Free Ranging - in the snow?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by debir1966, Oct 1, 2012.

  1. debir1966

    debir1966 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I hope this is the appropriate section to ask this question.

    We live in Idaho - our snow levels average between 2-4 feet. We built a new coop this summer, but do not have any runs built yet. Our chickens have been free-ranging.

    Anyone live in snow country and free-range their chickens in the winter? Or is that impossible? If we have to, we can built a hoop run and cover it partially/completely with tarp for the winter. We have quite a few chickens and if they are not able to get out of the coop during the day, it would be too crowded for them all (8x12, 30 chickens, which will be 9 and 14 weeks old this coming wednesday).

    Thanks for the input!
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

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    Chickens don't generally like to walk in or on snow. I'd build the run.
     
  3. what did I do

    what did I do Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We use the tractor to scrape the snow away so they can get to the dirt. We also scatter straw on the hard packed snow. Chickens can't walk in deep snow. When it is very cold the chickens can freeze their feet or toes on the ice or snow. We take our fence down for winter to make snow removal easier. The chickens will not leave the coop if the snow is to deep.
     
  4. humphrey farms

    humphrey farms Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We plan to snowblow or use the tractor to scrape off as much snow as possible too. I didnt know about throwing straw down on the pathways ect. (newbie) Here in Maine we get feet of snow and some real cold days. Our coop/shed doors face south for sun and is protected by a huge building on the west side. How cold can chickens endure below zero??? I have already started doing the deep litter method since the days are rainy and shorter . The nights are down to 45 degrees now but 20 below is some cold.! [​IMG]
     
  5. what did I do

    what did I do Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Cold - we let our chickens out to free range if it is above 0° F. If it is below 0° F we take stock of what the day looks like (there are some days above 0 that they stay in). Some people just down the road let their chickens out every single day.

    We have one chicken who lost part of her toes last winter. Some strange things led up to her freezing her toes so I can't say the cold is to blame for the loss of toes. Her comb was just fine. It was a day of -30 without snow in November on the day this happened.

    Some of the warmest coats and blankets are made from down so don't feel bad for the chickens. I wouldn't add any extra heat to the coop if you want them to go out in the winter. I have a light and a heated dog water dish in my coop. Animals that go from hot to cold end up in bad shape with frostbite we know this from our cats. I tend to think that the heat is harder on them then cold - this depends on the breed of chicken. I think drafts would be hard on the chickens too. Chickens put off a lot of moisture that could be harmful if not controlled. We bed with straw and clean the coop on nice days.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2012
  6. debir1966

    debir1966 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Central Idaho
    Thanks for all the replies. Mostly, I just do not want to have to keep them "cooped-up" all winter! We will not be using any extra heat, the coop is draft free, we are still working out the ventilation (which is at roof level). We have east facing windows to help heat up the coop in the morning.

    I like the idea of putting straw/hay out on the snow one it is packed down. The coop is at the end of our driveway (we live down a long lane), so we will be plowing the snow back and they will have quite a bit of space to range in that will be plowed, and I could keep the area right in front of their coop with a layer of straw down for them, and maybe throw their treats and scratch out there.

    I think we will go ahead and build a run and partially cover it (wether it is a hoop run or conventional) so that even on bad days they have a place to spread out a bit.
     
  7. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    We have snow cover for months. I take the tractor and make them a few "paths" toward the big pines. Under those big pines, the snow is never deep and that's the first place it retreats during sunny days or slight warm spells. The birds move along the paths and go from big pine to big pine. It's hardly free ranging, and there's little to nothing for them to actually eat under those trees, but they get some exercise and fresh air. That's important enough, I guess.


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  8. debir1966

    debir1966 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG]

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    Some pics of our chicks in the snow :) We are still letting them free range, in the snow. They were shy of it at first, but now happily run out of the coop in the morning when we open the door. Some scratch around in the snow under the apple trees, some go scratch in the barn or one of the old sheds, some stay close to the coop, some just walk around for a bit in the snow before doing one of the other things. We only have about 4-6 inches right now. We are planning on shoveling paths to the barn and old shed for them as the snow gets deeper since we didn't get the partially covered run built (yet LOL). I did start another thread to see what people who have snow now were currently doing but it doesn't seem like alot of people free-range in the snow.
     
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I put in a great deal of old hay in the run, then if snow is forcasted, I pile it up into a good heap, next morning, I just flip it on top of the snow, lookes the same to the hens, and out they come. If your birds can get out of the wind, the cold won't bother them for the most part. I have had my girls do just fine in well below 0, say -20, and they don't seem to notice, but when it gets cold, mine do get more feed. Good feed = warmth from their own body.

    Out in my run, I have a "sun porch" which is just a wind break, with a window propped on the south side, like a cold frame. Stick your hand under there on a sunny day, and you will be amazed how much warmer it is, even though the east and west side are pretty open. My girls will spend time there.

    I think wind protection is the most important, but then again, I am in western SD and we are known for our wind.

    MrsK
     
  10. debir1966

    debir1966 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I love the idea of a sun porch! We want to do a partially covered run (next year) and I have been thinking about using alternating tin and fiberglass type roofing so that in the summer it provides shade, in the winter it can let in some light, and in all seasons it provides rain protection! We do not get bad winds, but do have windy days from fall to spring. I want to enclose the covered area on two sides (one side being enclosed by the coop) and leave the side open to the rest of the uncovered run. This would mainly be for winter use as we free-range... which we are still doing this winter because we do not have a run LOL. I prefer to free-range, but because I have had occassions where my hens have decided to lay somewhere other than in the chicken coop, I have been giving alot of thought to paddocks... which would give the chickens the benefits of free-ranging and give me the reliability of having the eggs all layed in the hen house!
     

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