Help! Winter is coming!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by alc245, Oct 5, 2016.

  1. alc245

    alc245 In the Brooder

    Jul 5, 2016
    Upstate New York
    Hi everyone! This will be our first winter with the chickens, we live in upstate NY/finger lakes region so we usually get pummeled with snow! Trying to figure out what is the best way to keep the chickens over winter, we don't use the layer method of composting straw, we have a livestock sand bedding in the coop and run. I'm really nervous about heat lamps, any other ideas? Here is our coop and run. We are thinking about adding a metal or plastic roof to the top of the run and maybe some plastic sheeting around it do to keep the snow out, the coop itself just has cedar shake siding and plywood. Don't mind the half stained siding! Lol on my list of things to do!
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016

  2. redsoxs

    redsoxs Crowing

    Jul 17, 2011
    North Central Kansas
    Chickens are actually more winter resilient than they are during the hot and humid summer heat. They are little furnaces that put off an amazing amount of heat. If your coop is sound - and it sure looks to be - you should be fine. Just make sure that it is draft free but still has ventilation. Here are a couple winter chicken keeping links for your perusal:
    Best wishes! [​IMG]
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    What a nice large coop! I wish everyone could give their birds that much space.

    One thing to remember is, many of the American breeds were developed in your area, before there was electricity. As long as they're dry and can get out of the wind, birds can easily stand sub-zero temps.

    I don't think you need to do much differently for winter. No heat lamp! They don't need one. Protecting the run from wind or snow would be a great idea. A roof, and plastic around a side or two. Just be sure you don't seal the run up tight, be sure to leave some space at the top and bottom for good airflow.

    Your coop is great for your winters. It's large enough to have some good airflow, and it looks like you've got good ventilation. Moisture is the enemy more than cold. Small coops hold moisture, and that makes for sick birds and frostbite. You don't need insulation in the coop. Folks want to button up the birds for the winter, but really they need the fresh air.

    Find a way to keep your water from freezing, or carry water a few times a day, and you should be good to go.
  4. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    So far you've received excellent responses! I live in Northern Wyoming not too far from Yellowstone Park, and we KNOW winter here, as well. My coop is neither heated nor insulated. I use a clear, fiber reinforced tarp over most of my run, and it works so well that I'm able to brood chicks outdoors in that run from day one with just a heating pad cave. They thrive even in temps in the teens and twenties and with sideways blowing snow! In our homes we want to seal up any little spots cold air can creep in through and we want the best insulation we can get. But we are trying to keep artificial heat in, and don't wear expensive down parkas inside. Chickens already have that coat! And they need that exchange of air going continually in the coop to take humid, ammonia-tainted air out and let fresh air in.

    Your setup looks great! My only concern is the sand. Oh, I know people use it and just love it for many, many reasons, but in cold, snowy wintertime it's not the most forgiving surface that they can land on when flying down from the roosts. It does a great job in drying out the poops for easy pickup, but in order to that effectively it has to absorb the moisture out of the poops. In warm temperatures that's no problem. But in winter humidity comes from many sources - their poop. their breath, spilled water or drips as well as melting and refreezing snow - and that humidity in the sand freezes, making it like concrete. I thought seriously about using sand when I started raising chickens, for all the reasons other people have mentioned it. But then I went to deep litter for all the reasons I have mentioned. It can't be easy to fly off the roost in the morning and land on that hard surface. And in winter it holds the cold so it doesn't afford them any place to snuggle down into for warmth. I know my chickens love to hollow out little body sized holes in the litter and wiggle around until almost all I can see is their heads. I put my hand in one of those hollows after one of my birds got out of it - and darn near wanted to crawl in there just to soak up the warmth she left behind!

    Cold, cold COLD!

    Notice the chicks in the pen at the far was in the low twenties the day this was taken.

    Edited to add: I see that you are relatively new to BYC! Welcome, and best of luck with your chickens!! Lots of good people here always ready to help and before you know it you'll be passing out tips to new flock owners like you've done it all your life!
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
    2 people like this.
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Free Ranging Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    I don't have anything else to add - just wanted to say
    1 person likes this.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!

    One word...RoofRake...OK, that's really two words but....get one or make one, use it.
    I live in a snow belt too, ya gotta keep up on the snow clearing.

    A solid roof on your run would be great, make sure the run structure framing can handle the weight of the roof sheathing and the snow load.

    Plan your access points to coop, run, place to stand to rake roof, etc..... and keep the snow cleared.
    I have ambulatory issues so shovel small amounts often to ensure good footing,
    out to coop and inside run to access all parts of mesh roofed run to avoid accumulation and collapse(it's come close),
    it's also is nice when the snow starts to melt those areas clear fast.

    You will want to have a heater waterer....unless you have time and like toting water out multiple times a day.
    This works great for me....

    I found some good info on ventilation the other already stated it's way more important than heating.
    Excellent video ....
  7. alc245

    alc245 In the Brooder

    Jul 5, 2016
    Upstate New York
    Thank you all for all your excellent advice! Yeah we are new to backyard chickens and chicken keeping in general! We love the idea of homesteading, and we moved to 3.5 acres in Bristol Ny. We have a huge raised bed garden (although our drought this year killed us, no rain water to collect to water!) and started with 8 chicks from the runnings store back in march. We are down to 6 now with one very protective rooster! We do have a good deal of ventilation, all along the top (on two sides) where the roof meets the sides, are 5-6 inch open areas. The access door has a section we keep open (with poultry netting) during this crazy hot summer. Plus our two windows allow for air flow as well. I think I'll add some straw in the coop as suggested and are really planning on the solid roof and plastic sheeting to keep out snow. Good point on making sure it can handle the snow load! Should we also put straw in the then as well then?

  8. I use sand in my coop all year...It is great even in the winter...
    Just what works for me...Your coop looks great...

  9. Spartan22

    Spartan22 Crowing

    Sep 2, 2014
    Canton, Ohio

    You had great advise from experienced chicken keepers. I'm just few hours from you being in NE Ohio, I used corrugated clear panels as roofing on my run, pitched steep to shy away snow, so I don't have to clear it off. It kept my chicken run dry and less muddy during warmer days of winter, therefore warmer clean chicken feet and no muddy eggs and yet plenty of day lights on gloomy winter. My chickens spends whole day out in the run even during teens and single digit temps since it has the green house effect during sunny winter days.



    On subject of beddings, I used combos of sand, pine shavings & straws. W/ sand I can clean poop droppings within 10 minutes. Though as much as possible I avoid the latter since couple of my hens got impacted crop from trying to swallow long strands of straws and one time bought bale of straws that has plenty of mites. I ended up cleaning the entire 12'x40' run and empty coop clean [​IMG], dusting and spraying that was a lot of work.

    On heating subject, NOT necessary! though I have wall panel heater I've installed in winter 2014, when we had plenty of -20s days to keep the eggs from freezing while am work. Our coop is 10'x12' floor, walls & roof/ceilings insulated from heat/cold but plenty of ventilations above and ample windows that only get closed when temps goes down below 20s since they spent most of their time in the runs anyways except sleeping and laying eggs.


  10. 46hillbilly

    46hillbilly In the Brooder

    Mar 30, 2012
    Try making a support for a tent frame with a steel pipe setup that is stocked by some stores. Or Sch 40 plastic pipe with 45Deg top angles and 45Deg sides to ground level and put up tarp or anodized metal roofing (permanent) with more supports to hold it in place.

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