Originally Posted by Mutt Farm
Nobody gets colder than
@Blooie unless they live on Mars or the North Pole I think. She's been doing this a while and is an excellent resource. I'd think hard about using whatever she says. Here's a link you might find useful for other winterizing ideas. http://www.backyardchickens.com/newsearch?search=Winterizing+your+coop
Best of luck to you and always feel free to post a question!
Oh my word, Mutt! <gulp> Um, no pressure here........
Flattering, and I thank you, but I haven't been at this game that long and my gut feeling is always "whatever works for you and whatever you are comfortable doing!" 99% of it is just common sense, not chicken science. For instance, they already have a down and feather coat that we humans pay big bucks for. And that coat keeps us nice and warm when we're out in the cold. But what does it feel like under there when we enter a warm room? Uh, yeah, we can't shed that coat fast enough, even if the room is only heated to the 40s or so. And that coat does a great job keeping our bodies warm - until the zipper breaks. Oh oh. All that warm air trapped inside gushes right out. It's the same with feathers when the wind blows. That layer of warm air escapes when their feathers are ruffled in the cold winds, which is why we stress ventilation but avoiding drafts.
I have the same reaction to sand in the coop and run during the winter. While it might be fine any other time of the year and even year-round in other climates, out here in the winter wilds of Wyoming it's an invitation to a broken leg and chilled chickens. Chickens poop. A lot. And that poop contains moisture. The sand's job is to absorb that moisture so the coop cleaner can scoop up the dried poops. Okay, what happens to moisture when it freezes? Yep, it gets hard. And these poor chickens, who have created a frozen land of poop-cicles under their roost and when they're just in the coop getting out of the wind, fly down from their roost and land on that. With a soft bed of litter, they can land comfortably. It's the difference between jumping and landing in a pile of leaves or landing on frozen ground. One gives, the other doesn't. And they can't burrow down into it when it's hard and cold, and make cozy little nests in it for a nap like they do litter. Almost daily when I go out to the run, I have little hollows in the litter and each hollow has a chicken in it, basking in the sun and soaking up the warmth from their little spots.
It does get cold here, very cold, but so do other areas of the country. I used DL because I don't heat or insulate my coop and it gives the chickens one more method to use their own instincts for self-protection against the weather. My run is covered with plastic like a greenhouse and that warmth circulates into the coop via the ventilation and pop door, which remains open 24/7. It's not heat per se, but it does take the edge off a bit during the early part of the night. By later on the girls' own body heat has done the rest. They dig body shaped burrows in the litter and cuddle down in it all day long. I've put my hand in one of those hollows after a chicken left it and it feels lovely! (A bit poopy, but lovely)
But all these things that I believe in so strongly are just me passing on what I do - not what I expect anyone else to do. I know what works here but I am not even close to an ultimate authority. If you want to use sand, then by all means, do so. If you want to heat and/or insulate, then go right ahead. Me, I'll just stick to common sense and try to spend the winter not projecting human wants and needs on my chickens. The Good Lord gave me a thin layer of skin, a light dusting of hair, and I am not equipped to live out in a chicken coop without artificial methods of making me warm. That same Good Lord gave my girls a higher body temperature, a warm, water resistant, heat holding coat, and the instinct to do what they do best - keep themselves comfortable.