few hours in winter. Utilize these few hours when the sun is shining to let chickens go out.

Your hens will enjoy sun basking and their bodies will go ahead and synthesize vitamin D which is very vital for their health.

However, as soon as the sun gets out of vicinity, herd your flock back to their coop.

3 Let them crowd

A big chicken coop will make your birds feel cold because there is a large room for air circulation. Let your hens crowd a little bit by reducing the amount of space they live in.

Chickens will huddle together and help generate some body heat when living in a tiny space during winter.

4 Remove the snow

In areas where snow storms are common, you will find a carpet of snow inside your chicken run. Spare some of your time and shovel it out.

5 Provide supplemental heat

Heating chicken coops during winter is the most common means to keep chickens warm. This can be done by using heat bulbs or by running a network of hot water pipes inside around the chicken coop.

Some chicken folks will go ahead and buy heating blankets, heat pads or bring the chickens inside their house where it is warm.

6 Hang a boredom buster

During the cold weather, it will be very good if you look for a way to keep your friendliest chickens busy and occupied so that they can generate some extra heat in their bodies.

Hang a cabbage head, mango, pumpkin, zucchini or any other treat that they will peck at. When pecking, they will not only add something in their stomachs but generate heat.

How cold can baby chickens tolerate?

Chicks hatch with downy feathers which are not enough to keep these little critters warm. They are not able to regulate their body temperature until they are fully feathered.

Baby chicks will not withstand freezing temperatures and will die almost instantly if they are not provided with some supplemental heat.

These critters require to be put in a chicken brooder where they will remain for the next six to eight weeks until they are fully feathered.

An ideal chick brooder should have temperatures of 95 degrees F for the chicks. This amount of heat should remain the same for the first 3 weeks.

From the 3rd week, reduce the heat 5 degrees each week until the juvenile feathers have fully developed.

However, keep monitoring the outside temperatures to know whether there is need to reduce brooder heat or not.

If you do not mind, let your chicks remain in the brooder until winter is over. This will guarantee your baby chickens safety to go outside and help reduce the mortality rate.

Use heated chick waterers to ensure that your birds have access to clean drinking water in winter. Otherwise, every drop will freeze into ice and they risk dehydrating to death.

How cold is too cold for free range chickens?

Winter will not spare your free range chickens and they are at a great risk of freezing to death than those raised in confinement.

If your free range chickens are not cold hardy, they will start to feel the cold as soon as the thermometer reads below 40 degrees.

As for me, I don’t let my female Hamburg chickens out during winter. There are no weeds, seeds and other treats to collect on the backyard when the ground is covered with snow.

In the last few winters, I have lost a number of my white roosters to chicken predators that are forced to come from the woods to my backyard looking for food.

What happens if chickens get buried in the snow?

The most probable thing to expect if chickens are buried under the snow is that they will get cold, chill and succumb to hypothermia.

This is a common phenomenon in areas where snow rains and snow storms are common. However, the sooner you get to your chickens, the luckier you are to save them.

Cover the chicken coop with a polythene paper to prevent snow from covering it up. You can also minimize the number of ventilations and other crevices where cold and snow can get in through.

Remove the birds from the snow and take them in your garage where it is draft free and away from the biting cold.

Here, you can use heated blankets and other means to provide supplemental heat without the fear of fire outbreak.

If the hens are too cold, you can be kind enough and tuck them in your jacket and warm them using your body heat.


If you are wondering how cold chickens can tolerate, freezing temperatures will not spare your chickens and other poultry.

Chickens will tolerate cold depending on breed type. Fluffy chickens will do well in cold areas while chickens with few feathers like naked necks are going to adapt in hot areas.

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