East Coast techniques versus West Coast

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Jajika, Oct 6, 2013.

  1. Jajika

    Jajika Songster

    Dec 24, 2007
    Northern California
    Hi Everyone:

    I have some questions I really need help with.

    My husband and I are considering a move to Philadelphia from Northern California.

    I have, now, seven hens. They live in a large fenced in portion of my "mini" orchard. It is netted top, side and bottom with the red light deterrents. Lots of trees and shrubs. There are two coops within the yard--one small and one large. They usually sleep in the trees but the coops are there for heavy rain and eggs.

    I've never had to deal with extremely hot or freezing cold weather.

    So, what do you do about all that? How do you keep the chickens cooler or manage extreme heat. Also, how do you keep them from freezing to death?

    I know many of you, if not more than 2/3 live in parts of the country where these elements are an issue?

    Thanks for your help.
  2. Bullitt

    Bullitt Songster

    Jan 16, 2012

    If the chickens have a coop and a run (or space to wander around), the chickens will be fine. If the water freezes, you will just have to give the chickens fresh water.

    Everything will be fine.
  3. Weasleymum

    Weasleymum Songster

    Aug 1, 2008
    To keep chickens from freezing to death:

    (1) Make a coop for them in which they are protected from strong winds and wet weather; anything that keeps them dry and sheltered from the wind will work. Many long-time chicken keepers from New England, Canada, and etc. will tell you that you do NOT need to worry about insulation or artificial heat. Just do a quick search here, you'll see what I mean!
    (a) Make their roost from a 2x4 with the 4" side facing up, so that when the birds roost, their feet are totally covered by their feathery bellies.
    (b) If you are keeping the chickens you have now, lock them up in their coop at night, at least until they are used to roosting indoors instead of out. Generally, they are smart enough to choose a warm house over a cold tree if the night is cold enough, but I can't vouch for California chickens. ;) You may want to lock them in on any really cold night, just for your own peace of mind, until you know for sure that they are going in there on their own.
    (c) It is hard to have too much ventilation in your coop, winter OR summer. In winter, there is a greater danger from the moisture that chickens produce and the ammonia of their droppings than there is from cold or drafts. https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/...-go-out-there-and-cut-more-holes-in-your-coop

    (2) I couldn't tell if you are transporting the 7 chickens you have now or are going to start a new flock. If you are starting over, get breeds that are reputed to do well in cold weather: generally these will be the larger, feathery-er birds with small combs. If you aren't, don't worry about it, they still won't freeze. There are things you can do for chickens with large, single combs to prevent frostbite on the comb, I think some people put a little vaseline on the comb.

    (3) Let them outside as much as possible! This keeps the chickens acclimated to the weather, so that they're used to it; the only way I can picture a healthy chicken actually dying from cold would be if it was totally unused to being outdoors (i.e., a house-chicken or something) suddenly being put out. Chickens, like any animal (including us humans!), do best with a lot of outdoor time. Your current setup sounds ideal, if you could duplicate that somehow!

    (4) If you get a lot of snow, create a sheltered place where they can be outside without being in the snow itself; a covered run is good, or even just keeping the area closest to their coop shoveled. That way they won't have to choose between running around in the snow, which most chickens don't care for, and being inside their coop.

    (5) Some people use heated waterers, there are many threads about them in the "feeding and watering your flock" area. Some just have several waterers and bring a fresh one out every morning, retrieving the frozen-solid one. As long as the chickens have access to water, *how* you manage it doesn't really matter; do what works best for you.

    Remember that most chickens do better in cold conditions than hot, and as my husband is always pointing out, they are wearing a down jacket under all those feathers.

    For hot conditions, a lot of the advice is the same!

    (1) They need access to water at all times. This is the most important thing ever.

    (2) Shade, shade, shade! Do not consider the inside of their coop as "shade"; coop interiors are usually even hotter than outside and the birds will not want to hang out there. A covered run, or better yet, access to a yard with trees and bushes-- that will keep your chickens as cool as possible.

    (3) Ventilation in the coop, and lots of it.

    (4) Just as in winter, the more time the chickens can get outside of their coop, the better.

    Hope that helps!
  4. Jajika

    Jajika Songster

    Dec 24, 2007
    Northern California
    Hugely helpful.

    My chickens have a fabulous set up for being suburban birds. We happen to have about 1/2 acre and what I call a "mini"orchard. I have 22 fruit trees as well as lots of other bushes and trees. I fenced off about 90 yards of the orchard for the chickens. There are four/five fruit trees in the yard with lots of other tall bushes and shrubs. They love to bounce around in the branches of the Oleander. Cute to watch them.

    I learned it is nature for chickens to sleep in trees as we all know there were trees before coops. Very, very, difficult to break that habit.

    My dilemma will be what is the best thing for my chickens. I'm spoiled with this set up and not sure at this point try and duplicate it. They really have Nirvana here.

    Your advice is fabulous and reduces many of my concerns.

    I'll stay on top of this and how things work out.

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful advice.

    Yes, it helps
  5. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Crowing

    Dec 6, 2012
    New Brunswick,Canada
    This is how I care for my birds on the east coast of Canada (Indian name for COLD.)

    My floor are planks with a layer of tin for rodent proofing. On top of the tin I have a piece of vinyl flooring cut one foot longer than the length and width of my coop (roughly). Six inches squares are cut out of the 4 cornes of the vinyl flooring. This allows the friction fitted flooring to travel up the walls six inches around the perimiter of my 4x8 salvaged metal coop. Shovel out the heavy stuff into a wheel barrow. Pop out the vinyl flooring hose it off pop it back in.
    Easy Peasy!
    I have been around the sun 63 times.

    It is not my first "Rodeo!"

    Nobody "I know" heats a chicken coop.

    Healthy "cold hearty" chickens die from heat not cold.

    I live in Canada last year was subject to -40º (C or F take your pick) no light or heat in coop NO PROBLEMS.

    Chickens have been raised on this continent for over a hundred years without heat.

    If you feel you must supply heat to your chickens I suggest keeping your chickens in the house that way you can huddle with your birds when the hydro goes out.

    Chickens will die from cold if not given the chance to acclimatize. Hydro is more apt to go out in an ice storm or blizzard when subject to below 0º temperatures in my opinion.

    How would you supply heat then to your un-acclimatized birds ???

    Diary of last winter cold snap check out the link:


    I have used all types of litter for coops.

    I have not tried sand (sand gets good reviews on this site).

    Of all the things I tried to date wood pellets have been the best. (I tried wood pellets as a last resort when pine shavings were not available.) They are super absorbent and swell up and eventually turn to saw dust. The droppings just seem to vanish and turn to dust when it comes in contact with wood pellets .

    Replace my litter and clean my coop every October after I harvest my garden.

    Works for me in my deep litter method.

    I do add to pellets from time to time.

    I have anywhere from 10 to 15 birds housed in my 4x8 coop.

    Through the winter months it froze harder than concrete with -40º temperatures. The poop froze before it could be absorbed by the pellets and there was like a crusty layer of poop in certain areas where they collectively took aim (no smell, messy feet or flies @ -40º). Come April things started to look after themselves.

    Oh I might add I do have poop boards 3½" below my roost that I clean every 2 to 3 days (excellent for catching eggs laid through the night).

    In my nest boxes I fold a feed bag to fit (nest boxes are 1 ft³). When a bag gets soiled; fold a new one; pop out the soiled; pop in the new.

    Easy peasy!.

    Chicken coop is salvaged 4x8 metal shed.




    I house a variety of birds in hear ¼ inch plywood veneer between birds and the elements no heat no light no insulation no problems!
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013
  6. Jajika

    Jajika Songster

    Dec 24, 2007
    Northern California
    Wow...fascinating. I'm learning so much. Thanks for this very helpful piece. I need to take some pictures so you can see what my set up is.

    So what I'm hearing from everyone is that common sense protection from the elements in winter are fine. Protect the chickens from wind, rain and snow by having a well build coop to get out of the elements.

    For the summer, always lots of fresh water and shade.

    Even though it doesn't get crazy hot or humid here I did have a Barred Rock die one summer when we had unusual heat. Scared me so I went out and bought a misting system from Home Depot. It cools the air about 20 degrees. It only worked in half the yard. Probably made me feel better and the chickens didn't care. Couldn't tell.

    I thought there was a problem two years ago with heat and folks losing their chickens? Anyone remember that?
  7. I lived in central Oklahoma during the summer of 2011, and I know several people in my area, me included, lost chickens and other livestock during the worst of the heat wave. Our hottest day was 115*, and I lost 6 hens that day. All apparently died due to the excessive heat, as they were completely healthy beautiful birds when they died. So, yes, heat can definitely be an issue. Again, acclimation helps - those birds that are accustomed to HOT temps do much better than those that have to suffer through an occasional heat wave.
  8. Jajika

    Jajika Songster

    Dec 24, 2007
    Northern California
    Thanks so much for this. Sorry about your girls.

    I worry more about heat than cold. It seems that cold can be more controllable in terms of cozy coops and all. But heat is difficult as I don't know how much shade and water will do to keep the birds cool.

    Well, not moving just yet, but wanting to learn more.

    Thanks again.

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