“Hi Wendy and Duncan, thank you so much for all the time and serious effort you put into answering questions and circulating this newsletter. We live in the South of the South island in New Zealand (a fabulous place) and have a temperate climate. A cold winter sees us having maybe a dozen frosts to -4 C and a couple of snow falls of 1-2inches that may lie for a day and night.
We have just moved house and are going to keep hens again :-)
My question relates to the coop we will build. I think insulating the coop walls and ceiling would help with feed bills, general health and more eggs, however I’m not sure what material to use. My concern relates to mites and other undesirables that may take up residence in the insulation. In NZ we use fibreglass or wool compressed into “batts” or polystyrene as insulating material.
Do you think we need to insulate, and if so, can you advise me which material would be most suitable. We would do our very best to seal all the cracks to prevent any bugs entering. Again thank you, I really enjoy your newsletter every week. Cheers,” ~ Karen
I’m glad you wrote.
First of all, I appreciate the fact that you’re thinking ahead to make the best provisions for your animals.
Insulation is worth considering.
During colder temperatures of the winter months, chickens have to work hard just to maintain themselves and they do indeed require more feed to do so.
This is a more serious concern in a very cold climate but not something to discount in a more mild climate like yours.
Every environment is going to have bugs that are specific to that area and that are more prone to take up residence in one material over another.
With that in mind, insulate with what is most affordable and available in your area.
The type of insulation is not as important as sealing the cracks.
Remember that chickens will eat just about anything, fiberglass included, so you must make sure that they cannot gain access to anything they should not eat.
If the walls are sealed well enough to keep bugs out, they should be fine for keeping the chickens from gaining access to the insulation.
However, I want to address a specific comment from your question and then you might change your mind about insulating all together.
It is not the cold of winter that causes hens to lay fewer eggs, it is the decreased daylight hours. Even if you used a heater and kept the coop at 26 C (79 F) you still would not get as many eggs as you would during the longer days of summer.
If you wanted to keep egg production levels closer to that of summer, you could use artificial light to extend daylight the hours. I’ve written about artificial light in previous issues so check the website for information on the pros and cons of that.
If you did choose to use artificial light, keep in mind that for some portion of the night, the light itself will provide a source of heat. In a climate like yours, that may be more than sufficient, making insulation unnecessary altogether.
And just for your information, in my part of the world, we experience temperatures below freezing during the night for about 1 month each winter and get snow just a couple of times a year as well. Our coop isn’t insulated at all, nor do we use artificial light.
Although we do see an increase in feed requirements, a drop in egg production and lots of molting, the chickens seem to do just fine.
I hope this information helps you to make a decision that best meets your needs and thanks again for your question.