Do my chickens need more weather protection?

MegUrk

Chirping
Apr 16, 2015
62
14
96
Hi.

I have a few questions about roosting and flock/coop management.

We have two hens and a rooster at the moment. We originally got a straight run of 4 3-day-old birds ... 2 turned out to be roosters. We separated them when they were about a year old so each coop had one rooster and one hen. We later acquired an additional hen and put her in with our friendlier rooster and hen.

Our coop, which is now 2 separate, adjacent sections, is fully enclosed with chicken wire on 3 walls with one solid east-facing wall made of Masonite, and metal roofing, with a roosting/nesting box in each of the 2 sections as well as a hay-bale windbreak or igloo dog house for shelter if needed. When we first put the birds out in the coop at a few months old, all the chickens were in the same coop and would roost at night in the roosting box. Eventually, around a year old, we separated the two roosters for safety, and put each in a section of the larger, now divided, coop with a hen or two, and then everyone started sleeping on top of the roosting boxes instead of inside them.

In past years, we had wrapped the coop with plastic sheeting (ventilated, of course) to try to insulate a little overnight... but using thermometers both inside and outside the coop, didn't find a difference in temperature inside the plastic-wrapped coop.

We lost one of our hens last May, and the friendly rooster from the other coop this past June. We also now have a toddler, so doing major outside chores is considerably harder or falls to my husband to deal with alone. My questions are:

1. Do you think there's any real benefit to the plastic? Our overnight lows tend to fall into the teens regularly during the winter.

2. Should we put the remaining hens and rooster into the same coop for added nighttime body heat? As I said, we used to have ratios as low as one hen per rooster, but I read that can actually stress the hens, so after we lost a rooster and hen from each coop, we decided not to combine the remaining birds into one coop.

3. Should I be concerned about them getting too cold since they won't sleep inside the roosting box, but instead sleep on the roof of the roosting box and are fully exposed to the wind on 3 sides?

Edit: Why won't they sleep *in* the box?

I want to take care of our little flock, but I don't want to do hours of work out there (while managing a toddler) if there's no real payoff for the birds.:idunno


Thank you all in advance for your advice.
 
Last edited:

oldhenlikesdogs

Suffering Succotash
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 16, 2015
44,887
78,489
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Wisconsin
Pictures would help. What's a roosting box? Generally chickens roost on roosts, not in boxes. Chickens keep themselves warm, so don't over think the heat part. They don't need it. Blocking the winds is good. If plastic doesn't allow for good air movement it's bad.
 

MegUrk

Chirping
Apr 16, 2015
62
14
96
Sorry about not explaining that ... It never occurred to me that we might've done something unusual by building them a roosting box. It's just a larger cubby attached to their nesting boxes to give extra shelter. So they sleep on top of that rather than inside. It's just a plywood box that's up off the ground about 2-3 feet.

We're in central NM, and like I said, the temps get down into teens and twenties most nights during the winter with little precipitation most of the time, and with very low humidity.

Sounds like maybe we could put plastic up on the wall adjacent to the solid wall and it might give a better wind break...but shouldn't worry too much about them getting cold. Our poor sweet rooster who passed in June always got frostbite (with or without the plastic) so I worried it was just getting too old for them. I know the moisture (made by the chickens themselves in our case) is the real problem there, so we always left a good gap at the top of the plastic sheeting to allow the warm, moist air to escape.

I'll try to get some pictures when I feed them this evening. Thanks again.
 

GirlsMommy18

Songster
Mar 7, 2018
147
221
118
South Florida
If there is no bar inside the roosting box, that might solve your issues. If given somewhere that is sheilded and off the ground, they'd probably choose that instead of on top of it. Even a foot off the ground would be appretiated most likely.
 

MegUrk

Chirping
Apr 16, 2015
62
14
96
Initially there was a bar, but when they quit sleeping in there, we removed it and replaced it with some bricks thinking maybe it was too narrow and they'd prefer something slightly larger. :idunno
 

MegUrk

Chirping
Apr 16, 2015
62
14
96
Haha...looks like there is still a bar in there, though for some reason it's pushed really far forward in the box (I can't remember why we moved it, but it was only after many months, maybe even years of trying to convince them they'd be warmer in there where there's more walls).

We've even tried going out at dusk and putting them in the box. They always end up on top.
 

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