Caring for chickens can be a complicated process, as their needs may seem confusing or unnecessary but every animal including you me, and your chickens want to be warm, but do chickens need an insulated coop? No matter where you live this is an important thing to know.
Chicken coops should be insulated regardless of climate. In the heat, insulation will help cool down the coop. In cold winters, it allows heat to stay trapped inside. There are many different ways to insulate a chicken coop. Other steps can also be implemented to help keep a chicken flock warm.
Keeping a flock warm comes down to more than just installing insulation, although it is likely the easiest to maintain part of the process. Although it may be tempting to ignore in warmer climates, insulation can still prove vitally important to the health and wellness of a flock.
I will explain why insulation is important in a chicken coop, what materials are based for insulating your coop, and much much more. Read on to find out.
Why Insulation Is Important in a Chicken Coop
Insulation serves as a heat regulator for a coop, balancing it to a reasonable temperature year-round. As chickens are small animals with little fat or ways to cool themselves insulation makes chickens more comfortable making the flock more likely to lay eggs and stay healthy.
Insulation is often thought of as only necessary in cold climates or places with harsh winters. While it likely becomes more important in environments like that, it proves just as useful even during the summer or in particularly hot areas.
Using insulation either during the building of a coop or after initial construction also ensures that the coop is stable in other ways, increasing the comfortability of the flock. This is a secondary benefit that ultimately creates a great positive; as chickens are more comfortable, they are likely to lay more eggs and stay healthy.
To see a how-to guide on insulating your chicken coop please watch the above video.
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Coop Heat Must Be Maintained In All Climates
Insulation is one of the two great heat regulators that should be implemented and thought about for any chicken coop design, with the other being ventilation. Chickens are hearty creatures, and their feathers largely help the chickens maintain a comfortable body heat on their own. The goal of insulation is to protect the flock from the elements and let them focus on laying eggs and staying healthy.
Chickens do not have sweat glands or any major defense against overheating, relying on flapping their wings and panting to relieve the pressures of heat. While this works for a time, it is easier than you may think for your chickens to overheat. Insulation and a well-kept coop will make this directly easier.
On the flip side, chickens are not fatty, and some breeds have thinner feathers, making it more difficult for them to deal with the cold. Even hearty breeds with thick and supple feathers will still struggle in extreme cold.
If your chickens are underweight they will struggle with egg production and keeping themselves warm in the cold, to know why your Chickens might be underweight and how to fix it please see my post.
Across all breeds, most birds rely on fluffing themselves and sticking close to others in the flock for body heat. Insulation can make that less of a necessity and is especially important for smaller flocks.
If you are raising backyard chickens with a flock of roughly eight or less, insulation rises from a “should-have” to a “must-have” so that your chickens survive the cold. Insulating the coop is one of the best things you can do to help chickens in cold weather, as this study shows.
Reducing Draftiness Is Vital To The Health Of The Flock
One of the largest benefits of building a coop with insulation in mind is the reduction of draftiness and improved ventilation that is possible. In short, the build quality of a coop as a whole is much more important specifically than insulation in particular, though insulation helps in other ways.
Chickens are particularly susceptible to cold drafts and require ventilation to move cold air out and warm air in during the winter months. Drafts must be protected against so that chickens which are actively warming up inside the coop do not suddenly get chilled.
Chicken coop walls that are not insulated are particularly prone to draftiness, especially where the construction material meets the ground, roof, or other panels. Insulation helps cover many of these slight openings while also providing a plethora of other benefits. Of course, it is also important to be mindful of doors and windows to reduce or eliminate drafts.
Ventilation is vital for a chicken coop so that the flock can get fresh air and not stifle the chickens. Ventilation largely comes down to the initial construction of the coop, although ventilation paths can be added in later to DIY coops. When the chickens are brought in for the night, it is important that airflow continues while closed up.
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What To Insulate A Chicken Coop With
- Spray Foam Insulation
- Woolen Blankets
Insulating a coop is important, but it requires an important decision; what do you insulate with? There are a plethora of options that can work for insulating a chicken coop, ranging price points and ease of use. While not all of them are equal in their insulation capabilities, there is certainly one that can fit your budget and flock needs.
While deciding what to insulate your coop with, consider the following:
All of these are wide categories that will change depending on your location, current setup, and options for purchasing or obtaining some of the options.
Insulating a chicken coop does not have to be done as insulating a house would be; materials can be worse at the job and still meet some necessary minimum requirements. Thanks to this, it is possible to get creative and even mix materials together to reduce your price and make it easy.
Price is an obvious category; some of the materials you can insulate a chicken coop with are much cheaper than others. Consider your budget before deciding on a material to go forward with. Generally speaking, spray foam insulation is the best material available, but it also tends to be the most expensive.
Time relates to two larger categories; the time it will take to install the insulation, and how far into the chicken coop’s construction you are. Some available insulation options take a mere few minutes to set up and can be done well after initial construction, but they will not do their job as well.
Likewise, some of the best insulation will take time to install correctly and is easily done while the coop is under construction but may require tearing down and rebuilding walls if it is already finished. Consider your timeframe along with the material.
Availability means quite a bit when deciding on how to insulate your chicken coop; some of the options are likely to be things you have lying around the house, like wool blankets or old fabrics.
Likewise, if you have any extra insulation from a recent renovation or there is a sale going on, availability may become trivial. Consider who you know, your area, and what is generally around you when determining what suits your coop best.
The final aspect of insulation material for chicken coops to consider is your needs. Although it is useful across all climates, regions, and seasons, some chicken coops will require better insulation than others.
If you have bitter winters or extremely scorching summers, it is likely in your best interest to spend a bit more money and time and insulate the coop as well as possible. Likewise, if you live in a mild environment year-round, you can cut some corners or use what is around.
Beyond the needs of the chickens, which take priority here, consider how you want your insulation and coop to look, as well. After all, it will be a major part of your yard; you should enjoy the look as much as possible, within reason.
Like insulation chickens getting enough light in winter is very important for their health and wellbeing, to understand how much light is healthy for your chickens check out my post.
Cardboard is a cheap, easy way to lightly insulate your chicken coop. While certainly not the highest quality insulation around, it simply provides more material between the elements and your chickens. This, in turn, is another layer for heat and cold to get trapped between.
While not specifically made to insulate anything, cardboard’s biggest asset is that you likely have enough lying around to insulate your coop already. If you do not, a few more trips to the store or simply asking around should get you there. Given enough time and effort, it is possible to insulate your coop with cardboard and essentially pay no money for it.
Of course, cardboard insulation is not without its downsides; it is not intended to insulate anything, so harsher climates will likely need something more substantial to insulate their coop.
Those who can get away with using cardboard will likely need to stack in multiple times to get any sort of proper insulation out of it, so the walls can quickly become thick and unwieldy.
Installation of cardboard insulation is very easy; simply tape or glue the cardboard to the interior of the chicken coop and you are good to go. Be warned that the chickens may attempt to eat the cardboard, or at the least peck through it. It might be beneficial to cover the cardboard insulation with another material to prevent this.
Although it is likely the cheapest option, cardboard insulation should likely be avoided when possible. With the chickens eating it, the thickness required, and the flammability, it is likely best to search for a middle ground instead.
Where cardboard insulation really shines is for quick repairs or noticed drafts; cardboard can be taped over edges or holes quickly to work as a temporary solution. This way, you can afford to take the time to properly fix the issue at a later date.
Do your chickens poop in their water? It’s a common problem and it can be very bad for their health, find out why it happens and how to prevent it in my post here.
Styrofoam is a great alternative for insulating your chicken coop thanks to its common availability, relatively cheap cost, and fantastic insulating capabilities.
Working with styrofoam can be a challenge thanks to its relatively low durability. Anyone who has cut styrofoam in the past knows that it can be frustrating, especially if the piece disintegrates or falls apart. Thankfully, with some taping of the edges and extra care while cutting, this can largely be avoided.
Still, installing a styrofoam insulation will take some time. You can choose to either glue or tape on the styrofoam, although glue will generally hold better. Treat the installation like cardboard, covering gaps and carefully lining up edges to reduce draftiness.
Styrofoam is often a fantastic mix of all four aspects of choosing insulation. It is a relatively low price, takes an average length of time to install, is highly available (you likely have some around your house already), and serves well enough to insulate in almost any climate.
The biggest drawback of styrofoam is its durability. Chickens are all but guaranteed to pick at, eat, and eventually destroy exposed styrofoam. While leaving it open is likely fine on the roof of a coop, assuming chickens cannot reach the top, any used on the walls or windows will have to be covered by another material.
This secondary material can be a variety of things, so take a look at what you have lying around from other projects around the house. The two most common choices are plywood or OBS board. Inside the chicken coop, you can easily piece together a covering with scraps, as the aesthetics really do not matter.
Another negative for many chicken farmers is the environmental effect that the production of styrofoam has; it takes nearly an eternity to breakdown and requires a significant amount of oil to produce. While this largely becomes irrelevant if you already have enough to insulate the coop, some environmentally friendly chicken flock owners may not want to contribute to this process.
If you have any lying around or other options such as spray foam insulation are prohibitively expensive, consider choosing styrofoam. It is a great mix of cheap and effective that is hard to beat anywhere else on this list.
Do you feed your baby chickens grit? It is EXTREMELY important for their health as without it they cannot eat properly, learn everything about grit, and why baby chicks need it in my post here.
Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation is the classic choice for anyone who simply wants to insulate just about any building. Made to be effective and only used for this very purpose, it is difficult to beat the efficiency that this brings. Another option in the same vein is strips of insulation, made out of the same material and serving the same purpose.
Both forms of this insulation are incredibly useful and the best choice for particularly harsh climates or anyone who is insulating a new chicken coop. Easy to install during the initial construction of the coop, managing to add insulation to an already built structure is going to be a tedious and frustrating process. As such, if you are early in the process or building an entirely new coop for your flock, this is likely your best choice.
Installing spray foam or strips of insulation is incredibly easy once the wall is exposed. Simply cut the strips to size and stick them to the wall, or spray the foam across all joints and wait for it to expand into every part of the wall. Most chicken coops are small enough for either process to take less than an hour, which can be a great time saver.
Chickens will eat exposed insulation. Not only is this obviously bad for the coop’s insulation, it can also cause severe damage to the chicken’s health. Whenever you use real insulation in a chicken coop, be sure to cover it with a secondary material. Most often, this is done with plywood or OSB board, although metal is another common choice. Whatever material you choose, be sure it is safe for chickens and animals.
The price for insulation can be prohibitively expensive, so consider your budget before choosing this material. Although the best on the market, you may not actually need this much insulating power to keep your flock warm and comfortable. With that said, if insulation can be found cheaply around you, it is likely worth picking up.
Some people feed their chickens food colouring so they change different colours, but can you do that, does it hurt the chickens? If you’re interested see my post.
Woolen blankets or old fabrics can be used as insulation as well, and can be installed multiple ways. This is a great option for those with a number of old rags they are looking to get rid of, or a surplus of blankets that they do not mind getting dirty or possibly losing.
Utilizing woolen blankets and fabrics as insulation is a great option for those looking to spend absolutely no money. If you are going to spend money on any insulating material, you are much better off choosing styrofoam or real insulation instead. Buying a number of woolen blankets is not cheap, and is likely the least efficient way to spend your money and insulate properly.
Blankets are nice because they can be installed directly into the walls of a coop for added protection, or draped over the outside to insulate heat and cold during more severe conditions. Most often, they will be used the latter way, as extra protection when the unexpected occurs.
For instance, when a large storm or cold-front is expected to roll through, you can take the extra effort to place some woolen blankets around and atop the chicken coop to help keep some warm air inside.
Be sure that the blankets are not interfering with ventilation in the coop too much. It is vital that chickens still get fresh air and proper airflow, even during cold seasons.
Overall, woolen blankets and fabrics are great as a secondary choice or to fill in some small gaps in other insulation choices. They are not great on their own unless you happen to have an enormous amount of them lying around.
For those who keep other animals or know some local farmers, using straw as insulation for various parts of the coop may prove to be an economical and easy option. Often, straw will be used as bedding in coops anyway; extending its use to the walls is an easy and quick way to add some insulation to any chicken structure.
To use straw as an insulator, simply secure the bales of straw to the walls with ropes or some other mechanism. The flock is likely to pick away at it, but the straw will not harm them. You can choose to cover the straw with another material if you wish, or just replace it as necessary.
If you are choosing to place the straw on the outside wall of the coop instead of the inside, it will be easily damaged by the elements. In cases such as this, you should do your best to cover it with another material that is weather resistant, both to limit your future workload and help maximize the straw’s insulating properties.
Straw is not the best insulator available, but it will do more than enough to help regulate your coop and flock’s temperature. It is a great option for those with access to straw, but those who will need to spend money on it are better off finding another method.
Other Ways To Keep A Flock Warm
Despite its importance, insulating a coop is not the only step to keeping a flock warm. In fact, other methods and details have proven to be much more important for the health and longevity of chickens.
By going through and ensuring that some further steps are taken, you can worry less about how to insulate a coop and know that the rest of the build has taken care of most of the issues.
Most of the advice for keeping a flock warm focuses on sunlight and providing space for the chickens to do what they naturally do to stay warm.
Often, this means building the coop effectively and providing ample space for movement, roosting, and other natural activities. Build an effective coop that touches upon some of these major warmth generators, and your coop should easily keep warm.
Use Materials That Trap Sunlight
During the construction of your coop, consider using materials that absorb sunlight rather than bouncing it away. This is a careful balance to consider, as you do not want the coop to overheat in the summer; it is best to choose these materials around the windows or areas where direct sunlight often hits.
Chickens are naturally exploratory and curious, and will generally find the warmest spot in a coop to settle down when needed. By using materials and colors that easily absorb sunlight, especially on the floor of the coop, you make their job quite a bit easier.
This proves especially effective for coops with dark floors or areas. Be sure to provide bedding everywhere in the coop for chickens to burrow and warm upon, but the floor underneath being black can help trap what little warmth gets through.
Allow Space For Roosting
Chickens roost together whenever they need extra heat, using each other’s bodies as sources of warmth. To do this best, they roost on a spot and fluff their feathers out. During the layout and creation of your coop, it is essential to provide space for them to do this.
Depending on the size of your flock, the total roosting area may end up being quite large. Consider allowing for roosting by placing rods or perches near the roof of the coop; bonus points if roosting locations are in direct sunlight or near a well-insulated window. The whole point of this process is to let chickens naturally and comfortably deal with the cold.
Consider the space for roosting as an added benefit; ideally, the coup is comfortable enough year round that the chickens will not need to rely on this for warmth.
However, that is a difficult process to achieve, and chickens will often roost anyway. It is best to account for roosting space early, during the initial creation of the coop, so that you do not need to worry about adding it in later.
If chickens don’t have space to roost they can get into fights competing for roost space, to understand what to do with fighting chickens, and if you can prevent fights from happening see my post right here.
Build The Coop To Allow For Airflow & Ventilation
A properly ventilated and insulated coop is one of the most important parts of keeping a flock warm. While drafty areas and leaks need to be dealt with as quickly as possible, it is important that new air and water particles can still enter into the coop.
Proper ventilation will keep humidity levels in the coop comfortable and help prevent severe health problems from popping up.
Humidity is a particularly important thing to maintain if you are interested in hatching eggs from your chickens. Chickens lay fewer eggs outside of optimal humidity levels, as well as struggling further with heat if it is highly humid. The coop can also become wet and reduce roosting if it is humid out and the coop does not have proper ventilation. Insulation fights against all aspects of this.
One of the most dangerous parts of cold weather for chickens is frostbite, specifically around their legs and feet. One of the best ways to combat this is to keep dry, comfortable, thick bedding around the whole coop.
Sadly, even the best bedding is likely to become damp or freeze over during cold, wet weather. To stop this problem from occurring, the coop must be well ventilated to allow wet areas to dry quickly.