The degree-day method is widely used to determine energy consumption but cannot be directly applied to poultry buildings without improvements in its accuracy. This study was designed to optimize the degree-day calculation and proposes a solar-air degree-day method, which can be used to calculate the cooling and heating degree-days and the annual cooling and heating loads under different climate conditions for poultry buildings. In this paper, the solar-air degree-day method was proposed, which considers the effects of solar radiation with different wall orientations and surface colors. Five Chinese cities, Harbin, Beijing, Chongqing, Kunming and Guangzhou, were selected to represent different climate zones to determine the solar-air degree-days. The heating and cooling energy requirements for different climates were compared by DeST (Designer’s Simulation Toolkit) simulation and the solar-air degree-day method. Approaches to decrease energy consumption were developed. The results showed that the maximum relative error was less than 10%, and the new method was not significantly different from the DeST simulation ( >0.05). The accuracy of calculating energy requirements was improved by the solar-air degree-day method in the different climate zones. Orientation and surface color effects on energy consumption need to be considered, and external walls of different orientations should have different surface colors.