How Cold is Too Cold?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by dsbailey70, Nov 1, 2014.

  1. dsbailey70

    dsbailey70 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I live in SE Texas. Last winter had some very cold days (for down here), and the same is expected this year. After removing the mower, and other gas related items, I plan on setting up my portable coop in the garage, so I can bring them inside when it's too cold. My outside coop/run is under a roof, and I have a tarp stretched overhead too. I have 2 Partridge Silkies, an EE, and a BR. At what point does a coop/run need to somehow insulated? How cold should it be before I bring them inside?
     
  2. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I live in South Central Texas, this will be my third winter with chickens. The first one, since I was such a newbie, I installed 2 radiant heat panels in the coop to keep them warm. The second winter I did not add anything to warm up the coop, I just made sure that they had good ventilation and no drafts.It was a pretty cold winter (to our standards) my girls were cold but they just fluffed up during the day and stayed in the run[​IMG]

    where I placed some tarps to stop the wind from coming in. You will see that they are not very active when it is very cold so don't worry about it. The most important thing that you need to do is to protect your flock from drafts and have good ventilation in their coop. I don't think you need to move them in the garage, even though it will get below 32F they will stay cozy keeping close to each other.

    We don't have it nearly as bad as they do up north!
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2014
  3. dsbailey70

    dsbailey70 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    How can I provide good ventilation, without a draft? Right now, the roost has a small window on the front, with 1/2" hardware cloth. There's a door on the other side, but I haven't yet closed them in with it. I have started laying an old blanket over the top of the coop (not covering the window, and wrapping a tarp around the end facing North.
     
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    It took me a while to get this figured out too, it seems so contradictory. But what you really want to do is keep them dry, and to do that, you need to keep them away from the walls and the ceiling, there needs to be space between them and the wall and ceiling. As in about a 15 inches from the ceiling to the top of their head, and a good foot from the wall.

    Warm, moist air rises, and will condense when it hits the cooler surface. If you chicken is close to that surface, that makes them damp, and damp chickens are cold chickens. Just by having more space around the the chicken, especially above the chicken will improve ventilation. Think about getting in a cardboard box, almost immediately upon entry, you would feel the heat and moisture build up.

    Give your birds space, and they will be drier, and they will be warmer. Space = improved ventilation

    Mrs K
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2014
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Texas has no areas too cold for adult chickens in good feather, regardless of season.
     
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  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    People get the idea that “no draft” means no air movement. That is wrong relative to chickens. Chicken’s down and feathers insulate them by trapping air. The feathers and down are good non-conductors so they don’t transfer heat either. That’s pretty much the way insulation works in your house, trap small air bubbles and don’t conduct heat.

    When a draft becomes strong enough to ruffle feathers it lets that trapped air that has been warmed by their body heat escape. That’s why in Aldarita’s run they stay where the tarps protect them from the wind. Mine don’t like a cold breeze either but even if it is below zero Fahrenheit they will be out foraging as long as a cold wind is not blowing.

    In places a lot further north than you chickens sleep in trees throughout the winter. A trusted member of this forum told a story about feral chickens spending the North Michigan winter sleeping in trees. They were not out in the open. They were in a protected spot and could move to get out of the wind if it came up, but they slept outside with no harm all through a north Michigan winter. They can handle cold with just a little help.

    Ventilation gets rid of bad air. There are two kinds of bad air. Ammonia gas is generated by their poop breaking down. Ammonia is hard on their respiratory system but is lighter than air. If you have a hole above their heads that ammonia will rise right on past them instead of building up. It doesn’t have to be a huge opening to get rid of ammonia but you do need an opening over their heads when they are on the roost.

    The other bad air is wet air. That can lead to frostbite if the temperatures are below freezing. You will never get it drier than the air outside the coop but you need to try to get rid of excess moisture. There are a lot of different ways to do that. In places a lot colder than Southeast Texas many people have coops with one entire side open year around. You basically build it so the roosts are back in the protected end so the wind does not hit them directly. It helps if the coop is in a sort of protected place so the wind can only come from limited directions. The easy way to do provide good ventilation without a breeze hitting them is to have the openings in the winter over their heads so any breeze generated passes over them without ruffling their feathers when they are the roosts.

    Where you are cold is not your enemy at all. Heat is. Heat kills a lot more chickens than cold. Hot air rises. You need to make sure they have great ventilation over their heads and at roost level and below during the summer. With just a little protection from direct breezes they are going to do great during your winters. Summer is your danger time.
     
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  7. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This is a good article about keeping chickens in winter:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/its-cold-keeping-flocks-warm-and-healthy-in-winter
    It is in BYC learning center.

    I was also confused about "ventilation" and "drafts" until I read this article. My coops have vents on the west and east sides (not a good idea to put them in the North and South where the prevalent winds come from) Some people poke small holes high up near the roof for the moisture to get out. Chickens produce a lot of moisture when they breath, so that moisture has to come out to keep it from freezing in their combs and wattles. Also it is better to have wider roosts so they can sit in their toes at night and keep them warm.
     
  8. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Where you are cold is not your enemy at all. Heat is. Heat kills a lot more chickens than cold. Hot air rises. You need to make sure they have great ventilation over their heads and at roost level and below during the summer. With just a little protection from direct breezes they are going to do great during your winters. Summer is your danger time.

    This is such a good statement!
    I don't worry anymore about our winters in Texas, but coming summer, I get very worried and work so very hard to keep my chickens cool.
     
  9. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    This. No offense, but your cold is balmy to the rest of us. Folks keep birds in Michigan, Minnesota, Canada and Alaska. Your birds will be just fine in an outdoor coop, as long as they can get out of the wind and the wet. Moving them into a building just sounds like asking for problems with airflow. Leave them outside, let them choose to go in the run or stay in the coop.
     

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