First winter with chickens: others have me feeling guilty about not heating. Going to be -3 & -16

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by goldfishes, Feb 17, 2015.

  1. goldfishes

    goldfishes Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2014
    I am new to chickens and am feeling downright awful about my decision not to heat the coop. I do not see how it would be safe to heat with the deep litter in the run and nearly 1/4 of the coop filled with pine shavings. There is nearly 10" of snow on the ground and I just see fire/electrocution potentials if I stuck out a heat lamp at this point. Also, I should mention a few weeks ago, we lost power for nearly 8 hours and it's known to happen without notice around here.

    I have six pullets: two production reds and four easter eggers. They are 10 1/2 months old. Two are in a partial molt, but all are healthy and eating well. They have experienced 0F, but not negative temperatures.

    My fellow chicken keepers in the area are heating their coops. They report the chickens don't leave the coop, where mine mostly stay out in the run except to lay eggs or occasionally warm-up for a few minutes. Today, it was 6 degrees and they were out in the run scratching around acting like it was a normal day.

    To prepare for winter, three quarters of the run has been covered in plastic to block wind, rest is open to avoid moisture and to allow fresh air/sunlight. There is a 6' privacy fence around the yard that seems to also help with blocking wind. I have a 4x4 elevated coop and the few times I've stuck my head inside, it's not as cold as it is outdoors. There is a vent at the top of the roof and a small window with shutters that I've closed. I added almost three bags of pine shavings (about 10" of bedding inside.) I've been giving them warm mash in the mornings (just their feed softened with water), some yogurt or eggs every couple of days, oatmeal and scratch right before bedtime.

    Despite doing all the research and making the decision not to heat, I wasn't expecting nearly 20 below zero! :( They say it's going to be -3 and then -16 the next night. The day isn't supposed to get above 8. After that, it is supposed to go back to the teens and 20s. I wasn't expecting this kind of weather as it normally doesn't get below the low teens here.

    Are they going to be okay in these frigid temperatures without heat?
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    If you don't feel it is safe to heat with electricity then don't.

    I do provide heat to my chickens when it goes down to the low 20's and teens here, but it only happens for a few days out of the year. And I would not do it if I didn't feel it was safe.

    You need to go with your gut on this one!
  3. justplainbatty

    justplainbatty Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 30, 2007
    emmet MI
    So far, you have done perfectly. If they are used to going out during the day all winter, they have grown extra down and will be just fine. If it is -16* outside, it will be -6* inside with no wind chill. they can handle that. You may not want to let them out on the super cold day or if you do and see that they are staying in, just shut the door again. [​IMG]
  4. Cpolanco3

    Cpolanco3 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 14, 2013
    I would say that the fact that you DON'T provide heat and your girls are still outside in the run goes to show it IS just a regular day for them. Those neighbors of yours who DO provide heat have chickens that don't like the outside chill. If you were to loose power, your girls would survive cause they're already used to it.... and your neighbors would probably lose a few. If you want to feel safer about them being warmer, maybe install more insulation?

    1 person likes this.
  5. snaffle

    snaffle Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 27, 2009
    Always keep in mind that the larger the building the harder it is for the occupant to heat it up with their little furnace called a body. lol

    Too often people will put their dog in the largest dog house they can... not realizing the dog's body can not warm up that little building.

    I have a 7 x 10 stall in our barn where I kept my cochin banties for years. The ceiling was covered with one inch boards. I would staple plastic over the "window" area to help keep it a bit warmer. I always had about a dozen cochins every winter.

    When the temps dropped down cIose to 10 degrees I would hang a 40 watt bulb over their roost. I often felt just the heat from that bulb kept them a tad warmer.

    I now have a 10x 20 insulated chicken house with about 25 birds in it. We have had sub zero temps here and most of the time the inside temperature stayed above 20. One day it got down to 9.

    There are enough birds in there that it helps keep the chicken house a bit warmer.

    My chickens refuse to go outside when it is so cold out.

    Your chickens are healthy and happy. I have never heard of anyone heating a chicken houseOne. Sometimes Mother Nature knows best.

    Did you say your hens are molting? Are you positive they are molting and not loosing feathers because of lice or mites?
  6. song of joy

    song of joy Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    Hello from PA! I think it was -15 yesterday morning, and my hens (in their unheated coop) are doing fine.

    It sounds like you're doing everything right! Just be on the lookout for any frost accumulation on the coop window. If you see ANY signs of frost on the inside of the window, be sure to open it to increase air circulation so you reduce the risk of frostbite.
  7. goldfishes

    goldfishes Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2014
    Thank you all! I do feel a little better, especially from knowing you are a neighboring state and already experienced -15 in an unheated coop, song of joy. I am going to definitely keep an eye on that window, thanks for telling me about that! I do open the coop briefly to remove the largest poo and feel the inside walls to make sure they aren't sweating in the mornings. So far, it's been bone dry.

    Snaffle, I often for mites and bugs. They are constantly dust bathing, and I put a bit of DE in their favorite spot. I am pretty sure it is a molt as two just went through the same thing and are fully feathered. One is already growing back her feathers and is nearly finished getting back in them all. One just started about a week ago and is missing quite a bit of feathers. But she isn't naked, you can see a lot of down still on her breast. She seems to be okay, but I did notice she spends more time in the coop.

    Hearing sound advice from you all is helping me cope a little better. I'll listen to my gut about the heat lamp being unsafe for my setup and just keep an eye on the girls closely.
  8. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.

    All of these. Your chickens will be just fine. I have 6 chickens in an 8x16' coop that's 7' high at the peak. It doesn't have a ceiling, just rafters and the chickens love to roost up there. I'm in MN, and we've been having double-digits below zero off and on for the past couple of weeks. This after having been spoiled by balmy temps in the 20's and 30's in January. The chickens are just fine. I don't close their pop door to the run, and mine go out to scratch and peck every day.
    1 person likes this.
  9. gotthefever

    gotthefever Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 6, 2014
    I felt awful too. Until I read how much healthier it was. I don't have worries of a fire. The chickens are perfectly cheerful. Happier than me being out there by 100%.

    They didn't like to walk in the first snow, so I put cardboard down. That was pooped to s... multiple times. I put up big umbrellas if I think of it now.

    Last snow I shook off a poopy cardboard, plopped it down and threw scratch. Snow Partay!

    If I let them out of their run, they just sit by screen porch. If I leave them in the pen, they go in their coop to stay out of the wind.

    Oh and its in single digits. I prefer them stay the coop if they need to to keep frostbite away.

    All is well.

    ETA: They sit by the screen porch and wont walk 20 feet to sit in their coop unless they are closed in their run. 100ft2 for 1 LF and 4 bantams, yeah, plenty of space. :)
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
    1 person likes this.
  10. gotthefever

    gotthefever Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 6, 2014
    my little doghouse coop is small, but feels great, if I could only climb my self inside it!!! Can't wait till I build the big one, for me, that is, the chickens don't care.

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