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can't sleep, worried about my freezing hens

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by rainbowgardens, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. rainbowgardens

    rainbowgardens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hello,
    I just joined after months of observing and learning. I have to ask for advice. I know I'm in the same boat as many other new chicken owners. I'm worried that my birds are going to freeze.
    Okey, Here's my situation. I live in central Virginia. The lowest the average low gets is 22 degrees. That of course is average. I have seen many nights where it gets down into the teens and once to 8 degrees. Many days it never gets above freezing.
    My 8 dominique chickens have a small coop. 8x4x4. The 4 walls are 1/2' plywood. The roof is plywood with metal roofing. Iplanned the coop small to save money and because they free-range. There is no heat or insulation on the walls. I can't even put up insulation inside because the studs support the perches and nest boxes. I have sealed up every crack I could to keep out the cold, but there goes ventalation when the chicken door is closed.
    We had a 22 degree night last night and the water froze. Obviously they aren't generating enough body heat to warm things. We haven't even hit the real cold weather yet. How will they free range when it's below freezing all day for several days and the ground is covered with ice or snow? The coop is too small to keep them closed up for days at a time.
    The only way to get heat out there is to run many extention cords over the ground to the coop. Anyone do this? I know its not approved. Do I even need to do this?
    I think I may leaped before I looked on this chicken thing. I don't want my lack of knowledge or preparedness to cause these hens to suffer.
    Advice is greatly needed!
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. newchickmom

    newchickmom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    How about bales of straw around the outside? Also you could get one of those heavy duty outdoor extension cords, which would be safer than other cords. We had one that was 150' for our pool's sand filter (it was a 1HP motor). It would be perfect if you want to do it that way. We had ours pluged into the outside outlet and ran it along the fence to keep it out of the way.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2008
  3. newchickmom

    newchickmom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  4. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    I am in central virginia, too.

    Your chickens are fine and do not need heat.

    Give them deep litter, a draft free house and you don't have to worry.

    As far as frozen water - no, they won't generate heat to keep the water from freezing. The generate enough heat to keep themselves toasty warm.

    Chip the ice out of their water and they will be fine.
     
  5. waynesgarden

    waynesgarden Feathers of Steel

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    I'm not worried and I'm in Western Maine, having moved here from the Northern Adirondacks in NY.

    We're down into the teens at night now and the birds are fine. As long as someone is there to give them fresh water first thing in the morning and later in the day, they will be fine. (Your winters are relatively mild. [​IMG]

    I will be plugging in a heated waterer when it really starts to get cold because I'm to lazy to get up as early as they do and I get home from work after dark so no one is here to give fresh water during the day. But if someone was able to check on the birds during the day, I wouldn't bother.

    Wayne
     
  6. rainbowgardens

    rainbowgardens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 19, 2008
    Central Virginia
    Thanks for the quick replies!
    The straw bale idea won't work for me because of where the coop sits.
    I didn't know there were outdoor approved extention cords. I will get some today. It will give me peace of mind on those extended stretches of below freezing days. I would worry about keeping the heat lamp on all winter.
    Miss Prissy, I"ve heard about the deep litter method and planned on doing it. It seems a lot easier than cleaning out the coop all winter. How deep does it need to be to work? I've got about 4 inches now, but plan to add to it as the poo piles up. Also, do you think my girls will be okey free ranging all winter? The coop door would be open all day to let them in and out. No chance for the sun to allow heat to build up if the draft is coming in.
    I know many wild birds survive winter in climates colder than mine. I just don't know how hardy chickens really are. Wild turkeys sleep in the trees all winter here without nests. They don't even huddle together.
    If I can get these birds safely through this winter I will feel much better. It's scarey being a new mom! Everytime I wake up in the night I whisper a prayer to God asking him to look out for them. I feel guilty snuggled in my electric blanket.
     
  7. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    They will come and go all day at will - even in snow.

    I keep my litter about 12 inches.
     
  8. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

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    I think they will be fine. Our chickens still go outside, even when it's below freezing outside. I don't notice them staying inside more, until it gets in the low teens. Really, it's not until the highs are only in the single digits, that they spend a lot more time in the coop during the day. They still go outside, they just come in to get warm or to get out of the wind.

    We get buried in snow here. We've had some mild winters, but last year we got over 100" of snow. If there was something yummy to forage for, they'd still be out all day! As it is, on a super frigid, windy day, they kind of go, "Eh, let's just go back in and have a snack." We have a covered run, which gives the chickens an area with only a dusting of blown snow they can walk in. They wander around, climb on the old patio furniture I gave them and watch the world. When we didn't have a covered run, I used to go shovel them out in the morning! My husband snow blows trails around in the yard after a big storm or my cocker spaniel would be in over his head. He swings by the chicken run, too. What a guy!

    In the areas that have harsher winter weather, it's pretty normal to have freezing temperatures in a chicken coop. That's why people buy equipment to keep the chickens' water from freezing. You could do that or you could just give them fresh water a couple of times a day. We don't have any roosters with a big comb and wattles to worry about, so our chickens have done fine. We only have winter hardy breeds of hens.

    One thing I will warn you about. Their first winter is pretty shocking to chickens. Especially their first significant snow! I've had some look a little shell shocked. Pullets often don't want to walk in snow at first, either. Last winter I had some take shelter under a table and then get stranded, when the first snow storm hit. They wouldn't cross the snow to get back to the coop. I went to check on them after it started to really snow, to make sure they had gone back to the coop. Nope. They eventually get the hang of it. Just watch out for them the first storm or two. They're still learning and maturing.
     
  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Please read some of the threads on "should I heat my coop", here [​IMG]

    Chickens are not made of water. Well, they're made of water with lots of solutes in it that lower the freezing point, but more importantly they generate their own internal heat and wear down overcoats [​IMG] Unless you have unusual chickens (huge giant combs, very small size, or something else like that) your chickens will be JUST FINE below freezing, honest. Keep the coop air dry and no drafts, they'll be happy as clams.

    Chickens can walk around on frozen ground without getting frostbite because a) they have the choice to go somewhere warmer if their tootsies start getting cold, and b) their tootsies don't start gettting cold NEARLY so bad as our bare feet would because of the countercurrent heat exchange that occurs due to the way their leg and feet arteries/veins are set up. Look at all the other birds around you, THEY are out there in the cold too, most of 'em a lot smaller-bodied than chickens [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun, RELAX [​IMG],

    Pat
     
  10. Superior Chicks

    Superior Chicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    22 degrees???? That's t-shirt weather here on Lake Superior![​IMG]

    Seriously, you don't have to worry about your hens in Central Virginia. Patandchickens is, as usual, right on the money.

    We up here in the frozen North do have our challenges, but we love our chickens and do whatever is necessary to protect them. That said, chickens have been here for eons and are extremely cold hardy, especially certain breeds. Dominiques which I believe you said you have, are a very robust, cold hardy breed.

    Just watch the water, and give love....and enjoy![​IMG]
     

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