Recently I was contacted by Bryce Thomas of IncubatorWarehouse.com. Not only were they willing to have me review some of their equipment used in hatching chicks but he also wrote a wonderful guest post for me. For the next couple of weeks I am not going to be posting as regularly as I have to make several trips out of state to prepare for my mother’s service. This seems like the perfect time to share his post on “How to Insulate a Chicken Coop”. With all the cold weather we are having this information is rather important to help keep our chickens warm and healthy!
If you have chickens and you live in colder climates, you’ve probably asked yourself if your coop needs to be insulated. While chickens can typically survive the cold winter months without insulated coops, keeping the temperature a bit higher will make the chickens happier. If the chickens do not have the stress of harsh winters, then they may lay better in the spring and summer months.
Chickens can survive in dry air down to 0 Fahrenheit without too much of a problem. However, if the air becomes too moist or humid, frostbite can affect their combs and feet. Insulating coops can reduce moisture buildup and high humidity that can come from condensation forming on the inside of the coop. It also helps reduce the drafts inside, which are harder on the birds than the cold. Insulated coops also allow you to sleep better at night when a storm comes rolling in and you are wondering if the temperatures will fall lower than anticipated. Chickens in a dry, draft-free coop can withstand the cold very well.
However, there are some downsides to insulation. Insulation on the inside the coop can be problematic. Batt, blown in, or other loose insulation is prone to rodents. Solid, styrofoam insulation deters rodents from making a home, but, for some reason, chickens seem to go to great lengths to eat it. Regardless of the insulation used, a solid inner wall is a must.
If the coop is stick framed or has wall cavities, and you have access to those wall cavities, you could insert batting or other loose commercial insulation. If cost is an issue, loose straw, sawdust, shredded old fabric or blankets, newspapers, or just about anything will work. This is only really feasible if you can easily access these voids in the wall.
Remember, the inner wall of the coop needs to be very tight and solid. Not only will it keep the chickens from eating your insulation materials, it will deter rodents and other creepies from making their homes there. While some insects inside the coop are fine, and even nutritious for the chickens, others can become too much of a nuisance. You don’t want a nest of hornets, yellow jackets, or venomous spiders in your coop.
If there are no voids or cavities in the walls, or they are inaccessible, you can apply insulation to the outside of the coop. 2-inch thick styrofoam panels work well for this. The styrofoam can be cut to size and shape, along with a new outer plywood wall, and both pieces screwed into place. Offsetting any joints in the materials will significantly reduce drafts inside the coop. Several layers of cardboard will also work in place of commercial styrofoam insulation.
Remember the coop’s floor and ceiling also need insulation. Since chickens typically can’t peck the ceiling of their coop, this inner wall is not as crucial. Stapling up some rolled insulation will probably suffice. If it is a raised coop, you may be able to attach the insulation under the floor. If not, several inches of good saw shavings or straw will work well on the floor.
Be sure to check the type of wood the shavings comes from. Some shavings may contain dried glues, chemicals, or other toxins, plus cedar and some other woods are poisonous to chickens. Saw dust that is too fine may cause respiratory issues, so be sure to use are larger shavings. Ensure that if straw is used, it stays dry. The coop will need to be cleaned often, or at least raked out to let any damp spot dry out, preventing the growth of mold and mildew.