Cold weather--really cold weather


In the Brooder
9 Years
Sep 11, 2010
We have about 6 months of winter type temperatures and 3 months of really nice summer. The other 3 months can kinda go either way. We have a smallish coop (6x6), and we want to have at least 12 chickens in that space. I think we are going to try to increase the space by making the roosts really high over a sort of second story loft. The nesting boxes are inside the coop, so that takes up some "space" but I'm not sure how much that matters to the chickens as they can still move under the boxes. Anyway, right now (and even in the winter) I will let them out to free range pretty much as much as they want, but some days its so cold I won't even open the doors (-40F). Last winter we were subzero for several months, and the snow has only been gone for a month. The outside fenced run is covered at least partially, so there won't be snow there. Will they use that on cold days? Or will they need a really big coop (we're planning on expanding at least some this fall, but we also want to get a few more chickens. Tell me what I need for the winter months to keep my chickens happy.

Oh, the coop is insulated and vented.
You don't say where you are. Out here in the Rockies, the winters are long and windy, but we have sunshine. I built my girls a sun room with those clear ridged panels and that gets them some warmth.
I'm in the Montana Rockies, in a valley that has its own microclimate. We do get sunshine, though. I would love to see a picture!
That size seems way too small for that many chickens. We have a 8 x 4 coop for 5 chickens and I wouldn't put another in, in fact I wish they had more space. Keep in mind some of that floor space will be taken up by food and water, even if they are hanging they can't walk under that space. Our chickens have a big run, but for times like you are mentioning - bad weather or when we are gone for a few days - the coop is their only space and the low men on the totem pole get beat up. Cold weather is stressful enough, you want everyone to have free access to food and water without bullying. Even if you give them more upstairs space, during the day they will most likely want to be on the lowest level for the majority of the time. At the same time, you probably don't want to go real big due to cost and warmth. They will be able to warm a smaller space with their bodies more easily.
As far as them going out in that cold of weather, I'm not sure because it only gets to single digits here once in a while, but I think if they have a snow free area they will use it.
Just my two cents, have fun with your coop building and your girls!
I thought it seemed small too, but my husband was standing tight on the 3 sq ft/bird. I think I am going to talk him into putting the next coop right next to it, so they can use the same run, but would they use both? Or all want to compete for one coop? Would I have to separate the runs?
That I'm not sure about, we just have our one flock. I know that there are many people on BYC that have multiple flocks. Maybe you could search previous posts and if you don't find your answer you could do a new post.
How many roosts and perches are in your coop? Would it help keep birds from being beat up if alturnate perches were available? It would also give the birds a chance to hop around on days too cold to be let out.

Would a "bell tower" that is glass or green house lexan be good for you guys. It would have to have perches and glass would allow them to see out, if the roof pitch prohibits snow buildup, but it would be warm even on a cold day. Draw back would be the cold soak at night but if the birds has huddle areas off to the side of the tower, possibly insulated it might be an idea.
For 12 chickens I wouldn't go any smaller then 4x8 and that's pushing it! I have a 4x8 and I had 10 chickens in it through the winter. I do have pop out nest boxes to. Its cold here to but not -40° cold! The best thing I think is to keep drafts down and keep hardy birds. My BLRWs laid so well in the cold and I didn't heat their coop.
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Well, 4x8 is smaller than 6x6, or am I missing something?

I'm not sure what a bell tower is--I'll have to do some searching. I actually have a roost ladder/tower thing that dh built. It takes up floor space but they like to use it. That's what gave me the idea for the loft.
I was also really curious if they would use a covered run even on cold days. Because if they do, it might not be an issue. And we have 4 BO, 3 SLW, 3 BR, and 2 breeds unknown.

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