I added my thoughts to your questions below:
Originally Posted by chickenlady73
new chicken mom here, I've had 3 Rhode Island reds for about 6 months now, starting small.. I've been warned that my addiction will grow.. i had read SO much conflicting info about what is best going into winter that I am TOTALLY confused! I am in Chicago, hoping to hear from somewhere near me, with similar weather, I am along Lake Michigan about 3 hours northeast of you.
thoughts on freezing water - If you have electricity where you keep your chicken you can set up a system to keep the water from freezing. There are dog dishes, stock tank and fish pond options for avoiding freezing water. Just use the search bar to look up "water freezing" or keep water from freezing" to see some of the options out there. Your other option is to transport fresh water several times. This is actually what I have to do since I do not have electricity in my coop
to heat or not to heat? Chickens are actually quite cold hardy, especially if you have breeds that are made to be cold hardy. In addition, chickens also tolerate excessive cold much better than they do excessive heat. Plus, if you heat a coop, it generally means you have to block all vents to keep the heat in. Ventilation is very important so for that reason alone, I would never heat a coop. You may want to read up on winter ventilation to help you decide for yourself.
what type of bedding do you use in your coops? Currently I have a dirt floor coop (mostly sand) and use the deep litter method. Our primary bedding on the floor of the coop is wood chips. This time of year it gets totally cleaned out, more wood chips are added and leaves are also added. During the winter I will stir it up and periodically add wood shavings. I also use wood shavings for the nesting boxes
do you give them access to the run everyday in the cold temps? My chickens free-range so I open up the door every day for them. It is up to them if they go out or not. If they do not go out, at least their coop is big enough that they each have about 10 square feet of space. Most of our weather comes from the west and their coop door is on the east so the coop tends to block the worst of the weather for them
down to what temp?? HELP?? obviously this is my first winter.. I'm a mess.... go easy on me 😁
Good luck with whatever you decide to do.