Feeding During Colorado Winter

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Vivienne, Aug 14, 2011.

  1. Vivienne

    Vivienne Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 12, 2011
    I live in Boulder, CO and have a young flock of Easter Eggers, Silkies, a Buff Orpington, Australorp and Brahma. This is my first post.

    Me and three other neighbors collectively own the flock and contribute to their care and cost. So far it has been wonderful. I'm trying to figure out what to do about the winter, the girls have a great coop and covered run. I read that the coop should be ventilated but not drafty. Can someone please elaborate on this? What exactly does that mean?

    I have a small exhaust fan (solar powered) and there are windows, but one of the members of my co-op thinks we should seal up the coop with caulk and insulation so we can keep them warm when they need it most (the temperature can drop into the single digits on occasion) and crack the windows when it isn't as cold. Is it worth the effort or even a good idea? How cold does it have to be to worry about them being warm enough? I can provide a light for heat. They will be fully grown by the time winter comes.

    I know that chickens suffer from respiratory issues if the air isn't fresh. Does this apply to even very cold days? I see many coops that have huge gaps and open areas in them.

    Also, should I move their feed and water inside during the winter?

    Thank you,

    A Boulder, quasi-communal, modern hippie.
  2. azpenguin

    azpenguin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 4, 2011
    Tucson, AZ
    They absolutely need ventilation. Chickens, as you know, poop a LOT. This poop has a lot of ammonia in it, and that can build up to very high levels very quickly if the coop isn't ventilated enough. What is most important as far as keeping your chickens in the winter is that you keep them dry. As long as they're dry, they can cope with a lot of cold. (My sister lives in the southwest corner of the state near Mancos, and she's got 24 hens. She didn't lose any to the cold over the winter, despite it getting as low as 15 below some nights.)

    Ventilated but not drafty - the coop has to have some place for the air to flow out so that the ammonia doesn't build up. You'll have to set that up so that they're not getting cold wind blowing in on them. For example, you can use roof eaves for venting, but you wouldn't want a screen door or anything like that. Search the site for ventilation to see how much you need per bird... I forget but I think it's 2 sq.ft. per chicken.

    Good luck!
  3. greathorse

    greathorse Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 1, 2008
    Northern Colorado
    I beleive you should have some kind of venting even on the coldest days. I like to have my vents above the level of the chicken roost. I have never lost a bird to cold weather. I have had a comb or two get some frost bite and my coops are far from air tight. I have a very old book on poultry care and the gentleman that wrote it was emphatic about ventilation even in winter. He felt as though most of the respritory issues in poultry come from tight warm coops. I live within 25 miles of Boulder, Idrive there every day by the way.

    If you ever develop an interest in some very nice Silver laced Wyandottes or Rhode Island Reds PM me. I will have chicks later this year and in the spring. I do not feed my birds indoors.
  4. Chicky Monkey

    Chicky Monkey Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 18, 2011
    Why don't you feed your chicken inside during the winter????? This is my first year with chickens and am finding out experience is the greatest teacher, so I appreciate advice from experienced chickie owners!!
  5. Vivienne

    Vivienne Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 12, 2011
    So even when it is freezing out, keep their little door open so they can go out to feed and drink? I will have a warmer to keep the water from freezing. I realize they wear down coats but I just don't want to make a mistake that could cost their lives.


  6. Amethyste

    Amethyste For Love of Boo...

    I live in the Pacific NW, and it gets cold here at times. We have had many times where it has been 5-9 degrees at night and 10 as a high daytime., and my girls are in an unheated coop and have done just fine. They are warm little critters!

    I have their pop door open so they can go outside and play and do their chicken jobs during the day, but food and water are inside the coop. I have a water heater to keep the water from freezing, and that is about it. Temp drops below freezing and the heater kicks on so they have liquid water.

    Never once had an issue with it. Make sure you have PLENTY of ventilation tho...I know my first year I had an issue with the birds. See, their breath is filled with moisture, and would freeze on the plastic part of the ceiling (we had a suntuff smoky plastic section of roof for light) at night. When the daylight came and they moved around and started heating up the coop with their own heat and the heat of the sun on the coop, it would melt the chicken breath ice and then drip on them [​IMG] That is a not good thing...

    Once I got more ventilation for the coop, they were a lot happier and have not had an issue since. I would recommend tho that you have a lot of ventilation. The chickens will be fine with the cold, its the wet and cold they don't do well with. As long as they are dry...they don't need to have heat or insulation in the coop. Just non frozen water and food, and a dry non drafty coop and its all good and well.
  7. Amethyste

    Amethyste For Love of Boo...

    DOH dbl posted....
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2011
  8. annep

    annep Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 4, 2011
    Hey there from Colorado Springs!
    We give them the option of coming out most days, but on super cold ones, we just put the feeder in their coop, and the waterer, and shut the door..We have two small windows on the sides of the coop that allow for air. They dont want to come out when its super cold. We also do the deep litter method, straw piling up, so that helps keep them warm too. You would be amazed what they can handle. I am sure you get colder than we do, being in the foothills, and probably more snow..You might just have to be super diligent..One thing we did this last winter, and they loved it, was take the snow shovel and make trails around the yard for them to walk, so their feet did not get too cold. We would take it down to the dirt, and they were able to get out and walk around..Then, we would find them huddled together somewhere...Good luck hon!
  9. Vivienne

    Vivienne Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 12, 2011
    Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for your amazing and thoughtful replies to my question. It has given me the insight that I need to help me give my girls what they need. You are priceless! --Vivienne in Boulder
  10. booker81

    booker81 Redneck Tech Girl

    Apr 18, 2010
    Not in CO, but in MI when it gets plenty cold - I've found one thing that helps me keep the clan happy is to make sure they have SOMETHING to do inside. My buggers won't venture out if there's more than 2" of snow out, which in this last winter meant months in their coop.

    Ventilation at all times is a MUST. Everyone else covered that part well - you need it. I keep a few vents open, but shut off the main windows with a sheet of house wrap loosely stapled on so it's not whipping wind on them. I also use the deep litter method which does help with some heat retention for them.

    I like to purchase those Flock Blocks (pretty much pressed feed and whatnot into a block), and put one in their coop for them to peck at, along with kitchen scraps. I toss BOSS into the bedding to make them scratch around. I do put fresh shavings in regularly so they have a clean place to attempt to dust bathe.

    CO chickens might act different than MI chickens, but you might want to prepare for the idea they might become coop-bound on their own accord, and plan to find ways to keep them happy and occupied while they're cooped up [​IMG]

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