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chickens in the winter

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Stegs, Nov 2, 2016.

  1. Stegs

    Stegs In the Brooder

    Apr 30, 2016
    been reading alot on here about adding heat to your coop for the chickens in the winter time

    some say do it, some say there is no need

    I live in Michigan, about 1 mile off lake michigan

    We get lake effect snow and cold here.

    My question is, do my chickens need heat? Let me give you some details and you guys and gals tell me

    1 mile off lake michigan (gets cold and snowy here (10 degrees or colder some nights)

    My birds are all about 6-8 months old, been laying for a while already (fully feathered of course)

    I believe i have cold hardy birds. I have 4 barred rocks, 4 isa browns and 1 buff orpington (hoping to add some rhode island reds here soon)

    There coop is in the woods, blocked by a big cedar tree. I have it sealed all the way around, with vents on the north and south side up by the peak.

    My plan is to get power in there so i can keep the water from freezing, so i can easily hang a heat bulb from my "trusses" to keep the coop and birds fairly warm...my guess is it would stay 25-35 degress in there if i block off most of the vents (leaving some open for fresh air of course)

    Im 99% sure my chickens will be fine, ill throw straw down ont he coop floor to help insulate that....

    should i insulate the walls? or do you feel a floresent heat bulb will be fine being that the coop is blocked by the wind in the woods?

    let me know. Im siding more with the idea of "chickens have been around longer than heat lamps, they will be fine"

    But then again, to add a heat lamp will be easy, it will probably keep the coop in the 20s at most

    Let me know , im curious on what you feel is right. If i lived down south, i wouldnt worry about it at all as it will never get cold enough, but in michigan it can be pretty brutal

  2. Howard E

    Howard E Songster

    Feb 18, 2016
    To anyone and everyone who worries about the ability of your birds to survive cold weather without heat, I would encourage you to get yourself a copy of this book:


    Modern era publisher is Robert P, who is a sometimes contributor here on BYC. The book explains a lot about effective housing for our birds. It is as true today as 100 years ago when it was originally published.

    Bottom line is no, you do not need to heat your coop. In fact, by doing so you may be putting them at more risk than if you don't heat it. Given the right conditions, they have the same ability to survive sub-zero conditions as wild birds do.

    What is needed instead of heat is protection from the elements in the form of a dry, draft free environment, plus water and full access to the right forms of nutrition. Get that right and they can survive a lot. That should be the focus of your efforts and NOT heat.

    I am still pondering the necessity of insulation......not for heat, but for the potential to reduce condensation inside the coop. Provided there is adequate ventilation, probably not needed at all, UNLESS you have a metal roof. If you have a metal roof, insulation between it and the birds is almost mandatory.

    On the issue of light bulbs and such, unless you want to mess with their time clock to extend the hours of light to keep them laying at full capacity, I would not hang a light of any kind. Commercial laying houses do that to keep them humming, but I'm not sure it is a good idea for us to be doing that. Natural physiology is for them to shut down in the winter to save energy to survive the cold. But they will crank up again to full production come spring when the days start getting longer.
    1 person likes this.
  3. scooter147

    scooter147 Songster

    Jul 30, 2008
    I would not add heat. Honestly I've forgotten what a cold winter is like, we really have not had one lately. That being said...

    A dry draft free coop with access to unfrozen water is the key to happy healthy birds.

    There are several stories every year on BYC and the local news in which coops, barns and even homes have been destroyed by fire and the cause has been heat lamps. By hanging in the coop you are inviting chickens to attempt to roost on it and then knocking it down or turning the lamp onto a combustible object. Chickens that are confined to the coop due to snow or extreme weather get bored and some will look at that hanging lamp as something interesting and might want to check it out closer.

    Let them have access to the outside in the winter and they will decide if they want to go out or not.

    In the evening feed the chickens some scratch grain or straight cracked corn. This increases internal heat in the bird.

    I'll leave you with this, I have been around or raised chickens for over 40 years and to my knowledge I never lost a bird to cold weather but almost always lose at least one in the heat and humidity each year here in the Midwest.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
  5. Stegs

    Stegs In the Brooder

    Apr 30, 2016
    im the the grand haven area.

    I wont add any heat then, i do have plenty of ventilation, i will leave a sliding chicken door open all day so they can wander out if they want, or stay inside the coop if they want

    I will run power down there to do a heated dog dish for water, it wont be alot, but it will hold plenty of water for a day
  6. henmania

    henmania Chirping

    Oct 7, 2016
    North West London
    My chicken coop isn't heated and my chickens sleep well in it in the winter now since it's 4-5 degrees most days and some days it's near 2-3. They just cuddle up together. I have 2 buff Orpingtons and I've always heard they are cold hardy hens and will have no problems during the winter. I'm also new to the chicken keeping world.

    They don't eat more than summer, in fact much less than summer time. water consumption is about the same. I have 2 sources water for them, 1 in the pen and 1 out.

    I've had many people tell me insulate the coop or put some kind of heating inside but also had many tell me that they'll get use to the cold as England is rainy and cold for 8 out of 12 months lol.

    Only thing I've noticed is their sides seem to be pushed in more (their primary wings feathers if that's what they're called). It looked like they are holding themselves a lot tighter or that they've lost weight and I'm hoping it's the former. Any suggestions about if that's normal?

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