feeding and watering in winter...they won't leave the coop!

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by ebdakota, Dec 9, 2012.

  1. I have four chickens in a smallish coop with an enclosed, attached run. They have a small door and no other source of light in the coop. I just started my poultry project last spring, so this is the first cold weather and it is not going well! The chickens seems to spend ALL their time in the coop. I had their water and feed in the run, but I have since moved them in the coop. I go out morning and night to bring fresh (and not frozen) water and that seemed to be going great. However, as it gets colder, and they spend more and more time in the coop, I am beginning to think they never get to drink! They scratch so much their water dish fills with dirt right away (or someone tips it over...) I can only use a small dish bc the coop floor is not big enough for their feeder and the big waterer...I'm not sure hanging would work. The coop is very tall but narrow...any other suggestion for keep ing clean water? or ways to convince them to go out in the run again?
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

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    Is there snow in the run? Has it been very windy? Chickens often won't walk on snow, and may go in to escape a lot of wind, but the cold weather alone shouldn't keep them inside. Are they afraid of a predator, or some kind of noise in the area? They will be much better off if you can get them out, especially with a small coop.
     
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    As temperatures drop the need for water decreases. Less is lost keeping body cool. They will also consume snow. In past some of my birds on walks would thrive without access to liquid water for a month as a time. Same birds would attack it when brought to them but where otherwise in tip top condition. If possible watch birds more continously, then you may find they come out although only for short periods of time. As temperatures drop for winter free-ranged birds roosting on my front porch, their ranging habits undergo extreme changes. Bouts of foraging are shorter and more intense with birds promptly returning to cover. If feed supplied, then they hit feeder then go back to cover. Try baiting birds out with BOSS, mine will fly considerable over snow to get to BOSS.

    At night, check crop fill. If crops full and feces has moisture in it, then all is well.

    If still concerned, then provide birds with soak oats or corn in addition to your standard ration. It will be a substantial source of moisture that can be handled by birds even when frozen.
     
  4. there is snow and wind - lots of it in fact. the run is partially covered but the wind blows the snow in drifts, so it is pretty unavoidable. A lot of people keep chickens around here though, and they seem to do fine. hopefully mine are just adjusting...
     
  5. Achickenwrangler#1

    Achickenwrangler#1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Advise given is quite good. In addition, I notice my chickens will sort of hibernate during a storm/blizzard. I know the storm is over when they wake up and start venturing out. Its not unusual to see them roosting on the coop while snow drifts around them. If there is food and water plenty in the coop, they may not come out. I keep the water outside, under a tarp attached to the coop and keep straw on the ground there.
    If its their first season with snow, they need to get used to it.
     
  6. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Overrun With Chickens

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    Stamp down or shovel the snow in the run, then throw in a flake of hay or straw to stand on and scratch thru - gets them outside exercising (and pooping!). I also attached a roost to the outside wall of my coop, inside the run under the covered part of the run, and they sit there quite a bit.
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    What you describe is typical when a cold spell first hits. They may abstain from eating for a couple days when conditions become extreme. At some point as fat reserves are depleted they will begin to brave cold for food. Subsequent cold snaps for season in my birds does not result in the hibernating behavior. They seem to adapt.


    Something cool I have seen and attempted to follow more closely is how free-range birds adapt to a blizzard. A group I have roosting on front porch allows me to go out, pick them up, and weight them on a scale. Normally the birds have a pretty constant weight with variation most closely associated with crop-fill. When a brutal cold snap hits their weight briefly dips as foraging behavior declines. It takes a couple days but when weight drops a little but still well within the healthy range, the birds start flying across snow. Feed intake also pickups to what I think is the highest they are capable of. They also go to extremes to find cover from wind yet when possible during day stay in sunlit areas.
     
  8. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    We wrap the run on the 2 prevailing wind side. Really it's just a 12ft tarp so it doesn't cover both 10ft sides but still creates a wind shield for the majority of run area and especially under their coop where the heated water and food is kept for them.
     
  9. Achickenwrangler#1

    Achickenwrangler#1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hibernation is the wrong word..maybe roost more accurate. During the day some will sit outside and just watch the snow pile up around them. First season for some, attempting to walk on it then realized they can fly over it! I have noticed they don't feed and forage during storms, even though feed is available, they just lay down and wait it out. Maybe the barometric pressure affects them...I don't know. My birds pretty much free range and they tend to act the same way. I have decided to install tree limbs at different places for them to get above the snow and sit in the sun.
     
  10. Kaitie09

    Kaitie09 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We also wrap the run on three sides. We staple the clear plastic you can get at home depot. Find the side that gets the least wind and drifts, and wrap all other side but that one. That way would provide enough ventilation without worrying about drifts. The plastic will also act as a little (very little) bit of a greenhouse and provide heat if the sun it hitting it right.
     

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