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a winter timing question for other Northerners

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by maryboland, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. maryboland

    maryboland In the Brooder

    Nov 28, 2009
    We live in the Colorado mountains. My 12 hens, Araucanas and barred rocks, have an insulated 64 sq ft coop and a hoop run of about same size just covered in plastic except at the far end. I leave the poop door to the run open all the time and figure that plus the 3/4" opening above the main people door is their winter ventilation. ( in summer they are outside in 2000 sq ft yard almost all day and no plastic on run). I think it's a good setup BUT OUR RECENT WEATHER HAS BEEN CRAZY. Just last week daytime temps were in mid 70s and overnight lows in 50s. Now we have a 5 day winter storm and as I write daytime highs are in the 30s and overnight lows going as low as 10-15 tonight. Since storm hit I have not let chickens out except in their plastic covered run as I don't want them wet and I'm even thinking of covering their pop door tonight.

    My main concern is not the temps so much as it will get colder than that before winter is over here. But the cold came on so SUDDENLY. Don't they develop extra downy feathers under their normal coats as winter comes on? And if so, they wouldn't have developed them yet with recent weather so warm. Should I try to add a heater tonight? I have an oil filled radiator type I could plug in out there set on low and I don't think that would burn straw. Anyone know about the extra downy feathers for winter thing?

  2. Luckytaz

    Luckytaz Songster

    Mar 28, 2010
    Rogers, Mn.
    Don't worry, they'll be fine. You don't need a heater.
  3. Ohhhdear

    Ohhhdear Songster

    Aug 15, 2010
    West Michigan
    As long as you have adequate ventilation high enough in the coop so there's no drafts and the extra humidity and ammonia can escape, the chickens will stay warm all on their own.
  4. woodmort

    woodmort Songster

    Jul 6, 2010
    Oxford NY
    Quote:Ditto. Your chickens will adjust better than you will.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
  6. maryboland

    maryboland In the Brooder

    Nov 28, 2009
    Thanks for your reassurance. I think I have enough ventilation. Pop door open to run, the far end of which is open, ie not covered in plastic. On top of people door in middle of coop is space about 3/4" by 3 ft or whatever door is. Also, tho pretty well insulated, rest of coop has some odd air leaks high up. We live in a dry climate and I have NEVER smelt even a whiff of ammonia. The poop becoming dust is more of a problem and I scrape that out every six weeks or so, also removing old straw. For winter I'll let straw build up all winter but will still shove it aside and scrape out poop dust every six weeks or so as it couldn't be good for hens or me to breathe.

    Thanks again for all your replies.
  7. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    I think your chickens are going to be fine. If they are adults, they are going to have plenty of feathers to keep them warm without any heat added. Feathering in chickens and their ability to deal with cold temperatures has more to do with their age/maturity. Molting has to do with day length, not temperature.

    When my chickens get too cold outside in the worst of the winter, they just go hang out in the coop. When I was a child, I ice skated on a frozen over lagoon, next to a lake. It had a warming house with a fire going inside at certain hours, to provide warmth. When I was cold, I'd go inside and warm up. After I was warm, I'd go back outside. My chickens do the same thing in the winter, when it gets colder. When they get too cold, they go back inside the coop for awhile. If it gets cold enough, usually when the high for the day is around -10 F, they may choose to spend all day in the coop.

    I don't think it's their bodies that ever get too cold, anyway. I think it's their feet or combs and wattles that get too cold. Their feet are in contact with the frozen ground or snow. I've noticed mine like to perch on a large, soft black rubber livestock feed bowl that absorbs heat during the day, when they're out in the run in the winter. Inside the coop, they can roost or rest on the floor with their feathers and body covering their legs and feet. Their combs and wattles are exposed and wind chill can make them more uncomfortable outside. If they come inside, wind chill isn't an issue, so those tissues can be more comfortable. They're pretty good at deciding where they'll be most comfortable.

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