Keeping chickens in winter.

keepitlow(6)February 7, 2009

Was thinking about raising chickens. How do they do in cold winters? Or do they need special considerations other than an unheated shelter?

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You will need a heated waterer to keep the water from freezing. Otherwise you will have to replace it often throughout the day. I use a heating pad under my large metal waterer and it works well, so far. You can buy heaters for waterers.

I add a red heat bulb at night when the temps get much below zero F. You'll need to protect your rooster from getting frostbite on his comb and wattles. Vaseline helps with that, too, on the comb and wattles. The heat lamp bulb makes a big difference. Red so they can sleep at night. I have a regular 100 watt light bulb on during the day but I use the heat lamp in daytime, as well, if the temps are really low. -10F, etc.

Keep them out of drafts and sealed up. My hen house is insulated, as well.

I am finding that they eat a lot more in the cold weather too.

Collect the eggs same day. If left overnight they will freeze.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 10:20PM
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I have heavy birds who winter well. Not sure how they are going to do in the summer though as it gets hot as hell here. My pen is not insulated but I made a roosting box in the pen and put siding on it and a roof and made a compartment in it where they huddle at night. I think they stay comfortable. I have free feed available for them. Some people like that idea (me) and some don't because they say that free feed makes them less friendly but I do provide extras often like rice, cornbread and other treats.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 1:43AM
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Thanks for all the info.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 11:46AM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

I have a half dozen Chantecler chickens here in Western Maine. The breed originated in Quebec and have little in the way of combs or wattles to freeze.

The birds have a heated waterer as runningtrails said but no other supplemental heat in the coop.

The roof of the coop is insulated but not the walls. More important than heat is ventilation. Sealing your coop up like a thermos bottle may make you feel better but high humidity in a cold coop will take a toll on your birds much faster than frigid temeratures. Chickens and their poop throw off a surprising amount of moisture. The trick is to allow air to flow without subjecting the birds to drafts.

When I see frost covering the coop window, I know the humidity is far too high. I generally keep the pop door partly open with some clear plastic flaps providing some protection from drafts on most nights unless it drops well below zero.When the weather warms up a bit, I will work on installing more suitable ventilation for the new coop.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 12:12PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

I'd just add to try and choose breeds with pea or rose combs--big, erect combs can be vulnerable to frostbite, especially in roos. You didn't say if you wanted them for meat, eggs, or both--but if for eggs, try for the heavy. dual-purpose breeds such as Orpingtons or Wyandottes.

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 3:27PM
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My coop is insulated.I have a doghouse outside the chickens door that keeps down drafts and we put plastic on the outside of the yard for more protection but leave a foot or two open at the top.I do not have electricity so the water does freeze but it is in a rubber 2 gal. stock bowl that is bendy so I can empty it or break it out fairly easily.I did go out 3 or 4 times a day when the weather was really cold.My chickens go outside unless it is really windy.The cold doesn't seem to bother them as much as the wind.As long as they are dry,they seem to do fine.Posy Pet

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 8:09PM
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A doghouse on the chicken door! That's a great idea! I'm gonig to look for one at garage sales this summer, or build one. Do they nest in it? I can also put wind screening around the pen. Great ideas!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 2:14PM
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Hi posy pet, could you please post some pictures for us to see-I love the idea and would like to see what it looks like.



    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 3:23PM
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I have an unheated coop, which is draftier than I would like. I dont have heated water, and I only water once a day most times.In the late morning. Eggs DO freeze, I lose quite a few to freezing, as my work schedule dont allow me to get eggs more than once a day... chickens with rose combs are wonderful for not getting frostbite, also, small combs that sit close to the head, I'm gonna wean out chickens with big tall combs, as I've had several get frostibite this year, and I feel bad for them. My blue laced red wyandotts have rose combs and have had no frostbite. My buff orps dont have rose combs (in fact, the roos comb seems rather large) but for some reason they've not been susceptible to frost bite either (no idea why).

If you set a timer to have a light come on at 3-4 in the morning, you'll get more eggs than if you just allow natural daylight.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 1:12PM
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Hi there. I have 20 hens & two roosters. They are completely free roaming. We have a chicken coop that was actually a child's playhouse, approx 6ftx10ft. We have an auto door opener that works on a timer,the door is the size of a small doggy door. Once they are all in there, it stays above freezing. There have been temps here this winter overnight in the single digits and it caused no issues for our chickens. They have laid really well all winter too. I think its the variety in their diet. We have been digging, plowing, planting almost all winter, and when ever we turn over soil, there they are!! Anyhow, some of them prefer to roost in a cypress tree right next to the coop and it shelters them from wind pretty good, but even on freezing nights, it hasn't caused any problems. Chickens have been around, in nature for a long, long time and are pretty tough creatures. If you have shelter for them to stay out of the wind, except for in the most extreme weather, they will be fine. For water freezing... well I have two chicken waterers. One I keep in the chicken house, and one outside. The one in the chicken house rarely freezes, and if it does, its thawed out enough by later in the morning for them to break thru the little bit of top ice to get water. The one outside, if its froze overnight, we dump it and refil it. My husband or one of our employees (they don't have to, they just like the chickens!lol) always fill it first thing in the morning since they start work very, very early... then I'll check it later in the morning too... its rarely frozen by then... even when the actual temps are freezing,because its sitting in full sun and benefits from the solar warming effect the water pulls in thru the clear plastic water tank. All in all, we are at the end of February, with the coldest days and nights behind us and my chickens are fine and we did it without any electricity or heaters... just the body heat of them together in the coop! :)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 8:02PM
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I have a place on Virgina Beach how far are you from there? I wish our winters here in Michigan were like yours. I keep the main group of Poultry in the greenhouse, with no heater running during the day it can get to 110 F, but have thermostatic switches that turn on squirrel cage fans and force outside air thru the greenhouse to cool it to 55F at which time they turn off. The night time temp is not allowed to go below 34 F but usually stays near 38F.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 8:28PM
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