Cold Weather Concerns

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by DHAllen0425, Nov 18, 2014.

  1. DHAllen0425

    DHAllen0425 Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 3, 2014
    Huntington, WV
    This is the first winter for my hens, and for me as a chicken owner. The past few days have been quite cold, getting to lows of 18 degrees at night. I have been trying to prepare the coop and run for winter. Yesterday I put up tarps around the bottom 3ft of the run, and under the nesting boxes, with the hope of keeping any wind off of my girls, while leaving the south side exposed for sunlight. I also installed a light on the inside of the coop set on a timer .
    Egg production is NOT my concern. My concern is with my girls safety. I have read page after page telling me that cold weather doesn't bother them, but I can't help but worry about them. I have read a lot about frost bite and humidity. I must admit I am a bit confused. I clean out the coop around once every two weeks, and rake out the run about the same. I put down fresh straw/ shredded news paper every time i clean the coop and run. I don't really see a lot of moisture...the run has never been "wet" since it has been built. the coop and run are one structure 4'x12', and under a roof. Do i need to worry about frost bite? or Humidity? I need some help sorting out my[​IMG] I freaking out over nothing? SORRY! THIS PIC WAS FROM HALLOWEEN.
  2. jtn42248

    jtn42248 Overrun With Chickens

    What a cute picture...hope those tombstones are predator graves. No, you are not "freaking out over nothing". You are being concerned and cautious and it is always better to err on the side of caution.

    Not seeing water or wetness in a coop or run does not mean that humidity levels are safe. Humidity is moisture in the air and combined with air temps can seriously chill your birds. That is why you always want to make sure you have adequate ventilation at a high enough level that the humidity is forced out by the rising air. Over the last couple of weeks here in West Texas we have been having, as most of the country, really cold weather. Temps in the teens at night and barely above freezing during the day. I have 22 chickens in a metal coop with a concrete floor, lots of ventilation and thick bedding on the floor (combination of shavings and straw). One day the temp outside was in the teens but inside it was in the mid 30's due completely to the chickens body temps. They love to be outside even on the coldest mornings and have not suffered frostbite or any other cold related problems. So, just make sure that yours have a well ventilated, wind free place to live and they will be fine.
  3. DHAllen0425

    DHAllen0425 Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 3, 2014
    Huntington, WV
    Thanks! There are two vents on the side and rear of the coop. I have yet to see any condensation on the window in the morning when i go out to check on them. So, thankfully, it seems that they have enough ventilation.
  4. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    I have 10 chickens in a 6x8 coop. The roofline is also 6x8 - six feet tall at the back and 8 feet tall at the front. Wasn't supposed to be that way but hubby Ken and I had a "left brain vs right brain" moment when he started building. We had several plans and combined what we liked best from all of them. When I drew up the final plans, I had 6x8 written down twice, in two different places. He assumed that I wanted the roof to be that high and slope that much. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We left the area where the rafters meet the walls open, and with ventilation up that high, plus all of the windows and other vents, the girls have been perfectly safe. We've had lows to minus 17 degrees this past week. No frostbite, no problems. (well, except for little Scout's feet, but that's another story completely) Our coop isn't insulated or heated, and their run is covered in clear plastic, sort of like a greenhouse. It warms up nicely. Their pop door is always open to the run, but with the plastic all around there are no drafts - just an exchange of warm moist air for cooler, dryer air.

    I was a little nervous about them in the cold but they had done just fine when we first put them out into the coop at 5.5 weeks (in April) and our temps were in the 20s with snow then - in fact we got our last snow of the season on June 6th. With this current cold snap there was no gradual cool down. We quite literally went from the 60s one day to the 20s and snow the next. Now that they have made it quite well through this unseasonable cold, I am not worried about the rest of the winter here in Northern Wyoming. I think yours will be just fine as long as you keep an eye out for condensation on the inner walls of your coop - a sure sign of too much humidity in there - and adjust your ventilation accordingly.
    1 person likes this.
  5. biteme2134

    biteme2134 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 21, 2013
    My Coop
    I had the same concerns on my first winter. We're in middle GA so usually it's not super cold. Last winter we had two or three nights with the temperatures in the single digits. We do no supplemental heat and no insulation. Few open windows for air flow and the door to the run is always open. I placed the roosts in a place where they're in no direct air flow. So as long as you have enough ventilation and no drafts on the birds I think you'll do fine
  6. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Chickens may not enjoy deep freezes, but they do manage them okay. The thing to remember is that they suffer more from temperature extremes than they do from low temps. This means that you need to make sure they don't sleep in an over-heated coop and then have to hang out in a run that is exposed to extremely cold temperatures.

    What I do is heat the coops, which are quite small, to keep the temp slightly above freezing to protect the chickens from frostbite. They spend all day out in the run which is unheated except for a heat lamp for the severely molting to stand under to warm themselves. The run is enclosed and has a sand floor, so it absorbs daytime sunlight heat, and is a good fifteen degrees warmer than the outside temp. But on stormy days, the troops have to cope with single digits out in the run all day long, and they manage with no ill effects except for being in a bad mood.

    So, your objective is two-fold. Protect form frostbite, and avoid temperature extremes.
  7. Welsh79

    Welsh79 New Egg

    Jan 2, 2015
    This is our first year with chickens. We have 4 Isa Brown hens. It gets cold here in Minnesota. We hit dropped a few degrees below zero earlier this week but we had a wind chill advisory at -20 to -30 two nights in a row. Our hens are in a 4x4x4 cube coop with no insulation other than straw on the floor. We have a single 250W heat lamp in the coop. They seemed to be fine, just a little ****** off when their water froze solid. I worry about when our air temperature hits -20 in January. Any other northerners a have tips or suggestions?
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    Welsh79: I'd be concerned about that 250W heat lamp in such a confined space. They most likely don't need it. As others say, there is a fire risk. But the concern I want to raise is the risk of them overheating. I'd swap that bulb out for one with lower wattage, or use a ceramic heat emitter (doesn't put out light) at a lower wattage, and put it on a thermocube so it only comes on if the temp goes below a preset degree. (If possible, I'd choose somewhere between 30 - 35 degrees) That will save you a lot of $ on your energy bill, and keep your flock in a safer temp range. A lot of people put up wind breaks around their run to increase the solar gain and make them more enticing. Have you done that?
  9. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    Welsh 79, I agree with LG (that heat lamp seems a little oversized for the size of your coop) and with her suggestions for alternatives if you want to keep heat out in the coop. I'm too afraid of fire to use a heat lamp in mine. Heat source + feathers and dust + straw and pine shavings = a very nervous chicken owner here.

    We've come close to 20 below a few times already this winter. Just coming out of a cold snap with 17 below, and in November we hit 19 below for a few days. I don't have any supplemental heat in the coop, nor is my coop insulated. Their run is covered with plastic and stays a little warmer during the day when the sun is shining, and they are out there more than in the coop. The pop door between the run and the coop stays open all year round. I'm still getting some eggs every day, and they seem energetic, they are eating well, and aside from one late hatch chick who got his feet wet, suffering frostbite from that, all of the chickens are fine.

    My issue isn't the frozen water in their's staying thawed very well with a tank heater in it. We tried an aquarium heater, but went back to the tank heater. Our problem is that the little cups on the nipples are freezing shut. We're working on that but in the meantime I haul water out to them a couple of times a day. And I need to check for eggs more frequently - if they're left out there they freeze too. This latest snap is supposed to end early next week. I don't have any advice for you.....all I can do is tell you that although my chickens are discovering that winter isn't their favorite time of year they are doing okay with minimum fuss.
  10. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Yep - my suggestion is to get that heat lamp out of your little coop. I'm in MN, too. I know how cold it gets, and I don't insulate or heat my coop. I use a heated dog dish for water. Wind chill means nothing if your chickens are out of the wind. It's the air temps that count. As previously stated, extreme temperature swings are far harder on your birds than consistent cold temperatures. Do you have some ventilation in that coop? Can they get out into a run during the day? If not, you may be looking at some overcrowding behaviors before winter is over. Last week my chickens were out even on the coldest days when the high was below zero. They have their own down coats. They don't get to take them off when coming in out of the cold like you do. Too much heat is not their friend in the winter. The other thing about heat - it contributes to excess humidity in your coop. The humidity is caused by their breathing and pooping. My last thought on a heat lamp in that small space is risk of fire.

    OP - you can tell if there is extra humidity in your coop if there is frost on the walls. Chickens can easily handle 18 degrees with no problems. They will be much happier dealing with consistent temperatures than if they have to go outside in the cooler weather and then come in and not be able to take off their coats in the house.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015

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