Raising chickens can be challenging during winter especially in the northern states and Canada. Freezing temperatures and snow pose difficulties and you absolutely must have a chicken coop capable of handling the weather or it can be detrimental to your flocks health.
Luckily there are chicken coops built specifically for cold and wet winter conditions so that your chickens can stay warm and dry, but most importantly super happy, all winter long. After all happy chickens lay awesome eggs and tons of them!
How much coop space do chickens need?
Let’s clear up some myths surrounding this issue. Medium sized chickens eg Leghorns or ISA Browns require a minimum of 4sqft per chicken. Bantams being smaller require half that space, again, per bird. Larger breeds like Australorps or Buff Orpington require slightly more space at between 5-7sqft per bird. As stated these are minimum requirements generally the more space you can afford chickens the happier they are. It also leads to less friction between them and therefore limits squabbles.
The roost bars are where the chickens will sleep at night. Its space requirements are often overlooked and as such some chickens can be left sleeping on the floor, which is a big ‘no, no’ during winter. This could leave them cold and in a draught making them sick. Off the floor roosting next to one another will keep them warm and happy [provided you have the right coop.]
Medium sized chickens will want between 8-12 inches of roost width space. What I mean by width space is the dimension from wing to wing. They will actually huddle up closer during winter to keep warm and spread out during hot summers to allow air flow between them. Larger birds will need about 10-16 inches of roost space each.
What makes a good winter chicken coop?
- The most obviously point is a well-made chicken coop with no gaps that can provide adequate protection to the elements. Good build quality and materials are a big give away that the coop is perfect for winter. Wood is extremely insulative but also breathable! Plastic chickens coops can withstand very cold temperatures but have to be double walled to do so.
- A coop must have a floor, again sounds obvious, but it will help keep the coop a lot warmer than without one. Without one, the floor temperature will affect the whole coop temperature with snow on the ground for instance it will draw down the temperature inside rapidly.
Having a floor also means you can lay down bedding. This could be either shavings or sand maybe. Our favourite however is hemp shavings, they are fantastic, really absorbent, they don’t smell as much and are really thermally efficient. A big bag is usually the same price as pine, try them out if you haven’t already.
The OverEz Coop Range
These coops are perfectly set up for cold wet and snowy winters. Firstly the roof over hangs the coop walls ever so slightly, that way any water will run straight off onto the floor and not down the walls. This prevents soaking them and avoids the potential to wet the floor too.
The walls are resin treated so hold up to snow and water really well. This coop will last a long time in testing conditions. On the inside of the ceiling there is a silver thermal radiant barrier, this will cool the coop in the summer reflecting any heat coming through the roof back out. But in the winter it really comes into its own as it will retain heat in the coop, it’s really simple but works brilliantly. It’s a neat trick that no other coop manufactures do, so kudos to OverEz.
Amish built, these things are like tanks [we love that the floor is joisted too] but are also really well thought out; like having two roost bars but at different heights. This is a bonus as firstly different chicken breeds will roost at different heights, but secondly during cold nights they can hop up to the higher one to keep slightly warmer.
The walk in door means no more crawling around to get in like other coops and makes cleaning really, really easy. All the doors [walk in, pop door and nest box door] are lockable in the closed AND open position. Again a really well thought out design.
They are really cute looking in red and white, that traditional barn appearance would look perfect in any backyard. They have 3 different sizes in their range: the small, the medium and you’ve guessed it – the large.
The small is perfect for up to 5 chickens, the medium up to 10 and the large up to 15. The fun doesn’t stop there. They have easy installation heat light packages available and you can add wheels to make it a tractor! They also have a range of runs for their coops, again in different sizes to suit any backyard requirements.
Plastic in the cold, surely not – I hear you say? Oh yes. These things are fantastic! We have the Omlet Eglu Cube on our farm with a walk in run and the coop is tried and tested down to 14F (-10C) and works brilliantly. We have never even had a frozen egg and there is no need to place down any bedding or litter. Other people thing the same to they have some great reviews check them out for yourself. Being plastic it will never rot and will probably last over 10+ years – that’s value for money.
The double walled Omlet coops work best on a stand during winter, this adds some key advantages. Firstly it will keep the ground below snow free and slightly drier. Secondly up off the floor it will be slightly warmer. If you are expecting a storm or prolonged periods of super cold weather fear not. Omlet have designed a blanket for the coops so your chickens can be snug even in the coldest of weather.
- Add wheels, turn it into a tractor – the whole thing, run included, can be moved in seconds.
- Add a custom Omlet weather resistant cover, to keep the run snow free!
- Add on an automatic chicken door.
- Available in two different colors!
The Omlet Go Up
This is great for up to 4 medium sized chickens.
The Omlet Eglu Cube
This works perfectly for up to 8 medium sized chickens.
Clark Wooden Originals Salt Box Chicken Coop
This thing is a marvel, not only is it perfect for winter it was ranked top 3 in our ‘best predator proof chicken coop’ competition. Let’s break this coop down and start from the top. Firstly it has a 25 year shingle roof. Wow this will stand the test of time for sure. It has a walk in door for easy access and for easy cleaning. A huge nest box and again the roof of which is shingle covered, meaning no soiling of the nest box, so ideal in heavy rain or snow.
The design and look of this coop is gorgeous and would be the envy of the street in your backyard. Even down to the heavy duty hinges which will work for years even after some heavy winters.
The coop measures 5ft x 6ft so with 30sqft of floor space is perfect for 7-8 medium sized chickens. The roost bar actually runs the length of the coop so has tons of space for chickens at night. Its made in the USA and the USP of this coop is it comes ‘pre built’. No DIY is required whatsoever, not even a screw is needed. Great then if your DIY skills, are…limited or you’re short on time.
It’s designed and built with longevity in mind making it ideal as a winter chicken coop.
Hmmm tough one, add price into the equation and I think it’s either out of the OverEz or the Omlet Eglu Cube, I can’t split them. Anything else other than the coops above and it would be a waste of your money.