Like people, chickens enjoy a cool breeze on a sultry August afternoon yet shun winter’s frigid drafts. Chicken keepers have a dilemma because, other than temperature, drafts and breezes are the same thing! Good flock management entails providing a summer breeze while preventing January drafts.
Nearly every coop has plenty of cracks, holes, and other places for air to leak in. The solution is using caulking gun to plug them with a quality caulk, but leaving a few small cracks open lets some air move through the coop. Even on the coldest nights some ventilation is helpful, but keep drafts away from roosting areas.
Good windows situated properly enable chickens to enjoy breezes but be sheltered from drafts. Cross ventilation is helpful, and a large window on the coop’s south side will let winter sun pour into the coop, warming it and stimulating egg laying. Since windows can be a common entry point for predators, they must be secured. Any window left open should be covered with stout wire mesh and secured with sturdy nails or staples to keep predators outside.
As fall’s temperatures drop many first time flock owners are concerned about their birds. Will they freeze? There’s no need to worry. Chickens have dense downy under feathers that are outstanding insulation. On cold nights they fluff feathers and tuck their bare feet under them to keep warm. Only their combs are vulnerable to frostbite, and northern chicken keepers can prevent frostbite by choosing breeds with small combs. Most white egg laying breeds have large frost prone combs, but brown eggers like Wyandotte’s, Brahmas, and Americaunas are rarely bothered by frostbite.
As long as chickens are out of drafts they remain comfortable down to zero or even colder. When the temperature plunges to deep subzero a brooder fixture with a heat lamp will help the birds survive. Taking the edge off the cold is all that’s needed. Be sure to keep hot bulbs away from anything flammable.