Leaving chickens outside in winter

sleddogger(2b nw on)March 13, 2008

Hey everyone,

I'm new to the forum, and to chickens, and had a quick question. I bought twelve RIR layers in the fall, about a year old, and then later acquired an Ameraucana rooster. Right now I have them in a shed with a front about a third open to the outside, with a smaller (4'x6') insulated coop in the back. They don't get as much light as I'd hoped though, and I was wondering: does anyone let their chickens outside during the winter? What are the pros/cons to this? I'm looking to improve my set up for next winter, as we'll have a few more chickens then. We're in nw ON, and it does get cold here, -40*C with wind chill isn't unusual for the coldest part of winter during the day.

Any suggestions would be appreciated! I'm already planning my chicken tractors for this summer.



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We leave chickens out all winter here . I have an insulated coop and when it gets cold (-40 air temp), I sometimes use a heat lamp wired into a ceramic socket in the ceiling to keep the chickens from losing combs and toes. The wind chill won't matter as much if the birds can get out of the weather. I am going to change my roost arrangement, and improve the ventilation before next winter. Don't make the living area too large, and collect the eggs frequently as catching them before they freeze is the biggest problem.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 10:48PM
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sleddogger(2b nw on)

We did have trouble with some eggs freezing and cracking this winter. What size of a coop should we have for about two dozen chickens?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 12:42PM
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We have 36 chickens. Their hoop house WAS well insulated with 100 hay bales piled up on the sides but the deer (sometimes 20+ a night) have just about eaten all of the insulation, including the strings! It has been a very harsh winter and I'm glad the deer could find food, but I had big plans for that hay as garden mulch in the spring.

The chickens have no other heat inside the coop and huddle together on their roosts at night. Unless it is well below zero, they go out every day, even in the snow. We have seen a little frost bite on their combs, but it doesn't seem to bother them at all.

BTW, when it was really frigid, if we didn't collect eggs every hour, they would freeze and crack.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 5:14PM
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I am new to the forum also. This will be our first winter coming up with my 6 girls. At what temp should I put a light bulb out there? My coup is not insulated it is covered with a tarp.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 4:43PM
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In your zone, you shouldn't need supplemental heat for chickens. How big is your coop? Is it just a wire cage with a tarp? Chickens are curiosity peckers. They'll pick at things like wiring and lights if within reach.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 1:14AM
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I was wondering about heat too even though I have a cochin and wyandotte, which I was told are winter birds. Their coop does not get too much sunshine being on the north side of the barn. If I put a light out there should it be on all night long and if yes will that disturb their sleeping habits? and how far away should it be from the hay to make sure it does not catch fire and lastly what wattage should be used.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2008 at 7:16PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

A lot depends on WHERE in Ontario you are located. Big difference between Timmons or Thunder Bay from, say, Lake Ontario or Erie shoreline.

I'm down near Lake Ontario, Zone 5b. I let my chickens out except on those really brutal days with high wind chill and very low temps. They usually don't even want to come out except on fairly nice days, but I open the pop-hole to give them the option except on the bad days mentioned. At night they are shut in and do fine for the most part without supplementary heat. If you want to ensure eggs all winter, you will need to give them supplementary light, preferably on a timer. Otherwise you may have a few eggless weeks. Not a big deal since eggs keep a long time in the fridge. Single combed roosters may get frostbite on the comb and wattles. This will make them feel lousy and it can be serious but often is more of a discomfort. The affected parts will turn black and eventually fall off.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2008 at 5:04PM
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sumac(SE MI)

Here's a link to that same discussion some time back. I did get the thermostat controlled outlet last winter and it seemed to do the job. I'm pretty sure the one I got comes on at 20 or 30 degrees and off at 35 degrees. I did notice that egg production increased although this was unintentional. I was just trying to prevent frostbite.

Here is a link that might be useful: Keeping chickens warm

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 7:27AM
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If you use a heat lamp please keep Plan B in mind if the power goes out. Chickens that can't keep themselves warm because they've become accustomed to added heat will not do well.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 9:48AM
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sumac(SE MI)

That why I got the thermostat controlled outlet. They have models that come on and off at higher degrees, but I chose the lower temps just in case of power failure. This way the girls are still acclimated to the cold. And the lamp is only on when temps call for it, unlike a timer which is on regardless of temps. My only concern now is possible breakage of the lamp(glass shards in the coop)so I have it hanging in a corner hoping it's in the no fly zone.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2008 at 7:51AM
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