You may be an avid gardener who also likes to keep chickens. Or possibly you are battling with pests in your greenhouse and have heard that chickens can help keep the pesky bugs under control. It would seem that a happy combination may be to keep your chickens in your greenhouse but is this a possibility, and is it wise? Can chickens be kept in a greenhouse?
Chickens can live in a greenhouse, but the humidity and temperature must be controlled, balancing the plant and chicken needs. A maximum temperature of 75° F and humidity of 50% for chickens is recommended. The number of chickens must be appropriate for the available space. The plants need protection from the chickens foraging. An adjoining outside run is helpful.
Chickens have specific needs and can get sick if the environmental conditions are too extreme. Therefore, conditions in the greenhouse must be carefully managed to enable the chickens to live in it. In addition, various other aspects must be considered when combining chickens and plants in a greenhouse.
Can Chickens Live In A Greenhouse?
Chickens can live in a greenhouse, but there are a number of factors that must be controlled if the chickens are to remain healthy and thrive. Greenhouses often have high humidity levels, and depending on the plants being grown, the temperature can also be increased.
It is vital to create environmental conditions that are beneficial to both the chickens and the plants. Maintaining this dynamic balance is the key to keeping chickens in a greenhouse.
Greenhouse Conditions And Chickens’ Requirements.
Greenhouses have relatively high humidity and can sometimes become very hot in summer. An important aspect of keeping chickens is controlling humidity and temperature. Chickens are comfortable in humidity up to 50%.
They become uncomfortable as the humidity increases beyond this point. 65° F to 75° F is the best temperature range for chickens to thrive. When temperatures increase beyond 75° F, they begin to experience heat stress.
Temperatures that are above 80° F can result in the death of the chicken from heat. Combining high humidity and high heat is deadly for chickens.
The conditions in the greenhouse need to be controlled so that the maximum temperature is 75° F and humidity is 50% for chickens to thrive.
Here’s a great video showing how to keep chickens healthy during winter months by moving them into a greenhouse:
Heat Tolerant Chicken Breeds.
Some breeds of chickens are more heat tolerant than others. Generally, chicken breeds with big wattles and combs and fewer feathers cope better with heat. These chicken breeds are better equipped to deal with the heat:
- New Hampshire Reds
- Rhode Island Reds
- White Leghorns
- Plymouth Rocks
- Easter Eggers
- Minorca chickens come from the Mediterranean and so are bred to deal with heat.
- Fayoumis originated in Egypt, and so are heat tolerant.
Avoid: Australorps, Cornish crosses, Jersey Giants, Silkies, Wyandottes, and Faverolles.
Symptoms Of Heat Stress In Chickens.
Chickens do not perspire and must use other methods to control their body temperature. This includes panting and maximizing their surface area to the air to cool off. There are several symptoms of heat stress that can be noted in chickens:
- Panting – breathing with the beak open.
- Lying down with legs outstretched.
- The wings hang or droop to maximize their skin exposure.
- Initially, the wattles and combs may go bright red, but they will become pale as the heat stress continues.
- There will be reduced food intake as the process of digestion produces heat.
- The chicken will drink a lot of water which may cause diarrhea.
- Seizures will occur in severe heat stress.
- Coma and death are the final stages of heat stress.
Chickens that live in conditions that are permanently too hot will have reduced egg production. They will lose calcium due to altered pH levels, and as a result, the eggs will have thin shells that crack easily. In addition, heat stress on a regular basis will result in chickens prone to respiratory infections.
When chickens breath with an open mouth, the air bypasses the protective structures in the nose that filter out bacteria. The bacteria enters directly into the lungs, and the chicken becomes ill.
High Humidity Makes Chickens Prone To Disease.
High humidity levels are detrimental to chickens. It increases the risk of chickens getting frostbite on their combs, wattles, and feet in winter. High humidity provides a perfect breeding ground for bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
Here’s a quick video of a greenhouse with part of it converted into a chicken coop with proper ventilation, with more info below:
Controlling Heat And Humidity In A Greenhouse.
In order to keep chickens in a greenhouse, the gardener must carefully control the heat and humidity in the greenhouse. It is vital to have sufficient effective opening vents in a greenhouse.
These are usually situated at the top of the greenhouse with openings at floor level to allow cold air to feed in. By opening these top heat vents, the humidity and heat can be controlled.
Misters can be used to help decrease the temperature. However, they must be used sensibly with an eye on the overall humidity of the greenhouse. Fans that circulate the air help to move hot air out through the vents.
Attach An Outside Run To The Greenhouse.
Most people who have kept chickens in greenhouses have found that it is essential to have an outside run attached to the greenhouse. This allows the chickens the opportunity to regulate their temperature should conditions in the greenhouse become uncomfortable.
- It also provides valuable stimulation and access to sunshine and fresh air, enhancing the chickens’ health and happiness.
- The chickens may access the run through a simple flap or swing door built into the greenhouse if you wish them to have free access.
The Problem Of Ammonia.
Chicken waste contains a lot of ammonia, and there will be a build-up of chicken manure in the greenhouse. It is essential, therefore, to have a composting system to manage manure in the greenhouse or to remove it regularly.
- Some gardeners have reported that when they kept chickens in their greenhouse, the ammonia fumes killed their plants.
- It is vital to assess how many chickens you can safely have and manage in your greenhouse.
- Overcrowding will make the problem of ammonia much worse and more challenging to manage in the greenhouse.
Chickens Can Be Destructive.
Chickens should not be allowed free rein in your greenhouse as they love to scratch and will happily eat your plants and seedlings. Their scratching habits can wreak havoc on your plants and destroy your newly planted seed trays.
Most chickens can fly up to three to four feet in height, so putting your plants on raised beds or tables will not help.
You will need to use wire mesh to keep your chickens confined to certain areas or prevent them from getting to your plants somehow.
- Some gardeners have found that the best method is to only allow the chickens into the greenhouse at night.
- They are let out into the adjoining run during the day and brought in at night to roost on perches provided for them.
- Do be sure to get up as soon as it is light to let the chickens out; otherwise, they will wreak havoc in your greenhouse.
Chickens Help Warm A Cold Greenhouse.
Chickens can help to warm a greenhouse during wintertime. Many chicken and garden enthusiasts only put the chickens into the greenhouse during the winter.
The greenhouse may be warmer than their pen, and they help increase the temperature of the greenhouse. Additionally, chickens breathe out carbon dioxide that the plants use for photosynthesis.
In some gardens, owners have chosen to have a greenhouse and chicken pen adjoining each other. This limits the damage the chickens can do to the plants and still allows the greenhouse to benefit from the chickens eating bugs and warming the greenhouse.
There is usually a common wall made from fencing, cob or stacked straw bales. In the northern hemisphere, the chicken pen is usually situated on the northern side of the greenhouse.
This positioning protects the greenhouse from the cold northerly winds and helps keep the greenhouse warmer in the winter.
Chickens can live in a greenhouse with carefully controlled humidity and temperature. The chickens must be managed to limit plant damage and control the chicken manure. For some people, it may not be worth the effort to keep chickens in the greenhouse. Others may appreciate the benefits of having the chickens in their greenhouse.