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, thoughts on freezing water, to heat or not to heat? what type of bedding do you use in your coops? do you give them access to the run everyday in the cold temps? down to what temp?? HELP?? obviously this is my first winter.. I'm a mess.... go easy on me 😁
I'm in the W suburbs. I personally started with an A-Frame coop for my very small flock. It was perfect with a nice 3" gap running along either side of the bottom (covered with hardware cloth) and a 3" gap running along the top covered with aluminum stovepipe, which allowed venting at either end of the coop. I started out bedding with hay, but have switched to pine shavings. They break down faster and are easier IMHO to compost. In the winter, I like to leave a big brick of it for them to break down over time. My chickens love to tear stuff apart! My neighbor likes the pine pellets.
The key component I feel is ventilation. If you don't have enough of it the inside will become very humid and cause frostbite. You would think these leaves them too exposed, but it doesn't! Even in the coldest weather, I never heated. The only time I ever did was when I had a single hen her first winter. I do heat the water now, I have a nipple waterer wrapped & insulated with a metal cloth heater, this kind
I used to change out water every day, but now am way too lazy.
Good luck! Let me know if you want to know anything else.