How to Insulate Chicken Coop for Winter?
Chickens are hardy animals that can withstand some of the harshest living conditions. However, during the winter, the birds need some help getting through the biting cold. Thankfully, raising chickens through the winter, even with no electricity, is not as challenging as you might assume. Chickens can naturally regulate their body temperature more so the cold-hardy breeds.
The ideal temperature range for an adult chicken is 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. They can self-regulate their internal temperatures in cold months. Their feathers are also protective layers that trap heat to keep them warm, and they can huddle together to share warmth in the cold.
While chickens are able to keep themselves warm, they might need some help in the biting cold. In this instance, you can insulate your coop.
Below are tidbits to help you understand the insulation of chicken coops.
Should You Insulate A Chicken Coop?
Yes, it would be best if you insulated a chicken coop. Insulation is primarily meant to minimize the transfer of heat to the outside while keeping cold air out of the enclosure. This will make your chickens happy and comfortable in the cold months.
Well-insulated coops are significantly warm in the cold months and can even keep birds cool when it is hot. Insulation will also regulate the humidity in your chicken coop.
Keeping the right humidity levels is crucial to keep your flock disease-free and ensure they maintain their egg production. This means that insulation is not exclusively meant for places with harsh winters.
Insulating and Preparing the Chicken Coop for Winter
Below are the main steps involved in insulating and preparing your chicken coop for the winter.
– Insulate the Walls and Roof
The insulation for the walls and roof in your bird’s coop does not have to be anything fancy. You can use recycled insulation materials, packing Styrofoam and scrap boards to insulate the enclosure. These keep the draft out and warm air in. Below are some of the best material alternatives for insulating your coop:
Scrap or recycled materials. You can buy some small quantities of overstocked or used building materials from your local hardware store. Leftover insulation from large building projects is sometimes sold at lumber yard resale shops, so you can get some here at about 80-90% less than you would in retail.
- Repurposed Styrofoam. Though challenging to recycle through traditional methods, Styrofoam sheets are relatively easy to reuse.
- Carton boxes or cardboard. This is effective for blocking crosswinds, particularly when your chicken coop has drafts. Simply tape the cardboard on the coop’s walls but carefully monitor it because it can get wet and is easily flammable.
- This is often spread on the coop’s floor. You can also use straw bales against the walls and near the entrance to insulate your coop.
- If you have thick fabric like old towels or curtains, you can use these to insulate a chicken coop if you are on a tight budget.
- Spray foam. Though expensive, this is your best choice for insulating a chicken coop. You will also need to hire a professional to install it.
The above materials are lined on your walls and the roof. After this, consider insulating your coop’s floors. Since most coops are elevated to keep chickens safe and the coop dry, you will need insulation on the floor to keep warm air from escaping or cold air from flowing into the enclosure.
Chickens are messy and curious, so you cannot leave your insulation material exposed because the birds might peck at it and harm themselves. You can use interior paneling to hide the insulation material.
– Block Winter Drafts
In the winter, chickens will keep warm by puffing their feathers to create warm air pockets between the skin and feathers. A draft will disrupt this warm air pocket and cause the birds to catch a chill. After insulation, you should regularly monitor your chicken coop to look for gaps or holes through which a chilling breeze can flow into the enclosure.
Block all holes with cardboard, plywood and other sturdy materials or spray foam insulation to keep the chill out. This is because the insulation will be ineffective when you have a drafty coop. To eliminate drafts, you can keep the coop’s door closed on bitterly cold days. This means you should have stocked enough food and water for them.
– Provide Ventilation
Some poultry keepers think that ventilation and drafts are the same. Drafts are air currents drawn into a room, while ventilation is the process of intentionally introducing outdoor air into a space and removing stale air.
While draft comes from cracks in your structure, ventilation is often along the top edge of your coop where the walls and roof meet. Ventilation is crucial to protect your birds from lung issues common during the winter.
You can drill a few small holes in the wall near your coop’s ceiling on opposite sides. This keeps air moving through the enclosure without affecting the flock.
– Use Deep Bedding
Composting manure generates heat that can be used to warm your chicken coop. This practice is borrowed from the world of horses. Over time, the deep litter generated by compost manure will heat your coop by about fifteen degrees.
If this sounds favorable for you, stop sweeping, removing or scooping your used chicken bedding in the late summer. Cover the coop with 1-3 inches of wood shavings when it starts smelling because of this old litter. Continually add the wood shavings without removing the used bedding to generate enough bedding depth and heat in time for the winter.
Each additional layer of bedding will insulate the air in your coop from the odors under it so the enclosure will stay clean and fresh while the deeper bedding layers start compositing. Over several months, the bedding will accumulate. The bottom layers start slowly generating heat as compositing starts.
The warm insulation blanket from upper layers and nitrogen in chicken waste leads to the quick decomposition of lower bedding layers. This generates heat that then rises to warm the coop. As long as you have thick and fresh bedding in the upper layers, the odor of your enclosure remains unaffected. You can rake out the bedding in the spring and then start accumulating it again.
– Adjust Roosting
Like people, chickens love warm feet on cold nights. They also snuggle up close to keep warm. Ensure your roost is large and solid enough for your birds to snuggle up in winter.
The rule of thumb is to have a roost that is at least two inches wide and has at least eight inches of length for each bird. The roost should also be placed on your coop’s warmest side. This protects them from bitter winds that might stir up overnight.
How Much Does It Cost To Insulate The Coop?
There is no set price for insulating your chicken coop. The amount you spend depends on the materials you will be using and whether or not you will hire a professional or handle it as a DIY project. You will significantly reduce your insulation budget when using recycled materials or repurposing a few items, like old blankets.
Some farmers have indicated they spent under $100 to insulate a 10’x20′ coop with a few new materials and some recycled ones when handling their insulation as a DIY project.
Can You Use Cardboard To Insulate A Chicken Coop?
Yes, cardboard is a good choice for insulating your chicken coop. It is an easy and cheap insulation material that can be repurposed from packaging. This means you will play a part in eco-conservation with cardboard insulation instead of leaving it in landfills.
Do not worry about chickens ingesting cardboard. The birds will peck at it if you have not covered it with paneling, but they often lose interest within a short time. Unfortunately, it is not the best choice in places with harsh winters.
You might also have to use several stacks of cardboard to properly insulate your coop, which means the walls will become thick and your chicken coop small.
Is Styrofoam Good For Insulating A Chicken Coop?
Yes, Styrofoam is one of the best materials for insulation because it is easy to install, lightweight and provides exceptional insulation. You can use 1.5″ Styrofoam sheets between the ceiling and roof and wall and siding.
Chickens will peck at the Styrofoam and might eat it if it is not covered. Thankfully, the material is non-toxic and will often be passed out in feces without harming the birds.
You can confidently and adequately insulate your chicken coop with the information above. Remember that your chickens should still enjoy some fresh outdoor air, even in the winter. You need an extra layer of protection in your chicken run to protect the birds’ wattle, combs and feet.
In the run, you can use a layer of bedding, straw, and hay. Use just enough of these materials to encourage your birds to get out of their warm coop to stretch their legs.