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Winter is Here: How Chicken Farmers Take Care of the Flock When It’s Cold Out

It’s that time of year again, and as temperatures fall across the country, finding warmth against the cold is key – especially for broiler chickens (chickens raised for meat) and the farmers who take care of them.

Regardless of the temperature outside, maintaining stable body temperatures for broiler chickens can be tricky.

That’s where farmers step in.

Because chickens put out more body heat as they grow, climate control becomes key through the various stages of their lives.

No Matter the Season, Farmers Ensure Their Flock is Comfortable

In order to provide the best care for the chickens throughout each season, modern chicken houses allow farmers to maintain, control and adjust temperatures within the house – no matter how cold it is outside.

Sasha Smith, Area Coordinator & Poultry Welfare Office explains, “when chicks are young they have down…they’re not fully feathered, so they can’t very well maintain their own body heat. So we have to do that for them. That’s why we have the heater systems in the houses.”

Sasha Smith Area Coordinator & Poultry Welfare Officer

Sasha Smith, a Poultry Welfare Officer, adjusts the heat in the chicken house.

For a day old chick, the temperature in the house needs to be about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Terry Hollis, who has been raising and caring for chickens for over ten years explains that, “In the summertime it’s not hard to achieve [that 90 degree] temperature.”

However, in the wintertime, Hollis says that farmers have to achieve a bit more of a balancing act by “trying not to burn too much heat [while] at the same time bringing enough in.” Hollis explains that “static pressure” – opening the vents to allow the outside air to mix with the warm air before trickling down to the ground floor where the chickens are – is a helpful tool that farmers use to keep baby chicks warm during the colder months.

When the chickens are about three weeks old, houses are kept at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature gradually decreases to about 64 degrees Fahrenheit by week seven, to keep them cooler as they grow and emit more heat.

How Farmers Ensure the Chicken House is the Right Temperature

Just likes dogs, birds don’t sweat—they pant—to get rid their extra heat. And as chickens grow, the also grow more feathers, which helps the chickens stay warm. When that process begins, farmers use tunnel ventilation to cool the houses, fanning the chickens and expelling the excess heat out of the fans.

Even before chickens begin to feather out, temperatures in the barn are measured at chicken height to ensure their welfare and comfort. That diligence continues throughout the chickens’ lives, as farmers tailor both chicken feed and barn temperature to each stage of the chickens’ life.

While the weather outside this winter may leave much to be desired, inside the house walls, broiler chickens are kept warm and safe from the chilly temperatures.

Check out a modern chicken house, and get a tour of the heating and ventilation systems: