first winter question


5 Years
Sep 12, 2014
Wayland, MI
Our coop is a raised 4x4x4. Not insulated. I beleive upper venting is good; eaves are open (E&W sides) 2 windows both placed high one each N&S side. S side window has plexiglass sliding doors for light. nest boxes are outside of the 4x4 footprint. We don't want electric run to it, could do an extension cord if needed. 5 pullets in it, oldest 2 are about 2 months. Youngest 2 are about 3ish weeks. Using DL method with pine shavings, food and water are set on blocks to help keep clean. MI climate.

1. Is it likely they won't lay until after winter or might they start in the winter? Trying to get an idea when to open nest boxes, currently wire over them.
2. Should we insulate the center of roof only to keep warmth in and not block eave venting?
3. If we place full straw bales under the coop will it help keep floor warm enough to help with freezing water?
4. What's a good winter waterer? Currently have a plastic one with screw on top. I'm certain it'll crack with ice, especially trying to open it if its full of ice. Thought about using a black rubbery dish because they're great with ice, never had one break. But I've always been told not to have open water with chickens because they drown easy.

Thank you in advance, this site has been great


Dances with Chickens
10 Years
Feb 24, 2009
Strasburg Ohio
Lots of good questions! Hello!

Your pullets will most likely not lay until the spring. They usually start laying (depending on the breed) from 17 to 25 weeks of age. Lighting is a big factor in egg laying. Chickens really need light to lay eggs. I would keep those nesting boxes blocked off until the spring, otherwise, they might start sleeping in them, which means they will poop in them. And you don't want dirty eggs.

Bales under the coop is a good idea, to keep the floor warmer and the cold winds won't be blowing under there. I wouldn't totally block off the ventilation because chickens do need that. You just want to be sure that, where they roost, they won't be standing in a draft. No ventilation will mean the breath of the chicks can make condensation inside the coop. That can cause combs to become frostbitten....

I'm in Ohio, and the best winter waterer for me was a black rubber bucket. It would freeze on the top, and I could just take it outside, step on the bucket and the ice would come out easily. I kept two buckets, which meant I only had to make that one trip to the hen house with the fresh water. Then I would bring the empty bucket back up to the house. Of course, I didn't use the bucket until the chickens were fully grown. None of my adult chickens ever drowned in a bucket.

I think, since your chickens are younger and smaller just yet, I would either use a small black rubber bowl for the water, or a chick waterer. What you could do is have two chick waterers. Take the full, fresh one down to the coop, bring the frozen one back up and let it unthaw in your house, so you don't crack it.

Or, you could use an outdoor extension cord and have a heated waterer, which is a blessing. My coop has electricity, so I'm getting one this year! YIPPIE! Also, you could have a heat lamp in there too, if it gets bitter cold, although you really don't have to have one.

Hope this helps!


5 Years
Jan 27, 2014
Central Oregon
I invite you to visit the BYC thread

Preparing Your Flock & Coop for Winter

Lots of good advice there! Wishing you all the best...

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