Below zero weather coming!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jahphotogal, Dec 30, 2013.

  1. jahphotogal

    jahphotogal Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 15, 2012
    I live in NW Connecticut and this is my second winter as a chicken keeper. We've had a moderate winter so far, but later this week the prediction is -10 degrees and I'm a bit worried and wonder whether there's anything I should do to protect my flock of eight.

    Here's my setup:
    I have two coops, and the girls sleep in one sometimes, the other sometimes. I built coop 1 last year - it's a hoop house made of wire and plastic, fairly open to the elements. Last year I put some haybales around it and heavy greenhouse plastic over it, to provide some insulation for the winter. I haven't done that yet this year as we have only had one or two very cold days (under 10 degrees) and the girls sailed through them pretty well. Mostly they don't sleep in there now, but they do hang out there during the day when it's snowing or raining as it's pretty big (40 square feet plus a 20 square foot "sleeping loft")

    The other house is new this year, and is a more traditional wooden coop, built by a local carpenter. Also not insulated, but definitely more enclosed. Most of them sleep in there, but a few insist on sleeping outside on a roost I built every night no matter how cold it gets.

    I've been told by local farmers not to put a warming light in the coop because they get used to it and that's not good for them, plus I'm a bit nervous about running electricity into the wooden house.

    Should I replace the haybales and plastic or will they be OK without it?

    If it makes a difference, I have the following breeds: one Columbian Wyandotte, one Golden-laced Wyandotte, three easter eggers and an olive egger, one RIR and one Welsummer. The only one with a big comb that seems subject to frostbite is the RIR. Does vaseline work to protect it?

    thanks for any suggestions!
  2. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Chicken Obsessed

    Mar 26, 2011
    Upper Peninsula Michigan
    It has been subzero here several times this winter already, and I do not supply additional heat or close my coop up - there is one window that is partially open all year around, in addition to the always open pop door. Good ventilation is very important in preventing frostbite.
  3. jahphotogal

    jahphotogal Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 15, 2012
    Thanks - I think I'll put the haybales back up to prevent the snow from coming in the sides of the larger coop/run, add some more wood shavings to the floors of both, and call it a day!
  4. leetfreq925

    leetfreq925 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 7, 2012
    Ipswich, MA
    I'm in northern MA, so we're looking forward to the same weather that you are. yippee. this, too, is my second winter with my ladies. I have done quite a bit of asking around, as I have been nervous some of these nights. Here are some things I've found :
    1) as far as the coop is concerned, uninsulated is fine, as long as there is proper ventilation and no drafts. There are some great scientific links out there, but the gist is you want some adequate vents UP HIGH away from where they roost that are placed for air movement. you want to cut down on moisture and drafts, which is the #1 most critical thing in the cold. ventilation, if done properly, does not equal colder. sounds like the newer wooden coop is good, just may need some haybales around to make sure there aren't any drafts and get some airflow up and out the top. apparently you need to lure them all in there somehow, though!
    2) do not use heat lamps. do not do not. this spoils them. it's like sitting by a fire in the winter, then having to leave, everything feels that much colder. so the solution to a chicken is to not leave, which can cause them to starve. they aren't that bright - they would rather stay warm than wander away to eat/drink. not to mention the serious fire hazards involved... bring them into a basement or something before adding a heat lamp.
    3) add protein. i feed my girls extra protein to keep them warm, especially right before dark if i can get it to them. gives them a nice full belly for the coldest part. i mix in a little omega3 feed supplement and calf manna with their feed. i have 2 that are going through a hard molt now, too, and i made them muffins to help with that and the cold these are great! they get one every other day or so to split between them. just a little extra padding.
    4) add shavings inside. i'm not sure what your actual coop/ sleeping area is like, but i have shavings in mine and i always add a lot more for cold nights for added insulation. hay bales probably are along the same idea on the outside, but you want to keep the space inside smaller so the chickens' body heat does some work for them.

    hope that's helpful. i've found they're all fairly comfortable in the cold as long as they are draft free. good luck!
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Keep them out of the elements and they will be fine. Out of the wind, dry and draft-free is good.

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