SInce this is my first winter with chickens, I was hoping I could get some advice. I have 5 3month old chickens (2 are silkies) and I am curious at what temperature I should run a heat lamp. I don't want frozen chickens!! Thanks!
chickens can handle pretty cold weather if you provide them a draft free coop. I live in Central Indiana and it can get below zero a few times during the winter. My chickens will huddle together in the coop and they get by just fine. The trick is to have a draft free, but vented, living space for them.
I could be wrong, but I would think southern Va. would not get too cold over the winter months??? Most say that if it's above 0 degrees F in the coop, then they will be okay. But I worry about this too (first chickens, first winter for me too...mine are younger). My INTENT (lol) is to only use a red lamp out there (125W) at night time if the temps drop down in the teens or lower...at least once mine are fully feathered out. How low does it get down there at night???
Ha, in S VA, unless you have very very large-combed breeds and/or a very poorly-designed or poorly-managed coop, there IS no temperature at which you would need to run a heat lamp... LOL (Seriously. I lived in Durham NC for 6 yrs, so I do know the region's climate)
As long as they are kept dry and draft-free, in NON HUMID air (i.e good ventilation all winter long, and decent sanitation, and no leaky waterers or leaky roof) then most chickens are good *well* below freezing. Most are fine to 0 F-ish, and many are fine well below that.
If they are 3 months old now, they will be plenty big and well feathered out by the time it gets cold down there. (It is colder up HERE right now than a typical December day in Durham
) If you are concerned, make sure the silkies have lotsa fluffy bedding to snuggle into at night.
We live in eastern Pa. and I do have a heater in my coop. It is a heater that looks like a large (@24 x 24) ceramic tile. It mounts on the side of the coop and plugs in. I have it on a timer so that it goes on around five and off around 10 the next morning. I keep it on 24/7 in January so that the water does not freeze. And, there is no element to risk a fire. I ordered it online. It is completely smooth, too, and wipes clean with a wet paper towel. Works great~
I worried about mine last winter. They were in an un-insulated coop without heat lamps. The water froze alot, but they were fine.
If you have a run for them, try to cut down on wind by covering it on the sides and top, while still leaving open spots for air flow.
I lost a lot of sleep on nights when it dipped well below freezing. They were fine even when it got down to 5 degrees.
It was written in 1912 and starts with an Oliver Wendell Holmes quote - "God lent his creatures light and air and water open to the skies; Man locks him in a stifling lair and wonders why his brother dies."
The subtitle of the book is "A Practical Book on Modern Commonsense Poultry Housing for Beginners...Housing that will Promote Health, Vigor and Vitality in Laying and Breeding Stock."
It's basically about open-front poultry houses. Many of these buildings are in Nova Scotia so I figured I'd be good in Virginia.
My coops are 8' across, 16' deep and 8' tall with open fronts covered with hardware cloth. I'm using deep litter. The birds can get back in there pretty far. I was totally sold on the arguments put forth in this free book and decided to go with it. This will be my first winter with this setup so we'll see but I anticipate no problems for my Buckeyes and my guineas.
I agree with CARS.
I'm in northern MN, and see weeks below zero. My chickens did better than I do at handling the cold!
Keep the drafts out, but still provide fresh air. If the humidity gets too high, you might have problems.